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Tutorial: More on compilers: load, and templates

Loading items

The compiler Monad is a complex beast, but this is nicely hidden for the user of the Hakyll library.

Suppose that you’re generating index.html which shows your latest brilliant blogpost. This requires posts/foo.markdown to be generated before index.html (so we don’t have to generate it twice). But you don’t have to care about any of that: Hakyll will sort this out for you automatically!

Let’s see some quick examples. We can load a specific item:

load "posts/foo.markdown" :: Compiler (Item String)

Or a whole bunch of them:

loadAll "posts/*" :: Compiler [Item String]

Sometimes you just want the contents and not the Item:

loadBody "posts/foo.markdown" :: Compiler String

This is all useful if we want to use Hakyll’s templating system.


Basic templates

Let’s have a look at a simple template:

<div class="info">Posted on $date$</div>

As you can probably guess, template files just contain text and only the $ character has special meaning: text between dollar signs (“fields”) is replaced when the template is applied. If you want an actual dollar sign in the output, use $$.

You usually compile the templates from disk using the aptly named templateBodyCompiler:

match "templates/*" $ compile templateBodyCompiler

Notice the lack of route here: this is because we don’t need to write the templates to your _site folder, we just want to use them elsewhere.

Templates: Context

We can easily guess the meaning of $title$, $date$, and $body$, but these are not hard-coded fields: they belong to a certain Context. A Context determines how the fields are interpreted. It’s a Monoid and therefore very composable.

field allows us to create a Context for a single field:

field :: String -> (Item a -> Compiler String) -> Context a

Let’s try this out. Note that this is for illustration purposes only: you shouldn’t have to write complicated fields often. We can implement the $body$ field like this:

field "body" $ \item -> return (itemBody item) :: Context String

And $title$ like this:

titleContext :: Context a
titleContext = field "title" $ \item -> do
    metadata <- getMetadata (itemIdentifier item)
    return $ fromMaybe "No title" $ M.lookup "title" metadata

And compose them using the Monoid instance:

context :: Context String
context = mconcat
    [ titleContext
    , field "body" $ return . itemBody

Obviously, it would be tedious to implement things like titleContext over and over again for different websites and different fields. This is why hakyll provides defaultContext. defaultContext is a composed Context and allows you to use:

$date$ is not provided by default. In the scaffold, we use the convenience context function dateField, which will parse an Item’s filename to check if it begins with a date. You can see how we add it in the definition of postCtx in site.hs:

postCtx :: Context String
postCtx =
    dateField "date" "%B %e, %Y" `mappend`

Loading and applying templates

Now we know about templates, context and how to load arbitrary items. This gives us enough background information in order to understand you can apply a template:

compile $ do
    tpl <- loadBody "templates/post.html"
    pandocCompiler >>= applyTemplate tpl postCtx

Loading and then immediately applying a template is so common there’s a shorthand function:

compile $
    pandocCompiler >>= loadAndApplyTemplate "templates/post.html" postCtx

Control flow in templates

Sometimes string interpolation does not suffice, and you want a little more control over how your templates are layed out. Hakyll provides a few control structures for this. The syntax for these structures was based on the syntax used in pandoc templates, since Hakyll already has tight integration with pandoc.


In templates/post.html of the example site we generated using hakyll-init, we see an example of a conditional:

<div class="info">
    Posted on $date$
        by $author$

This example should be pretty straightforward. One important thing to notice is that $if(foo)$ does not check the truth value of $foo$: it merely checks if such a key is present.

Note that an if-else form is supported as well:

<div class="info">
    Posted on $date$
        by $author$
        by some unknown author


Partials allow you to DRY up your templates by putting repetitive actions into separate template files. You can then include them using $partial("filename.html")$.

An example can be found in templates/archive.html:

Here you can find all my previous posts:

This partial is just another template and uses the same syntax. Note that in order to use something like this, we also need to load the partial template in our site.hs:

match "templates/post-list.html" $ compile templateCompiler

Fortunately, we usually don’t need to add this since we already have:

match "templates/*" $ compile templateCompiler

Producing a list of items: for

At this point, everything in the example site we generated should be clear to you, except for how we produce the list of posts in archive.html and index.html. Let’s look at the templates/post-list.html template:

            <a href="$url$">$title$</a> - $date$

This uses the $for(foo)$ construct. This construct allows you loop over a list, in this case, $posts$. Inside the body of this for loop, all fields refer to the current post, e.g.: $url$, $title$ and $date$.

You can also add a simple separator with the special $sep$ field. Everything between $sep$ and $endfor$ will be regarded as a separator that will only be shown if there is more than one item in the list.


Of course, posts does not magically appear. We have to specify this in site.hs. Let’s look at how archive.html is generated:

posts <- recentFirst =<< loadAll "posts/*"
let archiveCtx =
        listField "posts" postCtx (return posts) `mappend`
        constField "title" "Archives"            `mappend`

We discussed loadAll earlier in this tutorial.

recentFirst sorts items by date. This relies on the convention that posts are always named YYYY-MM-DD-title.extension in Hakyll – or that the date must be present in the metadata.

recentFirst :: [Item a] -> Compiler [Item a]

After loading and sorting the items, we use listField to create the $posts$ key.

listField :: String -> Context a -> Compiler [Item a] -> Context b

The first parameter is simply the name of the key ("posts"). Secondly we have a Context with which all items should be rendered – for our example site, we already wrote such a Context for posts: postCtx. Lastly, we have a Compiler which loads the items. We already loaded the items so we can just use return posts.

The following snippet would produce the same result:

let archiveCtx =
        listField "posts" postCtx (recentFirst =<< loadAll "posts/*") `mappend`
        constField "title" "Archives"                                 `mappend`

Other tutorials

The other tutorials can be found here.

Documentation inaccurate or out-of-date? Found a typo?

Hakyll is an open source project, and one of the hardest parts is writing correct, up-to-date, and understandable documentation. Therefore, the authors would really appreciate it if you would give feedback about the tutorials, and especially report errors or difficulties you encountered. If you have a github account, you can use the issue system. Thanks! If you run into any problems, all questions are welcome in the above google group, or you could try the IRC channel, #hakyll on freenode.