Writing content

Articles and pages

Pelican considers “articles” to be chronological content, such as posts on a blog, and thus associated with a date.

The idea behind “pages” is that they are usually not temporal in nature and are used for content that does not change very often (e.g., “About” or “Contact” pages).

File metadata

Pelican tries to be smart enough to get the information it needs from the file system (for instance, about the category of your articles), but some information you need to provide in the form of metadata inside your files.

If you are writing your content in reStructuredText format, you can provide this metadata in text files via the following syntax (give your file the .rst extension):

My super title

:date: 2010-10-03 10:20
:modified: 2010-10-04 18:40
:tags: thats, awesome
:category: yeah
:slug: my-super-post
:authors: Alexis Metaireau, Conan Doyle
:summary: Short version for index and feeds

Author and tag lists may be semicolon-separated instead, which allows you to write authors and tags containing commas:

:tags: pelican, publishing tool; pelican, bird
:authors: Metaireau, Alexis; Doyle, Conan

Pelican implements an extension to reStructuredText to enable support for the abbr HTML tag. To use it, write something like this in your post:

This will be turned into :abbr:`HTML (HyperText Markup Language)`.

You can also use Markdown syntax (with a file ending in .md, .markdown, .mkd, or .mdown). Markdown generation requires that you first explicitly install the Markdown package, which can be done via pip install Markdown.

Pelican also supports Markdown Extensions, which might have to be installed separately if they are not included in the default Markdown package and can be configured and loaded via the MD_EXTENSIONS setting.

Metadata syntax for Markdown posts should follow this pattern:

Title: My super title
Date: 2010-12-03 10:20
Modified: 2010-12-05 19:30
Category: Python
Tags: pelican, publishing
Slug: my-super-post
Authors: Alexis Metaireau, Conan Doyle
Summary: Short version for index and feeds

This is the content of my super blog post.

Readers for additional formats (such as AsciiDoc) are available via plugins. Refer to pelican-plugins repository for those.

Pelican can also process HTML files ending in .html and .htm. Pelican interprets the HTML in a very straightforward manner, reading metadata from meta tags, the title from the title tag, and the body out from the body tag:

        <title>My super title</title>
        <meta name="tags" content="thats, awesome" />
        <meta name="date" content="2012-07-09 22:28" />
        <meta name="modified" content="2012-07-10 20:14" />
        <meta name="category" content="yeah" />
        <meta name="authors" content="Alexis Métaireau, Conan Doyle" />
        <meta name="summary" content="Short version for index and feeds" />
        This is the content of my super blog post.

With HTML, there is one simple exception to the standard metadata: tags can be specified either via the tags metadata, as is standard in Pelican, or via the keywords metadata, as is standard in HTML. The two can be used interchangeably.

Note that, aside from the title, none of this article metadata is mandatory: if the date is not specified and DEFAULT_DATE is set to 'fs', Pelican will rely on the file’s “mtime” timestamp, and the category can be determined by the directory in which the file resides. For example, a file located at python/foobar/myfoobar.rst will have a category of foobar. If you would like to organize your files in other ways where the name of the subfolder would not be a good category name, you can set the setting USE_FOLDER_AS_CATEGORY to False. When parsing dates given in the page metadata, Pelican supports the W3C’s suggested subset ISO 8601.


When experimenting with different settings (especially the metadata ones) caching may interfere and the changes may not be visible. In such cases disable caching with LOAD_CONTENT_CACHE = False or use the --ignore-cache command-line switch.

modified should be last time you updated the article, and defaults to date if not specified. Besides you can show modified in the templates, feed entries in feed readers will be updated automatically when you set modified to the current date after you modified your article.

authors is a comma-separated list of article authors. If there’s only one author you can use author field.

If you do not explicitly specify summary metadata for a given post, the SUMMARY_MAX_LENGTH setting can be used to specify how many words from the beginning of an article are used as the summary.

You can also extract any metadata from the filename through a regular expression to be set in the FILENAME_METADATA setting. All named groups that are matched will be set in the metadata object. The default value for the FILENAME_METADATA setting will only extract the date from the filename. For example, if you would like to extract both the date and the slug, you could set something like: '(?P<date>\d{4}-\d{2}-\d{2})_(?P<slug>.*)'

Please note that the metadata available inside your files takes precedence over the metadata extracted from the filename.


If you create a folder named pages inside the content folder, all the files in it will be used to generate static pages, such as About or Contact pages. (See example filesystem layout below.)

You can use the DISPLAY_PAGES_ON_MENU setting to control whether all those pages are displayed in the primary navigation menu. (Default is True.)

If you want to exclude any pages from being linked to or listed in the menu then add a status: hidden attribute to its metadata. This is useful for things like making error pages that fit the generated theme of your site.

Linking to internal content

From Pelican 3.1 onwards, it is now possible to specify intra-site links to files in the source content hierarchy instead of files in the generated hierarchy. This makes it easier to link from the current post to other content that may be sitting alongside that post (instead of having to determine where the other content will be placed after site generation).

To link to internal content (files in the content directory), use the following syntax for the link target: {filename}path/to/file Note: forward slashes, /, are the required path separator in the {filename} directive on all operating systems, including Windows.

For example, a Pelican project might be structured like this:

├── content
│   ├── category/
│   │   └── article1.rst
│   ├── article2.md
│   └── pages
│       └── about.md
└── pelican.conf.py

In this example, article1.rst could look like this:

The first article

:date: 2012-12-01 10:02

See below intra-site link examples in reStructuredText format.

`a link relative to the current file <{filename}../article2.md>`_
`a link relative to the content root <{filename}/article2.md>`_

and article2.md:

Title: The second article
Date: 2012-12-01 10:02

See below intra-site link examples in Markdown format.

[a link relative to the current file]({filename}category/article1.rst)
[a link relative to the content root]({filename}/category/article1.rst)

Linking to static files

Linking to non-article or non-page content uses the same {filename} syntax as described above. It is important to remember that those files will not be copied to the output directory unless the source directories containing them are included in the STATIC_PATHS setting of the project’s pelicanconf.py file. Pelican’s default configuration includes the images directory for this, but others must be added manually. Forgetting to do so will result in broken links.

For example, a project’s content directory might be structured like this:

├── images
│   └── han.jpg
├── pdfs
│   └── menu.pdf
└── pages
    └── test.md

test.md would include:

![Alt Text]({filename}/images/han.jpg)
[Our Menu]({filename}/pdfs/menu.pdf)

pelicanconf.py would include:

STATIC_PATHS = ['images', 'pdfs']

Site generation would then copy han.jpg to output/images/han.jpg, menu.pdf to output/pdfs/menu.pdf, and write the appropriate links in test.md.

Mixed content in the same directory

Starting with Pelican 3.5, static files can safely share a source directory with page source files, without exposing the page sources in the generated site. Any such directory must be added to both STATIC_PATHS and PAGE_PATHS (or STATIC_PATHS and ARTICLE_PATHS). Pelican will identify and process the page source files normally, and copy the remaining files as if they lived in a separate directory reserved for static files.

Note: Placing static and content source files together in the same source directory does not guarantee that they will end up in the same place in the generated site. The easiest way to do this is by using the {attach} link syntax (described below). Alternatively, the STATIC_SAVE_AS, PAGE_SAVE_AS, and ARTICLE_SAVE_AS settings (and the corresponding *_URL settings) can be configured to place files of different types together, just as they could in earlier versions of Pelican.

Attaching static files

Starting with Pelican 3.5, static files can be “attached” to a page or article using this syntax for the link target: {attach}path/to/file This works like the {filename} syntax, but also relocates the static file into the linking document’s output directory. If the static file originates from a subdirectory beneath the linking document’s source, that relationship will be preserved on output. Otherwise, it will become a sibling of the linking document.

This only works for linking to static files, and only when they originate from a directory included in the STATIC_PATHS setting.

For example, a project’s content directory might be structured like this:

├── blog
│   ├── icons
│   │   └── icon.png
│   ├── photo.jpg
│   └── testpost.md
└── downloads
    └── archive.zip

pelicanconf.py would include:

PATH = 'content'
STATIC_PATHS = ['blog', 'downloads']
ARTICLE_PATHS = ['blog']
ARTICLE_SAVE_AS = '{date:%Y}/{slug}.html'
ARTICLE_URL = '{date:%Y}/{slug}.html'

testpost.md would include:

Title: Test Post
Category: test
Date: 2014-10-31

[Downloadable File]({attach}/downloads/archive.zip)

Site generation would then produce an output directory structured like this:

└── 2014
    ├── archive.zip
    ├── icons
    │   └── icon.png
    ├── photo.jpg
    └── test-post.html

Notice that all the files linked using {attach} ended up in or beneath the article’s output directory.

If a static file is linked multiple times, the relocating feature of {attach} will only work in the first of those links to be processed. After the first link, Pelican will treat {attach} like {filename}. This avoids breaking the already-processed links.

Be careful when linking to a file from multiple documents: Since the first link to a file finalizes its location and Pelican does not define the order in which documents are processed, using {attach} on a file linked by multiple documents can cause its location to change from one site build to the next. (Whether this happens in practice will depend on the operating system, file system, version of Pelican, and documents being added, modified, or removed from the project.) Any external sites linking to the file’s old location might then find their links broken. It is therefore advisable to use {attach} only if you use it in all links to a file, and only if the linking documents share a single directory. Under these conditions, the file’s output location will not change in future builds. In cases where these precautions are not possible, consider using {filename} links instead of {attach}, and letting the file’s location be determined by the project’s STATIC_SAVE_AS and STATIC_URL settings. (Per-file save_as and url overrides can still be set in EXTRA_PATH_METADATA.)

Linking to tags and categories

You can link to tags and categories using the {tag}tagname and {category}foobar syntax.

Importing an existing site

It is possible to import your site from WordPress, Tumblr, Dotclear, and RSS feeds using a simple script. See Importing an existing site.


It is possible to translate articles. To do so, you need to add a lang meta attribute to your articles/pages and set a DEFAULT_LANG setting (which is English [en] by default). With those settings in place, only articles with the default language will be listed, and each article will be accompanied by a list of available translations for that article.


This core Pelican functionality does not create sub-sites (e.g. example.com/de) with translated templates for each language. For such advanced functionality the i18n_subsites plugin can be used.

Pelican uses the article’s URL “slug” to determine if two or more articles are translations of one another. The slug can be set manually in the file’s metadata; if not set explicitly, Pelican will auto-generate the slug from the title of the article.

Here is an example of two articles, one in English and the other in French.

The English article:

Foobar is not dead

:slug: foobar-is-not-dead
:lang: en

That's true, foobar is still alive!

And the French version:

Foobar n'est pas mort !

:slug: foobar-is-not-dead
:lang: fr

Oui oui, foobar est toujours vivant !

Post content quality notwithstanding, you can see that only item in common between the two articles is the slug, which is functioning here as an identifier. If you’d rather not explicitly define the slug this way, you must then instead ensure that the translated article titles are identical, since the slug will be auto-generated from the article title.

If you do not want the original version of one specific article to be detected by the DEFAULT_LANG setting, use the translation metadata to specify which posts are translations:

Foobar is not dead

:slug: foobar-is-not-dead
:lang: en
:translation: true

That's true, foobar is still alive!

Syntax highlighting

Pelican can provide colorized syntax highlighting for your code blocks. To do so, you must use the following conventions inside your content files.

For reStructuredText, use the code-block directive to specify the type of code to be highlighted (in these examples, we’ll use python):

.. code-block:: python

   print("Pelican is a static site generator.")

For Markdown, which utilizes the CodeHilite extension to provide syntax highlighting, include the language identifier just above the code block, indenting both the identifier and the code:

There are two ways to specify the identifier:

    print("The triple-colon syntax will *not* show line numbers.")

To display line numbers, use a path-less shebang instead of colons:

    print("The path-less shebang syntax *will* show line numbers.")

The specified identifier (e.g. python, ruby) should be one that appears on the list of available lexers.

When using reStructuredText the following options are available in the code-block directive:

Option Valid values Description
anchorlinenos N/A If present wrap line numbers in <a> tags.
classprefix string String to prepend to token class names
hl_lines numbers List of lines to be highlighted.
lineanchors string Wrap each line in an anchor using this string and -linenumber.
linenos string If present or set to “table” output line numbers in a table, if set to “inline” output them inline. “none” means do not output the line numbers for this table.
linenospecial number If set every nth line will be given the ‘special’ css class.
linenostart number Line number for the first line.
linenostep number Print every nth line number.
lineseparator string String to print between lines of code, ‘n’ by default.
linespans string Wrap each line in a span using this and -linenumber.
nobackground N/A If set do not output background color for the wrapping element
nowrap N/A If set do not wrap the tokens at all.
tagsfile string ctags file to use for name definitions.
tagurlformat string format for the ctag links.

Note that, depending on the version, your Pygments module might not have all of these options available. Refer to the HtmlFormatter section of the Pygments documentation for more details on each of the options.

For example, the following code block enables line numbers, starting at 153, and prefixes the Pygments CSS classes with pgcss to make the names more unique and avoid possible CSS conflicts:

.. code-block:: identifier
    :classprefix: pgcss
    :linenos: table
    :linenostart: 153

   <indented code block goes here>

It is also possible to specify the PYGMENTS_RST_OPTIONS variable in your Pelican settings file to include options that will be automatically applied to every code block.

For example, if you want to have line numbers displayed for every code block and a CSS prefix you would set this variable to:

PYGMENTS_RST_OPTIONS = {'classprefix': 'pgcss', 'linenos': 'table'}

If specified, settings for individual code blocks will override the defaults in your settings file.

Publishing drafts

If you want to publish an article as a draft (for friends to review before publishing, for example), you can add a Status: draft attribute to its metadata. That article will then be output to the drafts folder and not listed on the index page nor on any category or tag page.

If your articles should be automatically published as a draft (to not accidentally publish an article before it is finished) include the status in the DEFAULT_METADATA:

    'status': 'draft',

To publish a post when the default status is draft, update the post’s metadata to include Status: published.