Getting started

Installing Pelican

You’re ready? Let’s go! You can install Pelican via several different methods. The simplest is via pip:

$ pip install pelican

If you don’t have pip installed, an alternative method is easy_install:

$ easy_install pelican

While the above is the simplest method, the recommended approach is to create a virtual environment for Pelican via virtualenv and virtualenvwrapper before installing Pelican. Assuming you’ve followed the virtualenvwrapper installation and shell configuration steps, you can then open a new terminal session and create a new virtual environment for Pelican:

$ mkvirtualenv pelican

Once the virtual environment has been created and activated, Pelican can be be installed via pip or easy_install as noted above. Alternatively, if you have the project source, you can install Pelican using the distutils method:

$ cd path-to-Pelican-source
$ python install

If you have Git installed and prefer to install the latest bleeding-edge version of Pelican rather than a stable release, use the following command:

$ pip install -e git://

If you plan on using Markdown as a markup format, you’ll need to install the Markdown library as well:

$ pip install Markdown


If you installed a stable Pelican release via pip or easy_install and wish to upgrade to the latest stable release, you can do so by adding --upgrade to the relevant command. For pip, that would be:

$ pip install --upgrade pelican

If you installed Pelican via distutils or the bleeding-edge method, simply perform the same step to install the most recent version.


At this time, Pelican is dependent on the following Python packages:

  • feedgenerator, to generate the Atom feeds
  • jinja2, for templating support
  • docutils, for supporting reStructuredText as an input format

If you’re not using Python 2.7, you will also need the argparse package.


  • pygments, for syntax highlighting
  • Markdown, for supporting Markdown as an input format

Kickstart a blog

Following is a brief tutorial for those who want to get started right away. We’re going to assume that virtualenv and virtualenvwrapper are installed and configured; if you’ve installed Pelican outside of a virtual environment, you can skip to the pelican-quickstart command. Let’s first create a new virtual environment and install Pelican into it:

$ mkvirtualenv pelican
$ pip install pelican Markdown

Next we’ll create a directory to house our site content and configuration files, which can be located any place you prefer, and associate this new project with the currently-active virtual environment:

$ mkdir ~/code/yoursitename
$ cd ~/code/yoursitename
$ setvirtualenvproject

Now we can run the pelican-quickstart command, which will ask some questions about your site:

$ pelican-quickstart

Once you finish answering all the questions, you can begin adding content to the content folder that has been created for you. (See Writing articles using Pelican section below for more information about how to format your content.) Once you have some content to generate, you can convert it to HTML via the following command:

$ make html

If you’d prefer to have Pelican automatically regenerate your site every time a change is detected (handy when testing locally), use the following command instead:

$ make regenerate

To serve the site so it can be previewed in your browser at http://localhost:8000:

$ make serve

Normally you would need to run make regenerate and make serve in two separate terminal sessions, but you can run both at once via:

$ make devserver

The above command will simultaneously run Pelican in regeneration mode as well as serve the output at http://localhost:8000. Once you are done testing your changes, you should stop the development server via:

$ ./ stop

When you’re ready to publish your site, you can upload it via the method(s) you chose during the pelican-quickstart questionnaire. For this example, we’ll use rsync over ssh:

$ make rsync_upload

That’s it! Your site should now be live.

Writing articles using Pelican

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.

You can provide this metadata in reStructuredText text files via the following syntax (give your file the .rst extension):

My super title

:date: 2010-10-03 10:20
:tags: thats, awesome
:category: yeah
:author: Alexis Metaireau

Pelican implements an extension of 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 generation will not work until you explicitly install the Markdown package, which can be done via pip install Markdown. Metadata syntax for Markdown posts should follow this pattern:

Date: 2010-12-03
Title: My super title
Tags: thats, awesome
Slug: my-super-post

This is the content of my super blog post.

Note that, aside from the title, none of this metadata is mandatory: if the date is not specified, 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.

Generate your blog

The make shortcut commands mentioned in the Kickstart a blog section are mostly wrappers around the pelican command that generates the HTML from the content. The pelican command can also be run directly:

$ pelican /path/to/your/content/ [-s path/to/your/]

The above command will generate your weblog and save it in the content/ folder, using the default theme to produce a simple site. The default theme is simple HTML without styling and is provided so folks may use it as a basis for creating their own themes.

Pelican has other command-line switches available. Have a look at the help to see all the options you can use:

$ pelican --help


It’s possible to tell Pelican to watch for your modifications, instead of manually re-running it every time you want to see your changes. To enable this, run the pelican command with the -r or --autoreload option.


If you create a folder named pages, all the files in it will be used to generate static pages.

Then, use the DISPLAY_PAGES_ON_MENU setting, which will add all the pages to the menu.

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.

Importing an existing blog

It is possible to import your blog from Dotclear, WordPress, and RSS feeds using a simple script. See Import from other blog software.


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.

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.

Syntax highlighting

Pelican is able to provide colorized syntax highlighting for your code blocks. To do so, you have to use the following conventions (you need to put this in your content files).

For RestructuredText:

.. code-block:: identifier

   your code goes here

For Markdown, format your code blocks thusly:

your code goes here

The specified identifier should be one that appears on the list of available lexers.

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 page.

Viewing the generated files

The files generated by Pelican are static files, so you don’t actually need anything special to see what’s happening with the generated files.

You can either use your browser to open the files on your disk:

$ firefox output/index.html

Or run a simple web server using Python:

cd output && python -m SimpleHTTPServer
Fork me on GitHub