Getting started

Installing Pelican

Pelican currently runs best on Python 2.7.x; earlier versions of Python are not supported. There is provisional support for Python 3.3, although there may be rough edges, particularly with regards to optional 3rd-party components.

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

(Keep in mind that operating systems will often require you to prefix the above commands with sudo in order to install Pelican system-wide.)

While the above is the simplest method, the recommended approach is to create a virtual environment for Pelican via virtualenv before installing Pelican. Assuming you have virtualenv installed, you can then open a new terminal session and create a new virtual environment for Pelican:

$ virtualenv ~/virtualenvs/pelican
$ cd ~/virtualenvs/pelican
$ . bin/activate

Once the virtual environment has been created and activated, Pelican can be be installed via pip install pelican 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 want to use AsciiDoc you need to install it from source or use your operating system’s package manager.

Basic usage

Once Pelican is installed, you can use it to convert your Markdown or reST content into HTML via the pelican command, specifying the path to your content and (optionally) the path to your settings file:

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

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

You can also 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.

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

$ pelican --help

Continue reading below for more detail, and check out the Pelican wiki’s Tutorials page for links to community-published tutorials.

Viewing the generated files

The files generated by Pelican are static files, so you don’t actually need anything special to view them. You can use your browser to open the generated HTML files directly:

firefox output/index.html

Because the above method may have trouble locating your CSS and other linked assets, running a simple web server using Python will often provide a more reliable previewing experience:

cd output && python -m SimpleHTTPServer

Once the SimpleHTTPServer has been started, you can preview your site at http://localhost:8000/


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.


When Pelican is installed, the following dependent Python packages should be automatically installed without any action on your part:

  • feedgenerator, to generate the Atom feeds
  • jinja2, for templating support
  • pygments, for syntax highlighting
  • docutils, for supporting reStructuredText as an input format
  • pytz, for timezone definitions
  • blinker, an object-to-object and broadcast signaling system
  • unidecode, for ASCII transliterations of Unicode text
  • six, for Python 2 and 3 compatibility utilities
  • MarkupSafe, for a markup safe string implementation

If you want the following optional packages, you will need to install them manually via pip:

  • markdown, for supporting Markdown as an input format
  • typogrify, for typographical enhancements

Kickstart your site

Once Pelican has been installed, you can create a skeleton project via the pelican-quickstart command, which begins by asking some questions about your site:

$ pelican-quickstart

Once you finish answering all the questions, your project will consist of the following hierarchy (except for “pages”, which you can optionally add yourself if you plan to create non-chronological content):

├── content
│   └── (pages)
├── output
├── Makefile
├──       # Main settings file
└──       # Settings to use when ready to publish

The next step is to begin to adding content to the content folder that has been created for you. (See the Writing content using Pelican section below for more information about how to format your content.)

Once you have written some content to generate, you can use the pelican command to generate your site, which will be placed in the output folder.

Automation tools

While the pelican command is the canonical way to generate your site, automation tools can be used to streamline the generation and publication flow. One of the questions asked during the pelican-quickstart process described above pertains to whether you want to automate site generation and publication. If you answered “yes” to that question, a and Makefile will be generated in the root of your project. These files, pre-populated with certain information gleaned from other answers provided during the pelican-quickstart process, are meant as a starting point and should be customized to fit your particular needs and usage patterns. If you find one or both of these automation tools to be of limited utility, these files can deleted at any time and will not affect usage of the canonical pelican command.

Following are automation tools that “wrap” the pelican command and can simplify the process of generating, previewing, and uploading your site.


The advantage of Fabric is that it is written in Python and thus can be used in a wide range of environments. The downside is that it must be installed separately. Use the following command to install Fabric, prefixing with sudo if your environment requires it:

$ pip install Fabric

Take a moment to open the file that was generated in your project root. You will see a number of commands, any one of which can be renamed, removed, and/or customized to your liking. Using the out-of-the-box configuration, you can generate your site via:

$ fab build

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

$ fab regenerate

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

$ fab serve

If during the pelican-quickstart process you answered “yes” when asked whether you want to upload your site via SSH, you can use the following command to publish your site via rsync over SSH:

$ fab publish

These are just a few of the commands available by default, so feel free to explore and see what other commands are available. More importantly, don’t hesitate to customize to suit your specific needs and preferences.


A Makefile is also automatically created for you when you say “yes” to the relevant question during the pelican-quickstart process. The advantage of this method is that the make command is built into most POSIX systems and thus doesn’t require installing anything else in order to use it. The downside is that non-POSIX systems (e.g., Windows) do not include make, and installing it on those systems can be a non-trivial task.

If you want to use make to generate your site, run:

$ make html

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

$ make regenerate

To serve the generated 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 content using Pelican

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
:tags: thats, awesome
:category: yeah
:slug: my-super-post
:author: Alexis Metaireau
:summary: Short version for index and feeds

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. Metadata syntax for Markdown posts should follow this pattern:

Title: My super title
Date: 2010-12-03 10:20
Category: Python
Tags: pelican, publishing
Slug: my-super-post
Author: Alexis Metaireau
Summary: Short version for index and feeds

This is the content of my super blog post.

Conventions for AsciiDoc posts, which should have an .asc extension, can be found on the AsciiDoc site.

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="category" content="yeah" />
        <meta name="author" content="Alexis Métaireau" />
        <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.

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 posts and images that may be sitting alongside the current post (instead of having to determine where those resources will be placed after site generation).

To link to internal content (files in the content directory), use the following syntax: {filename}path/to/file:

├── content
│   ├── article1.rst
│   ├── cat/
│   │   └──
│   └── pages
│       └──

In this example, article1.rst could look like:

The first article

:date: 2012-12-01 10:02

See below intra-site link examples in reStructuredText format.

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


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

See below intra-site link examples in Markdown format.

[a link relative to content root]({filename}/
[a link relative to current file]({filename}../

Embedding non-article or non-page content is slightly different in that the directories need to be specified in file. The images directory is configured for this by default but others will need to be added manually:

├── images
│   └── han.jpg
└── misc

And would include:

![Alt Text]({filename}/images/han.jpg)

Any content can be linked in this way. What happens is that the images directory gets copied to output/ during site generation because Pelican includes images in the STATIC_PATHS setting’s list by default. If you want to have another directory, say pdfs, copied from your content to your output during site generation, you would need to add the following to your settings file:

STATIC_PATHS = ['images', 'pdfs']

After the above line has been added, subsequent site generation should copy the content/pdfs/ directory to output/pdfs/.

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

For backward compatibility, Pelican also supports bars (||) in addition to curly braces ({}). For example: |filename|an_article.rst, |tag|tagname, |category|foobar. The syntax was changed from || to {} to avoid collision with Markdown extensions or reST directives.

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.

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 is able to provide colorized syntax highlighting for your code blocks. To do so, you have to use the following conventions inside your content files.

For reStructuredText, use the code-block directive:

.. code-block:: identifier

   <indented code block goes here>

For Markdown, include the language identifier just above the code block, indenting both the identifier and code:

A block of text.

    <code goes here>

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.

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