The Nikola Handbook

Version: 6.2.1

All You Need to Know

After you have Nikola installed:

Create a empty site:
nikola init mysite

You can create a site with demo files in it with nikola init --demo mysite

The rest of these commands have to be executed inside the new mysite folder.

Create a post:
nikola new_post
Edit the post:
The filename should be in the output of the previous command.
Build the site:
nikola build
Start the test server:
nikola serve
See the site:

That should get you going. If you want to know more, this manual will always be here for you.


On the other hand, if anything about Nikola is not as obvious as it should be, by all means tell me about it :-)

What's Nikola and what can you do with it?

Nikola is a static website and blog generator. The very short explanation is that it takes some texts you wrote, and uses them to create a folder full of HTML files. If you upload that folder to a server, you will have a rather full-featured website, done with little effort.

It's original goal is to create blogs, but it supports most kind of sites, and can be used as a CMS, as long as what you present to the user is your own content instead of something the user generates.

Nikola can do:

  • A blog (example)
  • Your company's site
  • Your personal site
  • A software project's site (example)
  • A book's site

Since Nikola-based sites don't run any code on the server, there is no way to process user input in forms.

Nikola can't do:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • An Issue tracker
  • Anything with forms, really (except for comments!)

Keep in mind that "static" doesn't mean boring. You can have animations, slides or whatever fancy CSS/HTML5 thingie you like. It only means all that HTML is generated already before being uploaded. On the other hand, Nikola sites will tend to be content-heavy. What Nikola is good at is at putting what you write out there.

Getting Help

Why Static?

Most "modern" websites are dynamic in the sense that the contents of the site live in a database, and are converted into presentation-ready HTML only when a user wants to see the page. That's great. However, it presents some minor issues that static site generators try to solve.

In a static site, the whole site, every page, everything, is created before the first user even sees it and uploaded to the server as a simple folder full of HTML files (and images, CSS, etc).

So, let's see some reasons for using static sites:


Dynamic sites are prone to experience security issues. The solution for that is constant vigilance, keeping the software behind the site updated, and plain old good luck. The stack of software used to provide a static site, like those Nikola generates, is much smaller (Just a web server).

A smaller software stack implies less security risk.


If you create a site using (for example) WordPress, what happens when WordPress releases a new version? You have to update your WordPress. That is not optional, because of security and support issues. If I release a new version of Nikola, and you don't update, nothing happens. You can continue to use the version you have now forever, no problems.

Also, in the longer term, the very foundations of dynamic sites shift. Can you still deploy a blog software based on Django 0.96? What happens when your host stops supporting the php version you rely on? And so on.

You may say those are long term issues, or that they won't matter for years. Well, I believe things should work forever, or as close to it as we can make them. Nikola's static output and its input files will work as long as you can install a Python > 2.6 in a Linux, Windows, or Mac and can find a server that sends files over HTTP. That's probably 10 or 15 years at least.

Also, static sites are easily handled by the Internet Archive.

Cost and Performance

On dynamic sites, every time a reader wants a page, a whole lot of database queries are made. Then a whole pile of code chews that data, and HTML is produced, which is sent to the user. All that requires CPU and memory.

On a static site, the highly optimized HTTP server reads the file from disk (or, if it's a popular file, from disk cache), and sends it to the user. You could probably serve a bazillion (technical term) pageviews from a phone using static sites.


On server-side blog platforms, sometimes you can't export your own data, or it's in strange formats you can't use in other services. I have switched blogging platforms from Advogato to PyCs to two homebrew systems, to Nikola, and have never lost a file, a URL, or a comment. That's because I have always had my own data in a format of my choice.

With Nikola, you own your files, and you can do anything with them.


Nikola has a very defined feature set: it has every feature I needed for my own sites. Hopefully, it will be enough for others, and anyway, I am open to suggestions.

If you want to create a blog or a site, Nikola provides:

  • Front page (and older posts pages)
  • RSS Feeds
  • Pages and feeds for each tag you used
  • Custom search
  • Full yearly archives
  • Custom output paths for generated pages
  • Easy page template customization
  • Static pages (not part of the blog)
  • Internationalization support (my own blog is English/Spanish)
  • Google sitemap generation
  • Custom deployment (if it's a command, you can use it)
  • A (very) basic look and feel you can customize, and is even text-mode friendly
  • The input format is light markup (reStructuredText or Markdown)
  • Easy-to-create image galleries
  • Support for displaying source code
  • Image slideshows
  • Client-side cloud tags


  • A preview web server
  • "Live" re-rendering while you edit
  • "Smart" builds: only what changed gets rebuilt (usually in seconds)
  • Easy to extend with minimal Python knowledge.

Installing Nikola

This is currently lacking on detail. Considering the niche Nikola is aimed at, I suspect that's not a problem yet. So, when I say "get", the specific details of how to "get" something for your specific operating system are left to you.

The short version is: pip install nikola

Note that you need Python v2.6 or newer OR v3.3 or newer.

For some features it may give you an error message telling you that you need to install something else. For example, if it tells you you need requests:

pip install requests

And so on.

Longer version:

  1. Get Nikola
  2. Install dependencies. To do that, either:
    1. pip install -r requirements.txt (or requirements-full.txt for extra stuff) and pip install . or...
    2. Install your distribution's packages for all the things mentioned below, if they exist, or...
    3. Get all of these manually (but why?, use pip):
      1. Get Python, if you don't have it.
      2. Get doit
      3. Get docutils
      4. Get Mako
      5. Get Pillow
      6. Get Pygments
      7. Get unidecode
      8. Get lxml
      9. Get yapsy
      10. Get PyRSS2Gen
      11. Get pytz
      12. If using Python 2, get configparser
  3. run python install

After that, run nikola init --demo sitename and that will create a folder called sitename containing a functional demo site.

Nikola is packaged for some Linux distributions, you may get that instead.

NOTE: If you get a ERROR: /bin/sh: 1: xslt-config: not found or fatal error: libxml/xmlversion.h: No such file or directory when running pip install -r requirements.txt, install libxml and libxslt libraries, like so:

Debian systems:

sudo apt-get install libxml2-dev
sudo apt-get install libxslt1-dev

Red Hat/RPM based systems:

yum install libxslt-devel libxml2-devel

Installation on Linux, Mac OS X, *BSD, and any other POSIX-compatible OS

(we obviously support all.)

Using pip should suffice. You may also want to use distribution- or system-specific packages for our dependencies.

There are no known issues or caveats on those OSes. Keep in mind that most of our developers run Linux on a daily basis and may not have the full knowledge required to resolve issues relating to your operating system.

Installation on Windows and Windows support

Nikola supports Windows! Keep in mind, though, that there are some caveats:

1. lxml and Pillow require compiled extensions. Compiling them on Windows is hard for most people. Fortunately, compiled packages exist. Check their PyPI pages to find official packages, the unofficial Gohlke binaries site, or get them somewhere else. If you are using virtualenvs, using those pre-built packages is possible through virtualenv --system-site-packages. 2. Windows has some differences over POSIX, which may cause some features to work incorrectly under Windows. If any problems occur, please do not hesitate to report them. Some of the differeces include:

  • \ as path separator (instead of /)
  • the concept of partitions
  • some characters in paths are disallowed (although this shouldn’t cause problems)
  • CR+LF (aka \r\n) as the line separator (instead of LF \n)
  1. Windows also dislikes some characters in paths.
  2. Most of our developers run Linux on a daily basis and may not have the full knowledge required to resolve issues relating to Windows.

Getting Started

To create posts and pages in Nikola, you write them in one of the supported input formats. Those source files are later converted to HTML The recommended formats are reStructuredText and Markdown, but there is also support for textile and WikiCreole and even for just writing HTML.

First, let's see how you "build" your site. Nikola comes with a minimal site to get you started.

The tool used to do builds is called doit, and it rebuilds the files that are not up to date, so your site always reflects your latest content. To do our first build, just run "nikola build":

$ nikola build
Scanning posts....done!
.  render_posts:stories/manual.html
.  render_posts:posts/1.html
.  render_posts:stories/1.html
.  render_archive:output/2012/index.html
.  render_archive:output/archive.html
.  render_indexes:output/index.html
.  render_pages:output/posts/welcome-to-nikola.html
.  render_pages:output/stories/about-nikola.html
.  render_pages:output/stories/handbook.html
.  render_rss:output/rss.xml
.  render_sources:output/stories/about-nikola.txt

Nikola will print a line for every output file it generates. If we do it again, that will be much much shorter:

$ nikola build
Scanning posts....done!

That is because doit is smart enough not to generate all the pages again, unless you changed something that the page requires. So, if you change the text of a post, or its title, that post page, and all index pages where it is mentioned, will be recreated. If you change the post page template, then all the post pages will be rebuilt.

Nikola is mostly a series of doit tasks, and you can see them by doing nikola list:

$ nikola list
Scanning posts....done!

You can make Nikola redo everything by calling nikola forget and then nikola build (or nikola build -a, you can make it do just a specific part of the site using task names, for example nikola build render_pages, and even individual files like nikola build output/index.html

Nikola also has other commands besides build:

$ nikola help
    Nikola is a tool to create static websites and blogs. For full documentation and more information,
    please visit

    Available commands:
    nikola auto                 automatically detect site changes, rebuild and optionally refresh a browser
    nikola bootswatch_theme     given a swatch name from and a parent theme, creates a custom theme
    nikola build                run tasks
    nikola check                check links and files in the generated site
    nikola clean                clean action / remove targets
    nikola console              start an interactive python console with access to your site and configuration
    nikola deploy               deploy the site
    nikola dumpdb               dump dependency DB
    nikola forget               clear successful run status from internal DB
    nikola help                 show help
    nikola ignore               ignore task (skip) on subsequent runs
    nikola import_blogger       import a blogger dump
    nikola import_feed          import a RSS/Atom dump
    nikola import_wordpress     import a WordPress dump
    nikola init                 create a Nikola site in the specified folder
    nikola install_theme        install theme into current site
    nikola list                 list tasks from dodo file
    nikola mincss               apply mincss to the generated site
    nikola new_post             create a new blog post or site page
    nikola run                  run tasks
    nikola serve                start the test webserver
    nikola strace               use strace to list file_deps and targets
    nikola version              print the Nikola version number

    nikola help                 show help / reference
    nikola help <command>       show command usage
    nikola help <task-name>     show task usage

The serve command starts a web server so you can see the site you are creating:

$ nikola serve
Serving HTTP on port 8000 ...

After you do this, you can point your web browser to http://localhost:8000 and you should see the sample site. This is useful as a "preview" of your work.

By default, the serve command runs the web server on port 8000 on the IP address You can pass in an IP address and port number explicitly using -a IP_ADDRESS (short version of --address) or -p PORT_NUMBER (short version of --port) Example usage:

$ nikola serve --address --port 8080
Serving HTTP on port 8080 ...

Creating a Blog Post

To create a new post, the easiest way is to run nikola new_post. You will be asked for a title for your post, and it will tell you where the post's file is located.

By default, that file will contain also some extra information about your post ("the metadata"). It can be placed in a separate file by using the -2 option, but it's generally easier to keep it in a single location.

The contents of your post have to be written (by default) in reStructuredText but you can use a lot of different markups using the -f option. Currently Nikola supports bbcode, wiki, markdown, html, txt2tags and textile in addition to reStructuredText.

You can control what markup compiler is used for each file extension with the COMPILERS option. The default configuration expects them to be placed in posts but that can be changed (see below, the POSTS and PAGES options)

This is how it works:

$ nikola new_post
Creating New Post

Enter title: How to make money
Your post's text is at:  posts/how-to-make-money.txt

The content of that file is as follows:

.. title: How to make money
.. slug: how-to-make-money
.. date: 2012/09/15 19:52:05
.. tags:
.. link:
.. description:

Write your post here.

The slug is the page name. Since often titles will have characters that look bad on URLs, it's generated as a "clean" version of the title. The third line is the post's date, and is set to "now".

The other lines are optional. Tags are comma-separated. The link is an original source for the content, and description is mostly useful for SEO.

You can add your own metadata fields in the same manner, if you use a theme that supports them (for example: .. author: John Doe)

To add these metadata fields to all new posts by default, you can set the variable ADDITIONAL_METADATA in your configuration. For example, you can add the author metadata to all new posts by default, by adding the following to your configuration

    'author': 'John Doe'


The Two-File Format

Nikola originally used a separate .meta file. That will still work! The format of the meta files is the same as shown above, but without the explanations:

How to make money
2012/09/15 19:52:05

If you are writing a multilingual site, you can also create a per-language post file (for example: This one can replace metadata of the default language, for example:

  • The translated title for the post or page
  • A translated version of the page name

You can edit these files with your favourite text editor, and once you are happy with the contents, generate the pages as explained in Getting Started

Currently supported languages are

  • Catalan
  • English
  • French
  • German
  • Greek
  • Italian
  • Polish
  • Russian
  • Simplified Chinese.
  • Spanish

If you wish to add support for more languages, check out the instructions at the theming guide.

The post page is generated using the post.tmpl template, which you can use to customize the output.

The place where the post will be placed by new_post is based on the POSTS and PAGES configuration options:

# POSTS and PAGES contains (wildcard, destination, template) tuples.
# The wildcard is used to generate a list of reSt source files
# (whatever/thing.txt).
# That fragment could have an associated metadata file (whatever/thing.meta),
# and optionally translated files (example for spanish, with code "es"):
#     whatever/ and whatever/
# From those files, a set of HTML fragment files will be generated:
# cache/whatever/thing.html (and maybe cache/whatever/
# These files are combinated with the template to produce rendered
# pages, which will be placed at
# output / TRANSLATIONS[lang] / destination / pagename.html
# where "pagename" is the "slug" specified in the metadata file.
# The difference between POSTS and PAGES is that POSTS are added
# to feeds and are considered part of a blog, while PAGES are
# just independent HTML pages.

    ("posts/*.txt", "posts", "post.tmpl"),
    ("posts/*.rst", "posts", "post.tmpl"),
    ("stories/*.txt", "stories", "story.tmpl"),
    ("stories/*.rst", "stories", "story.tmpl"),

It will use the first location that has the last item in POSTS, or the last one in PAGES if POSTS is empty.

The new_post command supports some options:

$ nikola help new_post
Purpose: Create a new blog post or site page.
Usage:   nikola new_post [options] [path]

  -p, --page                Create a page instead of a blog post.
  -t ARG, --title=ARG       Title for the page/post.
  --tags=ARG                Comma-separated tags for the page/post.
  -1                        Create post with embedded metadata (single file format)
  -2                        Create post with separate metadata (two file format)
  -f ARG, --format=ARG      Markup format for post, one of rest, markdown, wiki, bbcode, html, textile, txt2tags

The optional path parameter tells nikola exactly where to put it instead of guessing from your config. So, if you do nikola new_post posts/random/foo.txt you will have a post in that path, with "foo" as its slug.


You may not want to show the complete content of your posts either on your index page or in RSS feeds, but to display instead only the beginning of them.

If it's the case, you only need to add a "magical comment" in your post.

In reStructuredText:


In Markdown:

<!-- TEASER_END -->

By default all your RSS feeds will be shortened (they'll contain only teasers) whereas your index page will still show complete posts. You can change this behaviour with your INDEX_TEASERS defines whether index page should display the whole contents or only teasers. RSS_TEASERS works the same way for your RSS feeds.

By default, teasers will include a "read more" link at the end. If you want to change that text, you can use a custom teaser:

.. TEASER_END: click to read the rest of the article

Or you can completely customize the link using the READ_MORE_LINK option:

# A HTML fragment with the Read more... link.
# The following tags exist and are replaced for you:
# {link}        A link to the full post page.
# {read_more}   The string “Read more” in the current language.
# {{            A literal { (U+007B LEFT CURLY BRACKET)
# }}            A literal } (U+007D RIGHT CURLY BRACKET)
# READ_MORE_LINK = '<p class="more"><a href="{link}">{read_more}…</a></p>'


If you add a "draft" tag to a post, then it will not be shown in indexes and feeds. It will be compiled, and if you deploy it it will be made available, so use with care. If you wish your drafts to be not available in your deployed site, you can set DEPLOY_DRAFTS = False in your configuration.

Also if a post has a date in the future, it will not be shown in indexes until you rebuild after that date. This behaviour can be disabled by setting FUTURE_IS_NOW = True in your configuration, which will make future posts be published immediately. Posts dated in the future are not deployed by default (when FUTURE_IS_NOW = False). To make future posts available in the deployed site, you can set DEPLOY_FUTURE = True in your configuration. Generally, you want FUTURE_IS_NOW and DEPLOY_FUTURE to be the same value.

Retired Posts

If you add a "retired" tag to a post, then it will not be shown in indexes and feeds. It will be compiled, and if you deploy it it will be made available, so it will not generate 404s for people who had linked to it.

Queuing Posts

Some blogs tend to have new posts based on a schedule (for example, every Mon, Wed, Fri) but the blog authors don't like to manually schedule their posts. You can schedule your blog posts based on a rule, by specifying a rule in the SCHEDULE_RULE in your configuration. You can either post specific blog posts according to this schedule by using the --schedule flag on the new_post command or post all new posts according to this schedule by setting SCHEDULE_ALL = True in your configuration. (Note: This feature requires that the FUTURE_IS_NOW setting is set to False)

For example, if you would like to schedule your posts to be on every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 7am, add the following SCHEDULE_RULE to your configuration


For more details on how to specify a recurrence rule, look at the iCal specification.

Say, you get a free Sunday, and want to write a flurry of new posts, or at least posts for the rest of the week, you would run the new_post command with the --schedule flag, as many times as you want:

$ nikola new_post --schedule
# Creates a new post to be posted on Monday, 7am.
$ nikola new_post -s
# Creates a new post to be posted on Wednesday, 7am.
$ nikola new_post -s
# Creates a new post to be posted on Friday, 7am.

All these posts get queued up according to your schedule, but note that you will anyway need to build and deploy your site for the posts to appear online. You can have a cron job that does this regularly.

An additional setting (SCHEDULE_FORCE_TODAY = True) lets you tell Nikola to make the post today, if you run the new_post --schedule after the scheduled hour has passed, and there is no other post at/after the scheduled hour. Concretely, say, you run the nikola new_post -s command at 10am on a Monday (with the schedule rule set to the same as above), with no other post on Monday, at/after 7am, setting SCHEDULE_FORCE_TODAY = True will have your post scheduled to Monday, instead of being scheduled to Wednesday 7am.

Creating a Page

Pages are the same as posts, except that:

  • They are not added to the front page
  • They don't appear on the RSS feed
  • They use the story.tmpl template instead of post.tmpl by default

The default configuration expects the page's metadata and text files to be on the stories folder, but that can be changed (see PAGES option above).

You can create the page's files manually or use the new_post command with the -p option, which will place the files in the folder that has use_in_feed set to False.


If you need a page to be available in more than one place, you can define redirections in your

# A list of redirection tuples, [("foo/from.html", "/bar/to.html")].
# A HTML file will be created in output/foo/from.html that redirects
# to the "/bar/to.html" URL. notice that the "from" side MUST be a
# relative URL.
# If you don't need any of these, just set to []

REDIRECTIONS = [("index.html", "/weblog/index.html")]

It's better if you can do these using your web server's configuration, but if you can't, this will work.


The configuration file is called and can be used to customize a lot of what Nikola does. Its syntax is python, but if you don't know the language, it still should not be terribly hard to grasp.

The default you get with Nikola should be fairly complete, and is quite commented.

You surely want to edit these options:

# Data about this site
BLOG_TITLE = "Demo Site"
BLOG_DESCRIPTION = "This is a demo site for Nikola."

Customizing Your Site

There are lots of things you can do to personalize your website, but let's see the easy ones!

CSS tweaking

The default configuration includes a file, themes/default/assets/css/custom.css which is empty. Put your CSS there, for minimal disruption of the provided CSS files.

If you feel tempted to touch other files in assets, you probably will be better off with a custom theme.

Template tweaking
If you really want to change the pages radically, you will want to do a custom theme.
Navigation Links

The 'NAVIGATION_LINKS' option lets you define what links go in a sidebar or menu (depending on your theme) so you can link to important pages, or to other sites.

The format is a language-indexed dictionary, where each element is a tuple of tuples which are one of:

  1. A (url, text) tuple, describing a link
  2. A ((url, text), (url, text), (url, text), title) tuple, describing a submenu / sublist.


        ('/archive.html', 'Archives'),
        ('/categories/index.html', 'Tags'),
        ('/rss.xml', 'RSS'),
        ((('/foo', 'FOO'),
          ('/bar', 'BAR')), 'BAZ'),

The SEARCH_FORM option contains the HTML code for a search form based on which should always work, but feel free to change it to something else.

CONTENT_FOOTER is displayed, small at the bottom of all pages, I use it for the copyright notice. The default shows a text formed using BLOG_AUTHOR, BLOG_EMAIL, the date and LICENSE.
This option lets you define a HTML snippet that will be added at the bottom of body. The main usage is a Google analytics snippet or something similar, but you can really put anything there. Good place for JavaScript.
The SOCIAL_BUTTONS_CODE option lets you define a HTML snippet that will be added at the bottom of body. It defaults to a snippet for AddThis, but you can really put anything there. See social_buttons.html for more details.

Adding Files

Any files you want to be in output/ but are not generated by Nikola (for example, favicon.ico) just put it in files/. Everything there is copied into output by the copy_files task. Remember that you can't have files that collide with files Nikola generates (it will give an error).


Don't put any files manually in output/. Ever. Really. Maybe someday Nikola will just wipe output/ and then you will be sorry. So, please don't do that.

If you want to copy more than one folder of static files into output you can change the FILES_FOLDERS option:

# One or more folders containing files to be copied as-is into the output.
# The format is a dictionary of "source" "relative destination".
# Default is:
# FILES_FOLDERS = {'files': '' }
# Which means copy 'files' into 'output'

Getting More Themes

There are a few themes for Nikola. They are available at the Themes Index. Nikola has a built-in theme download/install mechanism to install those themes — the install_theme command:

$ nikola install_theme -l

$ nikola install_theme blogtxt
[2013-10-12T16:46:13Z] NOTICE: install_theme: Downloading:
[2013-10-12T16:46:15Z] NOTICE: install_theme: Extracting: blogtxt into themes

And there you are, you now have themes/blogtxt installed. It's very rudimentary, but it should work in most cases.

If you create a nice theme, please share it! You can do it as a pull request in the GitHub repository.

One other option is to tweak an existing theme using a different color scheme, typography and CSS in general. Nikola provides a bootswatch_theme option to create a custom theme by downloading free CSS files from

$ nikola bootswatch_theme -n custom_theme -s spruce -p bootstrap3
[2013-10-12T16:46:58Z] NOTICE: bootswatch_theme: Creating 'custom_theme' theme
from 'spruce' and 'bootstrap3'
[2013-10-12T16:46:58Z] NOTICE: bootswatch_theme: Downloading:
[2013-10-12T16:46:58Z] NOTICE: bootswatch_theme: Downloading:
[2013-10-12T16:46:59Z] NOTICE: bootswatch_theme: Theme created. Change the THEME setting to "custom_theme" to use it.

You can even try what different swatches do on an existing site using their handy bootswatchlet

Play with it, there's cool stuff there. This feature was suggested by clodo.


Nikola doesn't really have a concept of deployment. However, if you can specify your deployment procedure as a series of commands, you can put them in the DEPLOY_COMMANDS option, and run them with nikola deploy.

One caveat is that if any command has a % in it, you should double them.

Here is an example, from my own site's deployment script:

    'rsync -rav --delete output/*',
    'rdiff-backup output ~/blog-backup',
    "links -dump ''",

Other interesting ideas are using git as a deployment mechanism (or any other VCS for that matter), using lftp mirror or unison, or Dropbox, or Ubuntu One. Any way you can think of to copy files from one place to another is good enough.

Comments and Annotations

While Nikola creates static sites, there is a minimum level of user interaction you are probably expecting: comments.

Nikola supports several third party comment systems:

By default it will use DISQUS, but you can change by setting COMMENT_SYSTEM to one of "disqus", "intensedebate", "livefyre", "moot", "googleplus" or "facebook"

To use comments in a visible site, you should register with the service and then set the COMMENT_SYSTEM_ID option.

I recommend 3rd party comments, and specially DISQUS because:

  1. It doesn't require any server-side software on your site
  2. They offer you a way to export your comments, so you can take them with you if you need to.
  3. It's free.
  4. It's damn nice.

You can disable comments for a post by adding a "nocomments" metadata field to it:

.. nocomments: True

DISQUS Support

In some cases, when you run the test site, you won't see the comments. That can be fixed by adding the disqus_developer flag to the templates but it's probably more trouble than it's worth.

Moot Support

Moot doesn't support comment counts on index pages, and it requires adding this to your

BODY_END = """
<script src="//"></script>
<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="//">
<meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width">
<meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="IE=edge,chrome=1">

Facebook Support

You need jQuery, but not because Facebook wants it (see Issue #639).

An alternative or complement to comments are annotations. Nikola integrates the annotation service provided by AnnotateIt. To use it, set the ANNOTATIONS option to True. This is specially useful if you want feedback on specific parts of your writing.

You can enable or disable annotations for specific posts or pages using the annotations and noannotations metadata.

Annotations require JQuery and are therefore not supported in the base theme. You can check bootstrap theme's base.html for details on how to handle them in custom themes.

Image Galleries

To create an image gallery, all you have to do is add a folder inside galleries, and put images there. Nikola will take care of creating thumbnails, index page, etc.

If you click on images on a gallery, you should see a bigger image, thanks to the excellent colorbox

The gallery pages are generated using the gallery.tmpl template, and you can customize it there (you could switch to another lightbox instead of colorbox, change its settings, change the layout, etc.).

The options affecting gallery pages are these:

# Galleries are folders in galleries/
# Final location of galleries will be output / GALLERY_PATH / gallery_name
GALLERY_PATH = "galleries"

If you add a file in galleries/gallery_name/index.txt its contents will be converted to HTML and inserted above the images in the gallery page. The format is the same as for posts.

If you add some image filenames in galleries/gallery_name/exclude.meta, they will be excluded in the gallery page.

If USE_FILENAME_AS_TITLE is True the filename (parsed as a readable string) is used as the photo caption. If the filename starts with a number, it will be stripped. For example 03_an_amazing_sunrise.jpg will be render as An amazing sunrise.

Here is a demo gallery of historic, public domain Nikola Tesla pictures taken from this site.

Post Processing Filters

You can apply post processing to the files in your site, in order to optimize them or change them in arbitrary ways. For example, you may want to compress all CSS and JS files using yui-compressor.

To do that, you can use the provided helper adding this in your

from nikola import filters

  ".css": [filters.yui_compressor],
  ".js": [filters.yui_compressor],

Where filters.yui_compressor is a helper function provided by Nikola. You can replace that with strings describing command lines, or arbitrary python functions.

If there's any specific thing you expect to be generally useful as a filter, contact me and I will add it to the filters library so that more people use it.

The currently available filters are:

Compress files using YUI compressor
Compress PNG files using optipng
Compress JPEG files using jpegoptim
Apply tidy to HTML files
Improve typography using typogrify

Optimizing Your Website

One of the main goals of Nikola is to make your site fast and light. So here are a few tips we have found when setting up Nikola with Apache. If you have more, or different ones, or about other web servers, please share!

  1. Use a speed testing tool. I used Yahoo's YSlow but you can use any of them, and it's probably a good idea to use more than one.

  2. Enable compression in Apache:

    AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/html text/plain text/xml text/css
  3. If even after you did the previous step the CSS files are not sent compressed:

    AddType text/css .css
  4. Optionally you can greate static compressed copies and save some CPU on your server with the GZIP_FILES option in Nikola.

  5. The webassets Nikola plugin can drastically decrease the number of CSS and JS files your site fetches.

  6. Through the filters feature, you can run your files through arbitrary commands, so that images are recompressed, JavaScript is minimized, etc.

  7. The USE_CDN option offloads standard JavaScript and CSS files to a CDN so they are not downloaded from your server.

reStructuredText Extensions

Nikola includes support for a few directives and roles that are not part of docutils, but which we think are handy for website development.


This directive lets you embed media from a variety of sites automatically by just passing the URL of the page. For example here are two random videos:

.. media::

.. youtube::

It supports Instagram, Flickr, Github gists, Funny or Die, and dozens more, thanks to Micawber


To link to a YouTube video, you need the id of the video. For example, if the URL of the video is what you need is 8N_tupPBtWQ

Once you have that, all you need to do is:

.. youtube:: 8N_tupPBtWQ


To link to a Vimeo video, you need the id of the video. For example, if the URL of the video is then the id is 20241459

Once you have that, all you need to do is:

.. vimeo:: 20241459

If you have internet connectivity when generating your site, the height and width of the embedded player will be set to the native height and width of the video. You can override this if you wish:

.. vimeo:: 20241459
   :height: 240
   :width: 320


This directive lets you share music from You first need to get the ID for the piece, which you can find in the "share" link. For example, if the WordPress code starts like this:

[soundcloud url=""

The ID is 78131362 and you can embed the audio with this:

.. soundcloud:: 78131362


The code directive has been included in docutils since version 0.9 and now replaces Nikola's code-block directive. To ease the transition, two aliases for code directive are provided: code-block and sourcecode:

.. code-block:: python

   print("Our virtues and our failings are inseparable")


To use this, you have to put your source code files inside listings or whatever your LISTINGS_FOLDER variable is set to. Assuming you have a inside that folder:

.. listing:: python

Will include the source code from, highlight its syntax in python mode, and also create a listings/ page and the listing will have a title linking to it.

Listings support a few extra options so that you can display a fragment instead of the whole file in a document:

Takes a string, and starts displaying the code at the first line that matches it.
Takes a string, and starts displaying the code right before the first line that matches it.
Takes a string, and stops displaying the code at the first line that matches it.
Takes a string, and stops displaying the code right before the first line that matches it.

If you set start-at and start-before, start-at wins. If you set end-at and end-before, end-at wins. If you make it so your listing ends before it starts, it's frowned upon and nothing will be shown.


You can easily embed GitHub gists with this directive, like this:

.. gist:: 2395294

Producing this:

This degrades gracefully if the browser doesn't support JavaScript.


To create an image slideshow, you can use the slides directive. For example:

.. slides::



This directive is a thin wrapper around Pygal and will produce charts as SVG files embedded directly in your pages.

Here's an example of how it works:

.. chart:: Bar
   :title: 'Browser usage evolution (in %)'
   :x_labels: ["2002", "2003", "2004", "2005", "2006", "2007"]

   'Firefox', [None, None, 0, 16.6, 25, 31]
   'Chrome',  [None, None, None, None, None, None]
   'IE',      [85.8, 84.6, 84.7, 74.5, 66, 58.6]
   'Others',  [14.2, 15.4, 15.3, 8.9, 9, 10.4]

The argument passed next to the directive (Bar in that example) is the type of chart, and can be one of Line, StackedLine, Bar, StackedBar, HorizontalBar, XY, DateY, Pie, Radar, Dot, Funnel, Gauge, Pyramid. For examples of what each kind of graph is, check here

It can take a lot of options to let you customize the charts (in the example, title and x_labels). You can use any option described in the pygal docs

Finally, the content of the directive is the actual data, in the form of a label and a list of values, one series per line.


This role is useful to make links to other post or page inside the same site.

Here's an example:

Take a look at :doc:`my other post <creating-a-theme>` about theme creating.

In this case we are giving the portion of text we want to link. So, the result will be:

Take a look at my other post about theme creating.

If we want to use the post's title as the link's text, just do:

Take a look at :doc:`creating-a-theme` to know how to do it.

and it will produce:

Take a look at Creating a Theme to know how to do it.

Importing Your WordPress Site Into Nikola

If you like Nikola, and want to start using it, but you have a WordPress blog, Nikola supports importing it. Here's the steps to do it:

  1. Get a XML dump of your site [1]
  2. nikola import_wordpress mysite.wordpress.2012-12-20.xml

After some time, this will create a new_site folder with all your data. It currently supports the following:

  • All your posts and pages

  • Keeps "draft" status

  • Your tags and categories

  • Imports your attachments and fixes links to point to the right places

  • Will try to add redirects that send the old post URLs to the new ones

  • Will give you a url_map so you know where each old post was

    This is also useful for DISQUS thread migration!

  • Will try to convert the content of your posts. This is not error free, because WordPress uses some unholy mix of HTML and strange things. Currently we are treating it as markdown, which does a reasonable job of it.

    You will find your old posts in new_site/posts/post-title.wp in case you need to fix any of them.

This feature is a work in progress, and the only way to improve it is to have it used for as many sites as possible and make it work better each time, so I am happy to get requests about it.


The dump needs to be in 1.2 format. You can check by reading it, it should say xmlns:excerpt="" near the top of the file. If it says 1.1 instead of 1.2 you will have to update your WordPress before dumping.

Other versions may or may not work.

Importing To A Custom Location Or Into An Existing Site

It is possible to either import into a location you desire or into an already existing Nikola site. To do so you can specify a location after the dump.:

$ nikola import_wordpress  mysite.wordpress.2012-12-20.xml -o import_location

With this command Nikola will import into the folder import_location.

If the folder already exists Nikola will not overwrite an existing Instead a new file with a timestamp at the end of the filename will be created.

Using Twitter Cards

Twitter Cards enable you to show additional information in Tweets that link to you content. Nikola supports Twitter Cards. They are implemented to use Open Graph tags whenever possible.


To use Twitter Cards you need to opt-in on Twitter. To do so please use the form that can be found at

To enable and configure your use of Twitter Cards please modify the corresponding lines in your An example configuration that uses the Twitter nickname of the website and the authors Twitter user ID is found below.

    'use_twitter_cards': True,  # enable Twitter Cards / Open Graph
    'site': '@website',  # twitter nick for the website
    # 'site:id': 123456,  # Same as site, but the website's Twitter user ID instead.
    # 'creator': '@username',  # Username for the content creator / author.
    'creator:id': 654321,  # Same as creator, but the Twitter user's ID.

Extra Plugins

These are plugins that may not be widely used or that are a bit too radical or experimental for the general public.

To enable them for your site please look for ENABLED_EXTRAS in your


This plugin converts Nikola into the equivalent of Planet a feed aggregator. It requires PeeWee and Feedparser to work.

It has a configuration option: PLANETOID_REFRESH which is the number of minutes before retrying a feed (defaults to 60).

You need to create a feeds file containing the data of which feeds you want to aggregate. The format is very simple:

# Roberto Alsina
Roberto Alsina
  1. Lines that start with # are comments and ignored.
  2. Lines that start with http are feed URLs.
  3. URL lines have to be followed by the "real name" of the feed.

After all that is in place, just run nikola build and you'll get a planet. If you run nikola build for the first time you need to actually issue the command three times until the planet is build.

There is a special theme for the planets called site-planetoid. To use this set THEME in your to 'site-planetoid'. This is special in the case that it redirects users to the original URL of the post when they try to open a post.


This task gives you a mustache.html file which lets you access your whole blog without reloading the page, using client-side templates. Makes it much faster and modern ;-)

Custom Plugins

You can create your own plugins (see Extending Nikola) and use them in your own site by putting them in a plugins/ folder.

Getting Extra Plugins

If you want extra plugins, there is also the Plugins Index.

Similarly to themes, there is a nice, built-in command to install them — install_plugin:

$ nikola install_plugin -l Plugins: -------- helloworld tags ⋮ ⋮

$ nikola install_plugin helloworld [2013-10-12T16:51:56Z] NOTICE: install_plugin: Downloading: [2013-10-12T16:51:58Z] NOTICE: install_plugin: Extracting: helloworld into plugins plugins/helloworld/requirements.txt [2013-10-12T16:51:58Z] NOTICE: install_plugin: This plugin has Python dependencies. [2013-10-12T16:51:58Z] NOTICE: install_plugin: Installing dependencies with pip... ⋮ ⋮ [2013-10-12T16:51:59Z] NOTICE: install_plugin: Dependency installation succeeded. [2013-10-12T16:51:59Z] NOTICE: install_plugin: This plugin has a sample config file. Contents of the file:

# Should the Hello World plugin say “BYE” instead? BYE_WORLD = False

You can also share plugins you created with the community! Visit the GitHub repository to find out more.


Nikola is released under a MIT license which is a free software license. Some components shipped along with Nikola, or required by it are released under other licenses.

If you are not familiar with free software licensing: In general, you should be able to do pretty much anything you want, unless you modify Nikola. If you modify it, and share it with someone else, that someone else should get all your modifications under the same license you got it.