Andy Hulstkamp

about creating online experiences

11. October 2012

Wintersmith custom template - Snowboot

I had this blog running on an outdated version of Wordpress and an update was on order. Updating a customised WP-Version sucks and I don't really need all the features WP offers so I decided to switch to a static site generator. I had a look at a couple of options and settled for Wintersmith. It is straightforward to setup and easy to customise.

Here are some notes on how I customised this blog using Wintersmith.

UPDATE I've created a new custom Wintersmith template, that is compatible with Version 2.0.*. Most of the notes provided here do still apply, though.

Getting started

Setting up Wintersmith is easy. Check the official guide to get started.

Once Wintersmith is set up, invoke…

    cd [working-directory]
    wintersmith preview

…in order to see the changes while editing blog entries or Customising templates.


Customisation in Wintersmith revolves around

  • Jade-templates
  • page meta-data
  • configuration files
  • the content tree

Custom Templates & Meta-Data

Wintersmith uses Jade for templates.

Layout.jade is the main template of my blog. It is my basic template, where all blocks and default content are specified, more specific templates inherit from layout.jade to provide custom LAF on specific pages.

Each page in Wintersmith specifies which template to use for rendering. For instance, at the top of the page of this blog entry, I've got:

    title: Wintersmith notes
    abstract: Some abstract...
    author: Andy Hulstkamp
    date: 2012-10-10 12:20
    template: article.jade
    tags: tools
    type: post
    status: published

which tells Wintersmith to use article.jade to render this page. The template will also give access to all the other variables like title, tags etc. I specified here.

article.jade is simply:

extends layout
block content
  a.back(href='/') ← BACK TO INDEX
    = page.title
      != page.html
    a.back(href='/') ← BACK TO INDEX

It inherits from layout.jade where the header-, navigation- and footer structures are defined and specifies the content block to use for articles.

When a page is rendered, the template gets a reference to the page instance. The page is available as page in the template context. The content tree is also available as contents and the config.locals object as locals. underscore.js is available as __ to provide some utility functions. Custom variables specified on the page may be accessed by _page.metadata.

Page-Title and Page-Content are accessed in a template like this:

  = page.title
      != page.html

Navigation & Configuration Files

An important file is config.json. This is where I put global stuff such as the data for my navigation

  "locals": {
    "url": "http://localhost:8080",
    "name": "Andy Hulstkamp",
    "title": "Andy Hulstkamps blog",
    "owner": "Andy Hulstkamp",
    "description": "stuff",
    "index_articles": 5,
    "nav" : [
        "name": "Home",
        "cssClass": "home",
        "description": "Home Page",
        "url": "/"
        "name": "Blog",
        "cssClass": "blog",
        "description": "Blog",
        "url": "/blog"
        "name": "About",
        "cssClass": "about",
        "description": "About ",
        "url": "/about"

I use the nav array specified in config.json to create the navigation by looping over the entries in a template:
  each item in locals.nav

Content Tree

The content tree is a graph of all json-, page- or fileobjects in the contents folders (and subfolders).

For instance


holds the reference to a file named spring.json within the tags-folder in the contents directory.

If spring.json is something like…

  "id": "spring",
  "name": "Spring",
  "cssClass": "spring",
  "description": "Spring JEE Framework"

…I can access the cssClass property like


…which is how I did the tags for the site. Tags are not an implicit part of Wintersmith, but can easily be achieved by using page-metadata, the content tree and a mixin.

At the top of each page I added a list of strings to tag a page:

    tags: flex, java, junit

In a template I can fetch this metadata through page.metdata and use underscore to turn it into an array. I can then loop over the array and build a list.

  - var tagsarray = _.toArray(page.metadata.tags.split(','))
          each tag in tagsarray
              li= tag

Within the loop I can fetch additional data per tag and use this data to render the final list. I used a mixin oto get this done in a generic way.

Mixin and data references

I can reference other variables using the tag as a key to load data from the content tree. This following block loops over an array of tags and uses a mixin to access data in the content tree…

      - for (var k in tags)
          mixin tag(k)
            - var groupedValues = _.values(tags[k])
            - for (var ki in groupedValues)
                 a(href=groupedValues[ki].obj.url)= groupedValues[ki].title

The mixin is simply a block of html structure that can be parameterised

mixin tag(tagName)
  - var tag = contents.tags[tagName + '.json']
    if tag
      span.pikto J
      = tagName

The mixin here is simply defined in a separate jade-template file; this one is in a file called tag.jade under the templates folder.

A .json file in the content tree is dynamically accessed using the tagName. For instance, within my contents/tags folder I have a file named ux.json that holds some data in context to the ux tagName

  "id": "ux",
  "name": "UX, Usability, Interface Design",
  "cssClass": "ux",
  "description": "all user-centric things"

The mixin looks up the data in this file when tagName is ux and renders the tag-related structure accordingly.

Good to know

Directories, Filenames, Html-Content

Again, the content tree is just the tree of json-, page- and fileobjects under the contents folder.

 - var directories =, function(item) {
  -                                    return item
  - })

will get all directories.

Loop over directories:

  each dir in directories
      strong dir.filename (dir): 
      span #{dir.filename}
      strong  dir.index.filename: 
      span #{dir.index.filename}
      strong dir.index.metadata.tags
      span #{dir.index.metadata.tags}

include html from a page in a template:

!= page.html

Extending blocks in templates

Any block defined in a template can be overwritten and elements can be appended or prepended. For the detail page I need specific javascript and styles that can be linked in the header by appending to the head block of the parent template.

block append head
  link(rel='stylesheet', href="stylesheets/ahimpr.css")
  script(type='text/javascript', src='js/ah.js')
  script(type='text/javascript', src='js/modernizr.js')
    $(document).ready(function () {

Use Mixins for repeated customised content

I have a couple of older Flash-stuff I wanted to move over to the static site. Here's a way to deal with the swf-objects includes that are required for flash content.

Mixin defined in parent template:

extends layout
mixin useFlash(file)
    html, body  { height:100%; }
    body { 
      margin:0; padding:0; overflow:auto; text-align:left; 
      background-color: #fafafa; 
    #flashContent { display:none; 
  script(type="text/javascript", src="swfobject.js")
  script(type="text/javascript", src="history/history.js")
  link(rel="stylesheet", type="text/css", href="history/history.css")
    var swfVersionStr = "10.0.0";
    var xiSwfUrlStr = "playerProductInstall.swf";
    var flashvars = {};
    var params = {};
    params.quality = "high";
    params.bgcolor = "#fafafa";
    params.allowscriptaccess = "sameDomain";
    params.allowfullscreen = "true";
    var attributes = {}; = "#{file}"; = "#{file}";
    attributes.align = "middle";
    swfobject.embedSWF("#{file}.swf", "flashContent", "100%", "100%", swfVersionStr, xiSwfUrlStr, flashvars, params, attributes);
    swfobject.createCSS("#flashContent", "display:block;text-align:left;");
block append head
 mixin useFlash(page.metadata.swf)
block content
    section.content!= page.html
    a.back(href='./') ← BACK TO POST

we can pass objects defined on the page to the mixin, therefore generalising repeated parameterised content.



While moving html pages from my old blog to Wintersmith, simply coping and pasting the html structures into Wintersmith could cause trouble. Sometimes jade would just ignore script or link tags. This could usually be corrected by reintending the tags properly.

Speeding up builds

Wintersmith builds a content tree based on the files located in the contents folder (and subfolders). While developing templates or writing new articles it might be useful to temporarily move old articles out of the contents folders and back in when you choose to make the final build.


Updates on config.json are not visible in the Wintersmith preview. A restart of the Wintersmith preview is necessary.


I use Sublime Text 2 for blog entries. To setup a build process put

    "cmd": ["wintersmith.cmd", "build", "-v"],
    "path": "c:/path/to/wintersmith/blog/root",
    "working_dir": "{project_path}"  

under Tools/Build System/New Build System.

This will make wintersmith build available as build process in st.

Firefox auto reload add on

Tools/AutoReload Preferences/

Jade & Wintersmith key points

  • Templating engine inspired by HAML (Javscript, Node)
  • Define default template in layout.jade
  • layout.jade defines the default structure using default blocks for header, head, content etc see jade blocks
  • custom layouts created by extending layout.jade and prepending, appending or replacing the block elements in layout.jade
    • block header to replace the header block
    • block append header to append to the header block
    • block prepend header to prepend to the header block
  • Each content page refers to a layout, set at the top of each content page (template: article.jade)
  • Have a look at article.jade, it extends layout.jade and replaces the title, header and content blocks.
  • supports vanilla javascript. In Wintersmith underscore _ is provided as well.

further reading

SASS and Compass

About using SASS and Compass for cleaner styles, better maintainability and productivity.

Milchglas - a custom Wintersmith template

A custom Wintersmith template that is compatible with Version 2.0.* of Wintersmith.