StoWiki/ blog/ sysadmin/ Static website generators

The last month I was supposed to work on a OpenStack related project, but for administrative reasons it has been delayed and I've tried to do small tasks to be able to finish them quickly and start the work on the main project when the issues get solved.

As the delay has been longer than expected last Wednesday I've realized than on the last weeks I did a lot of small system administration tasks:

With all the changes I did I noticed that I had to do something with our Intranet server; it is just a reverse proxy for a lot of different web services and its main page was one static HTML page with links to them, nothing else.

In the long term maybe we will replace it with something based on Drupal or Lifeay, but for now I just wanted something to be able to organize the links and provide some information about the services for the new users without having to write HTML (I really like Agile Documentation Tools that let me focus on the content and forget about the markup), and started to look at some of them.

My first idea was to use ikiwiki, as it has all the features I was looking for: I can use Markdown or reStructuredText to write the contents, the source pages are easily handled on a Version Control System, it supports the use of templates for the HTML, etc., but it seemed to me that using ikiwiki was like killing flies with a cannon (that's a Spanish say, I guess it's easy to understand it in English, ┬┐no?) and I decided to review other tools to build static web sites.

To make a long story short, I selected some tools that met my requirements and looked nice on their demo sites; after my first review I thought that Hyde was going to be my bet, as it uses technologies I'm already familiar with, but after trying it I saw that I was going to have a problem with documentation (the current Hyde version lacks it) and it was going to be more complicated that using ikiwiki.

Before giving up I decided to review simpler tools, just in case, and after looking some of them I ended up using poole, a simple python script (the source is just one file and it only requires python-markdown to work).

Before moving to the content I tried to adapt a couple of free themes to be used by the tool, but I didn't liked the result, so I went back to the plain style provided by the tool and added a logo and a background.

With that simple look and feel I started to work with the content, splitting it into eight markdown files and a python macro to include a file that has all the links used on the site.

While trying to make the main page look good I noticed how little I know about CSS, but using search engines I was able to build a two column block into the main page and publish the contents and with the help of some CSS enabled co-workers I changed the look and feel of the site in about 30 minutes.

In summary, if you want a really simple website, you know a little bit of python and don't want to spend much time learning how to use a website generator then Poole is a good option. If you want something more complex I still think that ikiwiki is a good option, but YMMV.