Python Site Generators

I have never been particularly impressed with Moodle, the learning management system used by my university and a number of other organizations. Its every impulse, it seems to me, is to increase the number of steps to get simple things done, I suppose to simplify more complex things for users with less tech savvy. Using markdown, for example, is painful and there’s no way to control the presentation of materials unless you resort to one of its myriad of under-explained, and probably under-thought, content packaging options. (I’ve never grokked the Moodle “book”, for example.)

To be honest, there are times when I feel the same way about WordPress, which has gotten GUIer and less sharp on a number of fronts — why oh why are categories and tags now unlimited in application?

I’m also less than clear on my university’s approach to intellectual property: they seem rather keen to claim everything and anything as their own, when they can’t even be bothered to give you basic production tools. (Hello? It’s been three years since I had access to a printer that didn’t involve me copying files to a flash drive and walking down stairs to load things onto a Windows machine that can only ever print PDFs.)

I decided I would give static site generation a try, particularly if I could compose in markdown, ReST, or even a Jupyter notebook (as a few of the generators appear to promise). I’m not interested in using this for blogging, and I will probably maintain it on a subdirectory of my own site, e.g. /teaching, and I hope to be able to sync between local and remote versions using Git. That seems straightforward, doesn’t it? (I’m also now thinking that I will stuff everything into the same directory and just have different pages, and subpages?, for each course. Just hang everything out there for all to see.

As for the site generators themselves, there are a number of options:

  • Pelican is a popular one, but seems very blog oriented.
  • I’ve installed both Pelican and Nikola, and I ran the latter this morning and was somewhat overwhelmed by the number of directories it generated right away.
  • Cactus seems compelling, and has a build available for the Mac.
  • There is also Hyde.
  • I’m going to ignore blogofile for now, but it’s there and its development is active.
  • If all else fails, I have used Poole before. It doesn’t have a templating system or Javascript of any of that, but maybe it’s better for it.

Leave a Reply