Auto build and publish emacs org configuration as a website

Having our emacs configuration in an org file is great, it allow us to have it more organized and easy to read, but org files have more features and one of them is the ability to be exported to different formats like HTML, PDF, markdown and so on. So what if we export our emacs configuration to HTML and then publish it in a website? 🤯

It probably doesn't have any real utility but it would be nice to have a exclusive web page to show our emacs config to our friends :)

We can do this in two ways:

  • Manually, we can export the org file using the regular exportation feature of org-mode and then upload the resulting HTML somewhere

  • Automatically, our configuration will be rendered and published into a website every time we push some changes to our dotfiles repository

Let's define what we need to do to have the automatic way:

  • Have a script that render our org config file

  • Run this script in a CI so it can be run every time we push some changes

  • Push the rendered HTML to an extra repository

  • Activate Github Pages in the extra repository, so we can have an url where we can see the resulting website

Let's assume we have this structure in our dotfiles repository:

├── emacs
│   ├── config.org
│   └── init.el
└── scripts

This is a "regular" structure for a dotfiles repository, the extra scripts folder will be used later. Now let's deep into how it will work.

Automate the org file rendering

We need to create to files and put them inside scripts folder:

  • render-emacs-config-to-html.sh, this will render our config file and place the resulting HTML file inside scripts/output/index.html

  • org-render-html-minimal.el, this is a minimal config file to be able to render org into html, it load the required packages and make some basic configuration

Let's explore first scripts/org-render-html-minimal.el

(require 'package)

(setq package-archives '(("gnu" . "https://elpa.gnu.org/packages/")
                         ("melpa" . "https://melpa.org/packages/")))

(package-initialize)

(package-refresh-contents)

;; this is required to highlight code blocks properly
(package-install 'htmlize)

(require 'org)

(require 'htmlize)

;; For some reason the default value `inline-css' doesn't apply syntax highlighting correctly
;; in the resulting html file so we need to change the value to `css'
(setq org-html-htmlize-output-type 'css)

To export code blocks correctly we need the package htmlize, this package is available in MELPA so we need to configure MELPA and then install it from there.

Now let's check scripts/render-emacs-config-to-html.sh

#!/bin/sh

# read the docs based theme
echo "#+SETUPFILE: https://raw.githubusercontent.com/fniessen/org-html-themes/master/org/theme-readtheorg.setup" > index.org
cat ../emacs/config.org >> index.org

emacs index.org --batch -Q --load org-render-html-minimal.el -f org-html-export-to-html --kill

# output will be the directory uploaded to the render repository so we have to put all the resulting files inside that folder
mkdir output
mv index.html output/

What are we doing here?

We basically create a new org file called index.org and put a setup configuration file in it. You can avoid this step if you put this line directly in your config file, in this case we're using one of the themes available in this repository, there is more themes available in this other repository so you can choose the one you like the most.

Now we need to run emacs with our previously defined configuration org-render-html-minimal.el and tell it to render our index.org.

And finally we put the resulting index.html inside output folder. This folder will be used later.

Using Github actions to build and publish the rendered config

We're going to use a Github action called push-directory-to-another-repository, this action allow us to commit and push changes in another repository. Some configuration is required to use this action:

Create a extra repository

This extra repository will be used to host our rendered config file, in my case this repository is erickgnavar/emacs-config, we also need to activate Github Pages in this repository and set it up to use master branch

/images/blog/auto-build-and-publish-emacs-configuration-as-a-website/set-up-github-pages.png

The url generated, erickgnavar.github.io/emacs-config in my case, is where our rendered config file will be published.

Create a personal token

To be able to push changes into the new repository we have to create a personal access token, this can be made in account settings, this token should have the repo scoped activated.

/images/blog/auto-build-and-publish-emacs-configuration-as-a-website/generate-github-api-token.png

Configure a secret variable in our dotfiles repository

The Github action needs a secret variable called API_TOKEN_GITHUB, this variable allow the action to push changes into the new repository, we can create it by going to repository/settings/secrets/New repository secret

/images/blog/auto-build-and-publish-emacs-configuration-as-a-website/create-api-token-secret.png

Configure Github action config file

Finally we have to create a file .github/workflows/ci.yml with the following content:

name: CI

on:
  push:
    branches: [ master ]

jobs:
  build-emacs-config-page:
    runs-on: ubuntu-latest
    container: alpine:3.13.4
    steps:
      - uses: actions/checkout@v2
      - name: Install emacs
        run: apk --update add emacs
      - name: Render config into html
        run: cd scripts && sh render-emacs-config-to-html.sh
      - name: Pushes to destination repository
        uses: cpina/github-action-push-to-another-repository@cp_instead_of_deleting
        env:
          API_TOKEN_GITHUB: ${{ secrets.API_TOKEN_GITHUB }}
        with:
          source-directory: 'scripts/output'
          destination-github-username: 'YOUR_GITHUB_USERNAME'
          destination-repository-name: 'YOUR_NEW_REPOSITORY_NAME'
          user-email: bot@emacs.bot

This action config file make some things:

  • Install emacs so we can run it to render our config file

  • Render our config file using the script render-emacs-config-to-html.sh we previously defined

  • Take the content of scripts/output, commit and push it into our destination repository, this is why we need to move the resulting HTML file into output folder

  • And finally it calls github-action-push-to-another-repository action which will do all the git stuff required to push the changes

Now every time we push changes to our dotfiles repository this action will push the rendered config file to our destination repository, the commits will look like this:

/images/blog/auto-build-and-publish-emacs-configuration-as-a-website/destination-repo-commits-list.png

And when we enter to the url generated from Github pages, erickgnavar.github.io/emacs-config in my case, we can see our configuration rendered:

/images/blog/auto-build-and-publish-emacs-configuration-as-a-website/rendered-config-result-page.png

Enjoy 🎉