Frankenstein’s ___.sh

Once upon a time, back in June 2011 (last year) I was making my website for Displayator.com and using some bash scripts to make the pages link together (there was only about 3 pages). About the same time, there was a few discussions on HN about the Jekyll and Hyde static site generators. I discovered that Marco Arment had also open sourced its PHP static site generator.

They were using Markdown and a scripting languages, (respectively Ruby & Python) and I was thinking, do you really need PHP, Python or Ruby to generate a static blog? As I was already generating a website with a few lines of bash spread over a few scripts, I thought “How hard can it be?”. Anyway, I needed a blog for my Displayator site. So I got to work with a few constraints and a bonus card:

  • use bash but no variables nor for loops.
  • Fit all the code in a single file.
  • Bonus card: I can use a pre-compiled markdown converter.

My objective was to generate something that could look like Tom Preston Werner’s homepage (the creator of Jekyll).

So I got to work, and soon had something that could pass for a static blog generator, in less than 60 lines of bash, including the help outputs & comments. I took a look, and thought I could shrink it a bit, by using the ; and cramming a few more things on the same line. For geek points, I went down to 42 lines of bash, with a few precious new lines.

To keep in the theme of literary creatures, the result of this assemblage is named ___.sh, after Frankenstein’s creature. It is currently used for the Displayator blog and is the most (only) watched of my projects. Yay!

A few month latter I added the generation of a full text RSS feed, and refactored a bit more to keep the length down at 42 lines.

Today, I renamed it from ___.sh to ___ for neatness' sake. Edit on 2012/05/29: restored to the previous name (___.sh) as ___ is not search-engine-friendly enough.

To be able to do so much in so few lines, ___.sh is basically a bash script generator written in bash. It will transform the output of ls into a bash script and then pipe it (|) back to bash to write the HTML output. The generated commands involve Fletcher Penney’s MultiMarkdown, and are obtained by applying copious amount of sed to the ls results. If you want to see what the generated command look like, edit ___.sh to replace the few |bash by >script.sh.

Unlike Second Crack, Jekyll & Hyde, ___.sh is on the simplistic side of simple and doesn’t have any option. You can somewhat configure the HTML outputs by modifiying the - files, which contains the raw HTML for the non-markdown content of the output. There is also an index.css that you might want to change.

On the other hand ___.sh only has two dependency:

  1. a UNIX OS with bash, sed, cut, echo, cat etc…
  2. a Markdown to HTML program which must be in the path and called multimarkdown.

So, there you go, you can generate a static blog with a few lines of bash and a binary markdown compiler. You just need a few thousand lines of precompiled C.

More details about how ___.sh comes together is available in the for once detailed readme of the project.

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