Building a website in Markdown with Pandoc

Styling with CSS

Styling should occur in a separate file, outside of the page. Any file you point to with the -H option will be copied in, and that can include a CSS file as part of the final directory structure.

Usually, you will start by using an existing style. In this example, you can copy the Tufte CSS file into one of your sub-directories and add the link to a header file:

<link rel="stylesheet" href="Tufte/tufte.css"/>

Footer and Header

If you want your website to look tidy and professional, you might want the site name and URL to appear in a header or footer bar to let people know where they are regardless of which page they are on.

As mentioned previously, the options -B (before the body) and -A (after the body) let you create headers and footers. You could use these options to create a navigation bar at the top or a consistent footer for all pages. You can repeat these options as many times as you like, though the final result will suffer if you overdo things.

To create the header text you want, save the text in a file and specify the file name with the pandoc command using the -B option (Listing 2).

Listing 2

Specifying Headers and Footers

$ pandoc -t html\
        -H head.html \
        -s -o index.html \
        -A footer.html \
        -B toptext.html \
        --metadata title="Kick Mundane Out" \

Note that Listing 2 also brings in the CSS style sheet using the -H parameter. In this case, the head.html file only contains a link to the stylesheet.

Suppose I wish to add a copyright notice at the bottom. You can also imagine other things that might appear in a footer, such as social links and other legal information. The footer id tag is common in CSS stylesheets (Listing 3).

Listing 3

footer.html Footer

<div id="footer">
    &copy; 2021 Mats Tage Axelsson

A simple nav bar in the header could show the other pages on the site in a list (Listing 4).

Listing 4

toptext.html Header

<div id="nav-bar">


When you convert to a new format, Pandoc will use a default template. Alternatively, you can create your own template. The easiest way to create a template is to write an existing template to your directory and edit it:

pandoc -D html > MyTemplate.tmpl

The simplest sites do not need templates. However, templates provide a means for incorporating variables and simple conditionals that add power and convenience to your web presence.

A template is a file in the final format that you seek – in this case, HTML files. The big difference between a template and an ordinary file is that templates have variables embedded. In short, variables are enclosed in dollar signs, and you assign values to those variables using your defaults file or command-line options.

For instance, you could use a metadata variable as a placeholder for a title. Then in the defaults file or as part of the pandoc command, you could specify a title for the page:

--metadata title="Escape Mundane Life"

If the title shows up in the default template, it comes with conditions. Pandoc checks if title is defined elsewhere, and if not, it puts it in (Listing 5).

Listing 5

Conditional Default Title

01  $if(title)$
02 <header id="title-block-header">
03 <h1 class="title">$title$</h1>
04 $if(subtitle)$
05 <p class="subtitle">$subtitle$</p>
06 $endif$

As you can see, Listing 5 defines both the title and subtitle.

Some ready-made templates are available to help you add common features to your website. For instance, the pandoc-bootstrap [3] template includes several elements that add value to your site. Bootstrap sets up CSS and connects to some JavaScript to give you a navigation bar and maybe a table of contents. You can also add an author name and a date.

In the code, you define where you want the variables to go:

  <meta name="author" content="$author-meta$" />
  <meta name="date" content="$date-meta$" />

There are two ways of setting the values; one method is to add a YAML block [4] at the top of your document, in this case,

The three dashes indicate the start and end of a block:

subtitle: "More creativity"
author: "Mats Tage Axelsson"
date: "2021-08-12"

The other way to set the variables is with the -V parameter. For instance, note that the command in Listing 6 sets the date using the -V variable.

Listing 6

Setting Variables with -V

     -o index.html\
     -t html5+smart\
     -V date="2021-08-15"\
     -M subtitle="More Vitality"\
     --template ../pandoc-bootstrap-adaptive-template/template.html\
     -B toptext.html\
     -A footer.html\
     -c ../pandoc-bootstrap-adaptive-template/template.css\
     --metadata title="Escape Mundane Life"

As you can see in Figure 2, the data is added to your web page.

Figure 2: After you have added the metadata in the command, the date shows up in the right hand top corner, thanks to CSS.

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