A full redesign of The Plain Libre Jekyll theme https://software.franco.net.eu.org/frnmst/the-flux-of-thought
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The Flux Of Thought

A full redesign of the-plain-libre Jekyll theme.

Table of contents




  • No Javascript is used. See The JavaScript Trap.
  • No local fonts are served.
  • No remote fonts are included.
  • Boxes with outer shades are clickable links.
  • Boxes with inner shades are NOT clickable links.
  • Any box without shades, inner or outer, is the navbar.



See all the-flux-of-thought releases.


The theme is known to work with the the packages listed here and they must be installed on your system.

Package Executable Version command Package Version
Ruby /bin/ruby $ ruby --version $ ruby 2.5.3p105 (2018-10-18 revision 65156)
RDoc /bin/rdoc $ rdoc --version 6.0.4
Jekyll ~/.gem/ruby/2.5.0/bin/jekyll $ jekyll --version jekyll 3.8.5
Jekyll Sitemap Generator Plugin - - 1.2.0
GNU Make /bin/make $ make --version GNU Make 4.2.1
krmadown ~/.gem/ruby/2.5.0/bin/kramdown $ kramdown --version 2.1.0
Rouge ~/.gem/ruby/2.5.0/bin/rougify $ rougify --version 3.1.1


Arch Linux based distros

# pacman -S ruby ruby-rdoc
$ gem update
$ gem install jekyll jekyll-sitemap kramdown rouge

Building and serving


Local serving, on

$ make

Global serving, on

$ make serve-global

Connect to

GitLab Pages

If you use GitLab Pages put the following in ./.gitlab-ci.yml. See also https://gitlab.com/pages/jekyll

image: ruby:2.3

  stage: test
  - gem install jekyll
  - jekyll build -d test
    - test
  - master

  stage: deploy
  - gem install jekyll jekyll-sitemap
  - jekyll build -d public
    - public
  - master


Commenting system


This theme handles comments in the most static way possible: a mailto unique link is generated for each post, using the address specified in the _config.yml file. This idea came out while reading this page.

Moreover, for each post a comment section gets exposed. To get comments inside this section, you must create a new file in the _comments directory using the corresponding posts path name as file name. Let's say a user sends a comment for the another-post post. The mailto link will have this structure:


This works for any mailer system supporting these kind of mail aliases, for example GMAIL.

You may notice the substring 2017-02-11-another-post after the email username which is part of the post's file name:


Let's ingnore the ./_posts/ and .md substrings for a moment and save 2017-02-11-another-post somewhere. Since a post may have more than a comment, we must distinguish between one and another. To do this we create a new directory using the comment path, like the following:

$ mkdir _/comments/2017-02-11-another-post

and we will save the comment files inside to keep things tidy.

We then create a new markdown file corresponding to the comment, and its file name will be used as an id, for example:


The filename must not have whitespace characters and the substring .md except at the end of it.

Out final comment path is:


As a final remark you may have noticed that each comment is referenced as a paragraph (using the HTML id attribute) and that markdown is enabled by default.

Comment attributes

Comment files have 5 attributes:

  • layout

    • Always use comment as variable.
  • date

    • Use the format reported by the following date command:

      $ date "+%F %T %z"
  • from

    • string representing the name or the id or the mail of the person that commented the post.
  • subject

    • String representing the mail subject.

For example:

layout: comment
title: This is another post
date: 2017-02-11 23:37:05 +0100
from: x.y@y.x, A Mailer
subject: test subject

This is a test comment for the `Hello again` post.

def hi

Media files

Extending these ideas I came up with the following:


Just like comments, each media file is contained in one directory corresponding to a post. However, unlike comments, media content may be referenced from more than one post. This is how it works.

File locations

If out example post is ./_posts/2017-02-11-another-post.md and we want to add media files to it, we must create a corresponding directory in _media:


We can now place our file inside, for example:


Possible combinations

Now, let's go back to ./_posts/2017-02-11-another-post.md. To be able to display that picture we need to use the include liquid tag. In the simplest form the only required parameter is the file name:

{% include image.html file="terminal.png" %}

You can also use the alt and/or capiton tags:

{% include image.html file="terminal.png" alt="ter" caption="A terminal example caption" %}

You can also use plain markdown, which is not advisable in this case, since you need to input the whole path:

![ter]({{ site.baseurl }}/media/2017-02-11-another-post/terminal.png)

Calling files from another post

In some cases you may want to recall media files from another post. You can do that using the otherpost tag. Let's say we are in the ./_posts/2015-09-09-download-this-theme.md post.

{% include image.html file="2017-02-11-another-post/terminal.png" alt="Terminal" caption="A terminal image from the other post" otherpost=true %}

As you can see you don't have to specify the full path but only the post name slash the file name. The rest is filled in automatically.

Finally, notice the otherpost=true tag at the end.

Notice and warning

If you do not include the alt tag a default one will be provided instead.

This include feature is currently available only for images (img HTML tag).

Static pages

Reading this gave me the idea to move the static pages like index, 404, etc.. in the ./_pages directory. If you want to add new pages remember to add a sensible permalink for each page and remember to keep include: [ "_pages" ] and:

    output: false

in the _config.yml file.

Tags and categories


In this theme tags and categories are considered the same thing. I will use the word tag to speak about both tags and categories.

I gathered some ideas from here and using the official Jekyll documentation.

A list of tags is present on the home page, i.e: ./_pages/index.html. This list is just a set of links pointing to the appropriate entry in the ./_pages/tags.md page.

The tags score system

A list of tags is present on the home page, i.e: ./_pages/index.html. This list is just a set of links pointing to the appropriate entry in the ./_pages/tags.md page and are presented using a "score" criteria. All occurrencies of a tag are counted globally. If that frequency is greater or equal than the min_tag_score variable in the _config.yml file then the tag list element is showed along with its score. On the other hand if the frequency is less than min_tag_core the tag will not be shown. If you want all the tags to be shown, simply set min_tag_core to 1.

You may have noticed that the tag list is presented in a descreasing number of occurrencies per tags. This method was chosen so that the relevant content is shown first.

The logic for all this was adapted from here and here.

Tags page

The purpose of this page is to present links to posts for each tag in the website. This page reports all tags in the website without the "tags score" system except that the list will be sorted with descreasing frequency.

Below the tags list there are links to each posts, organized by tags. If a user clicks on one of the links in the tags list, the viewport will be moved to the list of posts containing that tag.

Tags in posts

If a post contains at least one tag, this will be reported at the top of the page with a link pointing to the appropriate bookmark of ./_pages/tags.md (just like in the home page). A user looking at a post can see all related posts just by clicking at those tag links.

The tag entry is optional which means that you can specify from 0 to n tags. If you want to add some, simply write your comma separated list of tags in the front matter of your post:

tags: [tag 0, tag 1, ... , tag n]

Let's make an example. What follows is the front matter of the ./_posts/2015-09-09-download-this-theme.md post.

title: Download this Theme
updated: 2017-04-09 00:29
categories:  Download
tags: [download, terminal, image from another post]

As you may have noticed, tags can contain spaces.

Once you run make, you should see the following links just below the Download this Theme title:

*download* *terminal* *image from another post*


Excerpts are reported in the home page.

Use the <!--more--> tag inside a post to mark the end of the excerpt.

If this tag is omitted, the first 10 words of the post will be reported instead. You can specify the number of words in the excerpt by editing the excerpt_words variable in the ./_config.yml file.

If you are not interested in excerpts set the excerpt_enabled variable to false in ./_config.yml.

Have a look at this article for more ideas.

Anchor headings

Anchor headings are clickable links beside a <h[1-6]> tag. The purpose of these elements is to get a quick link to a specific part of a page. You can modify the appearence of these links from the ./_config.yml file through the anchor_headings_* variables.

All this is possible thanks to the Jekyll Pure Liquid Heading Anchors library.

RSS feeds

This theme contains an Atom file useful for RSS feeds in ./_pages/feed.xml

The link to feed.xml is available in the navigation bar of every page. The purpose is that your readers open this link with a feed reader so that they can remain up to date with your posts.

Search Engine Optimizaition (SEO)

I'm a noob in this field so I followed this tutorial and this SEO checker.

  • meta
  • sitemaps
  • images
    • always use alt tags. For images in ./_assets these are already coded in.
  • responsiveness
  • robots.txt

meta and other SEO tags

meta tags are available in the ./_includes/head.html file. These include: title, description and canonical links.

The description meta tag uses the first available, in this order, of the following:

  • Front matter description tag
  • Page excerpt
  • Site description

It is advised to use the description tag since excerpts or the site description may not relate to the (whole) page content. Here's an example:

title: This is another post
updated: 2017-04-09 23:00
tags: [other, liquid, terminal]
description: How to use markdown and liquid to render images belonging to a 

You can also edit the following variables in ./_config.ymlto limit the number
of words in the description meta tag. Avoid values greater than 160 as reported by previously cited articles:



A sitemap used for web crawlers is available thanks to the jekyll-sitemap plugin.

There is also a (very) basic sitemap for users under the /sitemap/ permalink which has a link for it at the top of each page.


This very important file must be put under the root of your domain. It is used by web crawlers (a.k.a bots, spiders, etc) to get access information about the website. In our case it is also important to tell these programs that our site has a sitemap. Read this and this for more information.

For example, since this project is called the-plain-libre and is published under https://frnmst.github.io/the-plain-libre, we need to put the robots.txt file just under https://frnmst.github.io/, i.e


Since I didn't have neither a "user page" nor a domain I created a dummy user page repository and I copied the robots.txt file from the generated ./_site directory from Jekyll. This works for me. This means that in my case the robots.txt in this repository is ignored by the bots.

I guess that if you have multiple repository pages you can edit the robots.txt file appropriately and set rules (and sitemap locations) for each one of them.

Mobile support

Mobile support is available for this theme through the CSS file through the @media rules.

Compressed HTML output

By default Jekyll leaves lots of whitespace in the html source. You can verify this yourself.

Since useless white space means useless data -> we transmit useless bytes -> loading the website requires more time.

For this reason I decided to use a compressed html output thanks to jekyll-compress-html, which is a pure liquid layout to be used as a wrapper on the ./_layouts/default.html layout.

jekyll-compress-html is released under the MIT license.


OS Browser Executable Version command Browser Version
Parabola GNU/Linux-libre Iceweasel /bin/iceweasel $ iceweasel --version Mozilla Iceweasel 61.0.2
Parabola GNU/Linux-libre GNU Icecat /bin/icecat $ icecat --version GNU icecat 60.3.0
Parabola GNU/Linux-libre w3m /bin/w3m $ w3m -version w3m version w3m/0.5.3+git20180125
Android 8.1.0 Firefox Klar - - 6.1.1

This version compared to the The Plain Libre

There are too many things to compare, but in short terms:

  • the CSS file was written from scratch.
  • some Liquid templating language parts have been changed also because of the new CSS.
  • new tags score system for the index page.

Useful resources

The MIT License (MIT)

Copyright (c) 2015 Heiswayi Nrird

Copyright (c) 2017-2019 Franco Masotti franco.masotti@live.com

Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy of this software and associated documentation files (the "Software"), to deal in the Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the Software is furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions:

The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the Software.