Some tools for faster blogging in Octopress

I’ve been to a number of conferences and talks recently and I’ve developed a habit of live-blogging my notes: getting them up online as quickly as possible.

More on that in a future post but I want to talk about how I am able to start taking notes fast, and publish them even faster (when a talk finishes, lots of people will be trying to get out of the row of seats past me!).

NOTE: The scripts below assume editing with terminal vim. It might be more flexible to switch this out for the $VISUAL environment variable (?), but if you use a different editor you’ll probably just want to replace vim with whatever command you use to boot up your editor - e.g. subl, mvim etc.

Creating posts

The octopress command for creating a post is rake new_post["The name of my post"]. I’d then typically select the filename it outputs with the mouse, paste that into the command line and open it with vim. That’s way too much typing, and any seasoned vim user would wince at the word “mouse”.

Here’s a function which lets me type newpost "The name of my post" and creates the post, isolates it and opens it in one step:

function newpost(){
cd ${BLOG_HOME:?"Need to set BLOG_HOME to the location of the octopress blog directory"}
output=$( rake new_post["$@"] )
echo "$output"
local return_code=$?
if [ $return_code -eq 0 ]; then
# Get the name of the file which was just created:
post_path=$(grep -o 'source\/_posts\/.*\.markdown' <<< $output)
# Stash all other posts (for faster generation)
echo "Isolating post..."
rake isolate["$post_path"]
# Open with the cursor at the bottom of the header:
vim -c 'normal G' $post_path

My dotfiles are shared between multiple machines, so the BLOG_HOME environment variable is set in a local profile:

export BLOG_HOME=$HOME/Dev/Personal/blog

I’m pretty new at shell scripting, so if you know of a way to make this better or more robust, please let me know in the comments.

Isolating Posts

Notice in the newpost function I’ve got rake isolate["$post_path"] - that’s a nifty task provided by Octopress which gets around the fact that when you generate your Octopress blog it has to rebuild the entire site (?) which can be very slow. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be documented, but you can see the source in the Rakefile of your Octopress install.

Side note: run rake -T in your blog directory to see all of the Octopress commands #protip

rake isolate moves all posts into source/_stash, unless they match the given string in their title. This means that when you’re previewing your post with rake preview it’s much faster to re-generate because it’s only having to handle one post each time.

If you’re running this manually, there’s no need to pass the whole path: you can just find one of two words which are unique in the filename of your post and use that - e.g. rake isolate[wizards]

You can put your stashed posts back with rake integrate.

Listing and revisiting posts

A couple of things I find myself needing to do fairly often:

  • Make an edit to the post I was most recently editing
  • Find a post where I can’t remember the title was

The following aliases achieve that:

# blogposts: display the list of posts ordered by last modified time
# %m -- Last modified timestamp
# %N -- Quoted File name
# -exec stat -f "%m %N" {} \; -- Outputs a timestamp at the beginning of the line for sorting
# cut -d ' ' -f2- -- Returns only the second field in a space-delimited string
alias blogposts='find $BLOG_HOME/source/_posts/* -exec stat -f "%m %N" {} \; | sort -n | cut -d " " -f2-'
alias lastpost='find `blogposts` | tail -1 '
alias epost='vim `lastpost`'


The gen:deploy rake task is a built-in alias for running the :integrate, :generate, and :deploy tasks, but again, typing rake gen:deploy is just too much typing, hence:

alias rgd='rake gen_deploy'