blogdown Part I: Launching a New Site

June 18, 2018

(This article was first published on Ye Olde R Blog Grogram, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)


  • A basic workflow to set up an R blog using blogdown.
    • Create using the Hugo theme Tranquilpeak (v0.4.3).
    • Host static website on Netlify
    • Source files stored on github
    • Configured so that RSS feed can be shared with R-bloggers


Instructions here will rarely be explicit. These workflows are essentially notes for experienced users to help remind them of the minimal steps to complete the task at hand.


  • Strongish familiarity with RStudio, R packages, and R projects
  • Medium familiarity with git and github
  • Some familiarity with blogdown
  • Installation of R, R-Studio, blogdown, and all associated dependencies
  • A Netlify account linked to Github


  • Start project
    • RStudio toolbar:
      • File -> New Project -> New Directory -> blogdown website
      • Copy kakawait/hugo-tranquilpeak-theme into the Hugo theme field
  • Version control
    • RStudio toolbar:
      • Tools -> Project Options -> Version Control -> select git
    • Add the line public to .gitignore
    • Track all project files:

      git add --all
      git commit -am "First commit"
    • Create a new repository on github
    • Link local repo to remote repo:

      git remote add origin [email protected]:username/blogname.git
      git push -u origin master
  • Nelify
    • Add following line to config.toml file:
      • ignoreFiles = ["\\.Rmd$", "\\.Rmarkdown$", "_files$", "_cache$"]
    • Go to Netlify and select New site from Git
    • Set the following options:
      • Build command: hugo
      • Publish directory: public
    • Change build variables:
      • Find local hugo version blogdown::hugo_version()
      • Settings -> Build and Deploy -> Build Environmental Variables
      • Set key -> HUGO_VERSION and value -> 0.42.1 (or the appropriate version)
    • Change to desired site name:
      • On Netlify: Settings -> Site details -> Site information -> Site name
  • config.toml
    • Update baseURL to netlify address
    • Make other changes as desired
  • RSS feed
    • Note: By default, the RSS feed for Tranquilpeak is set up to display article summaries, which will not allow automatic uploading to R-bloggers. A solution (reproduced here) can be found on the blog: cool but useless
    • Create the file rss.xml in the following directory:
    • themes/hugo-tranquilpeak-theme/layouts
    • Copy and paste the following text into this file (unmodified version here):

          {{ if eq  .Title  .Site.Title }}{{ .Site.Title }}{{ else }}{{ with .Title }}{{.}} on {{ end }}{{ .Site.Title }}{{ end }}
          {{ .Permalink }}
          Recent content {{ if ne  .Title  .Site.Title }}{{ with .Title }}in {{.}} {{ end }}{{ end }}on {{ .Site.Title }}
          Hugo --{{ with .Site.LanguageCode }}
          {{.}}{{end}}{{ with }}
          {{.}}{{ with $ }} ({{.}}){{end}}{{end}}{{ with }}
          {{.}}{{ with $ }} ({{.}}){{end}}{{end}}{{ with .Site.Copyright }}
          {{.}}{{end}}{{ if not .Date.IsZero }}
          {{ .Date.Format "Mon, 02 Jan 2006 15:04:05 -0700" | safeHTML }}{{ end }}
          {{ with .OutputFormats.Get "RSS" }}
              {{ printf "" .Permalink .MediaType | safeHTML }}
          {{ end }}
          {{ range .Data.Pages }}
            {{ .Title }}
            {{ .Permalink }}
            {{ .Date.Format "Mon, 02 Jan 2006 15:04:05 -0700" | safeHTML }}
            {{ with }}{{.}}{{ with $ }} ({{.}}){{end}}{{end}}
            {{ .Permalink }}
            {{ .Content | html }}
          {{ end }}
    • Potential alternative solution by Thug R Life

  • Add description to .Rmd posts

    • Note: posts created using .Rmd documents will be formatted awkwardly on the homepage (by default, show the first 70 lines all combine into one paragraph). github user Joseph Chou (jhchou), posted a solution that works for Tranquilpeak v0.4.3-BETA.
    • Navigate to themes\hugo-tranquilpeak-theme\layouts\_default\summary.html
    • Find line 43 – {{ .Summary }}
    • Replace with:

      {{if .Description }}
        {{ printf "%s" .Description }}
      {{ else }}
        {{ printf "%s" .Summary | markdownify }}
      {{ end }}
    • This will allow you to add summaries via the .Rmd post YAML header that will display the first 70 lines

      title: "Test post 2"
      author: ''
      date: '2018-06-19'
      slug: test-post-2
      categories: []
      tags: []
      description: "a description"
  • Deploy website
    • Netlify will build website in public upon push to github.

Other themes

This workflow was written with the Tranquilpeak theme in mind. However, other suitable themes may be found here:

To implement another theme, when starting a new blogdown website, identify the user name and rep of the desired theme, and use this as prompted when starting a new website using the File menu in RStudio.

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