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JekyllMail enables you to post to your Jekyll / Octopress powered blog by email.
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JekyllMail enables you to post to your Jekyll or Octopress powered blog by email.

How it Works

Once configured (see below) JekyllMail will log into a POP3 account, check for messages with a pre-defined secret in the subject line, convert them into appropriately named files, and save them in your _posts directory. Images will be extracted and saved in a date specific directory under your images directory.

Once it's placed those files there it will (optionally) also add them to your blog's git repo. This will work even if it's a bare repo and the source directory you had it save files under is in a detached worktree.

Please note. JekyllMail assumes that the address it is checking is exclusively for its use and will only be used to post emails to a single blog. JekyllMail does support multiple blogs but you will need a seperate e-mail account for each one.


The magic is all in the subject line. In order to differentiate your email from the spam that's almost guaranteed to find your account eventually suck in the appropriate metadata A subject line for JekyllMail has two parts the title (of your post) and the metadata which will go into the YAML frontmatter Jekyll needs. The metadata is a series of key value pairs separated by slashes. One of those key value pairs must be "secret" and the secret listed in your configuration. Note that the keys must contain no spaces and be immediately followed by a colon.

<subject> || key: value / key: value / key: value, value, value

An example:

My Awesome Post || secret: more-1337 / tags: awesome, excellent, spectacular

Your secret should be short, easy to remember, easy to type, and very unlikely to show up in an e-mail from another human or spammer.

Your e-mail can be formatted in Markdown, Textile, or HTML.

Subject Metadata

Metadata is separated from your subject by a double pipe. There are a handful of keys that JekyllMail is specifically looking for in the subject.
All of these are optional except "secret":

  • published: defaults to true. Set this to "false" to prevent the post from being published.
  • markup: can be: html, markdown, md, textile, txt (textile)
  • tags: expects a comma separated list of tags for your post
  • slug: the "slug" for the file-name. E.g. yyyy-mm-dd-slug.extension


Image attachments will be extracted by JekyllMail and placed in dated directory that corresponds with the date of the posting.

For example If you attached flag.jpg to a post sent on July 4th 2012 it would be stored in <images_dir>/2012/07/04/flag.jpg

JekyllMail will look for the image tags in your document that reference the image filename and update them to point to the correct published file path. For example it will convert ![alt text](flag.jpg) in a Markdown document to ![alt text]( Textile and HTML posts are also supported.

In practice this simply means that if you insert a ![alt text](flag.jpg) tag and attach an image named flag.jpg to the same email everything will show up as expected in your post even though JekyllMail has moved that image off to a dated subdirectory (just like the post's url).


Checkout this git repo on your server, cd into the resulting directory, and run bundle install to make sure all the required gems are present.


JekyllMail is configured via a _config.yml file in its root directory. Within this are a couple global settings and a series of "blog" stanzas one for each blog you'll have it checking mail for.

A config file for a single blog will look something like this:

log_file: /home/path/to/jekyllmail.log
debug: false
- name: my blog name
  local_repo: my_blog
  origin_repo: /home/path/to/my/octopress_blog.git
  pop_password: password_here
  secret: jekyllmail
  markup: markdown
  commit_after_save: true
  delete_after_run: true

local_repo and origin_repo

JekyllMail needs a non-bare git repo to write to. This is the local_repo. If commit_after_save is set to true it will then push to origin_repo which can be a bare repo, or a separate non-bare repo with receive.denyCurrentBranch set to ignore or warn. If you are ok with JekyllMail writing directly to your destination repo, you can simply delete the origin_repo line. If the local_repo and origin_repo are identical JekyllMail will not attempt to push since it would be pushing from a repo to itself.

Configuration Notes

The secret is a short piece of text that must appear in the subject of each email. This is used to filter out the spam and will never be posted.

local_repo is where JekyllMail will store your files during its run. This will be automatically configured to push to origin_repo if commit_after_save and origin_repo are specified. Any new posts and images to the local_repo will be pushed to origin_repo, and then deleted after the run is complete.

JekyllMail assumes a standard Jekyll / Octopress file structure. Posts will be stored under source/_posts and images under source/images. Consult the comments near the top of the blog.rb file if your setup does not conform to the standard.

Please note that paths must not end with a slash. Your pop_user doesn't have to be an e-mail address. It might just be "jekyllmail", or whatever username you've chosen for the e-mail account. It all depends on how your server is configured. It's probably best to use something other than "jekyllmail" though.

Wiring Things up

You need to schedule a cronjob to run regularly to kick of JekyllMail and check for new e-mails.

To kick of JekyllMail you'll want a script that looks something like this. You can use the file that comes with JekyllMail as a template.

cd /full/path/to/jekyllmail
bundle exec ruby jekyllmail.rb

Save the file anywhere that isn't served up to the public, make it executable, and add a new line to your crontab to run it every five minutes or so. This is an example crontab line to do this

4,9,14,19,24,29,34,39,44,49,54,59    *    *    *    * /home/my_username/jekyllmail_repo/

When JekyllMail finds something it will save the files in the appropriate locations and commit them to the appropriate git repo. When it does we can leverage git's hooks/post-commit to regenerate the HTML without needing to unnecessarily rebuild it on a regular interval.

The hooks/post-commit file in your repo should look something like this. Don't forget to make it executable. You can use the file that comes with JekyllMail as a templote.

cd /full/path/to/blogs/worktree
bundle exec rake generate

Depending on your server's ruby / gem configuration you may have to add some additional info to the top of those scirpts ( just below the #!/bin/sh ). On a system with a locally installed RVM and gems directory the top of your script might look something like this:

[[ -s "$HOME/.rvm/scripts/rvm" ]] && source "$HOME/.rvm/scripts/rvm" # Load RVM into a shell session *as a function*

For more information on configuring Jekyll/Octopress to generate HTML server-side see this post on Serving Octopress from a Self-Hosted Git Repository


At the end of every run JekyllMail deletes every e-mail in the account. This is for two reasons:

  1. We don't want to have to maintain a list of what e-mails we've already ingested and posted
  2. Once an e-mail's been ingested we don't need it
  3. There are probably 400 spam e-mails in the account that should be deleted anyway.
  4. less e-mail in the box means faster runs

Ok, four reasons.

If you want to disable this set the delete_after_run configuration setting to false.


If you set the debug option at the top if the configuration file to true it will cause a bunch of debug statements to be printed during the run, and logged to the log file. It will also prevent it from deleting the e-mails at the end. It's much easier to work on JekyllMail when you don't have to keep sending it new e-mails.

Have fun, and remember to send in pull-requests. :)

Known Issues

Check out the Issues page on Github for the current list of known issues (if any).

Credit where credit is due

JekyllMail was based on a post & gist by Ted Kulp, but has come a long way since then.


JekyllMail is distributed under the MIT License.

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