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A server that publishes static websites very similarly to GitHub pages.

It automatically publishes Jekyll-based web sites whenever updates are made to a publishing branch (like gh-pages, but where the name of the branch is defined by the server's configuration). It also supports publishing via rsync if the publishing branch does not contain a Jekyll-based site.


Once the server has been set up per the server installation instructions, commits to a repository's publishing branch (e.g. pages) will publish the site at https://PAGES_HOST/REPO_NAME, where PAGES_HOST is the name of the host running pages-server and REPO_NAME is the name of the repository without the organization prefix.

For example, Foo/guides-template will publish to

The status of the most recent build attempt will be visible at https://PAGES_HOST/REPO_NAME/build.log.

Prefixing Jekyll links with {{ site.baseurl }}

Every link to another page or resource within a Jekyll site that starts with / or that is defined using directives such as {{ post.url }} must be prefixed with {{ site.baseurl }}. The pages-server depends on this property to ensure that your site may be published correctly on the host as https://PAGES_HOST/REPO_NAME/, as explained in the additional server-generated Jekyll configuration section. This is exactly analogous to the GitHub Project Pages URL structure.

For example:

[This link will be broken when published.](/another/page)
[This link will continue to work.]({{ site.baseurl }}/another/page)

With {{ site.baseurl }} applied to every link that needs it, your site will render properly and behave identically when served locally at http://localhost:4000/ via jekyll serve and when published to https://PAGES_HOST/REPO_NAME/.

Repository configuration

In the following instructions, pages is the name of the publishing branch. This name is configurable for each builders entry in the pages-config.json file.

  • Create the pages publishing branch. If you already have a gh-pages branch, you can do this on the command line via:
$ git checkout -b pages gh-pages
$ git push origin pages
  • If your repo is primarily a Pages site (as opposed to a project site with a pages branch for documentation), you may optionally set the default branch on GitHub to pages.
  • Configure a webhook for the repository if there isn't already a webhook configured for the entire GitHub organization.
  • Push a change to the pages branch to publish your site.

New sites are not published before the first push to the publishing branch

The server currently does not detect the creation of a publishing branch (e.g. pages), or the creation of a repository with a publishing branch. Therefore, one must push a change to a publishing branch before the site will appear on the serving host. It is unclear whether we will implement detection of new repositories or publishing branches in the future.

Multiple publishing branches

A repository can contain more than one publishing branch, with each branch corresponding to a builders item in the pages-config.json file.

Repositories may have both a pages and a pages-staging branch, with the idea that most changes will be applied first to pages-staging and published to a staging host, e.g. When the site is ready for release, the pages-staging branch will be merged into pages, publishing the site at

Publishing to internal and external sites from the same branch

It is possible to configure your site to publish to both an internal site and an external site from the same branch.

  • Add a _config_internal.yml file to your Jekyll site containing the configuration needed to filter out internal-only content. For example, your internal-only content may be wrapped using the following Liquid conditional:
    {% if site.internal %}REDACTED TO PROTECT THE INNOCENT AND THEIR VICTIMS{% endif %}
    Then, your _config_internal.yml should contain the property:
    internal: true
    However, you're free to implement any filtering and configuration scheme that makes sense for your site.
  • Add an internalSiteDir attribute to one of the builders in your configuration. The internal version of your site will be generated in this directory, and the external version will be generated into the generatedSiteDir directory for the builder.
  • Configure your web server to serve from internalSiteDir and generatedSiteDir from two different virtual hosts. Configure the internalSiteDir host to provide authenticated access.

You may also add a _config_external.yml file for additional configuration, but a _config_internal.yml file must still be present.

If you need a site to remain internal-only, set up a separate builders entry in the configuration for an internal-only branch.

Webhook configuration

You will need to configure one or more webhooks to send push events to https://PAGES_HOST/deploy, where PAGES_HOST is the hostname for your organization's instance of the pages server, e.g. The webhooks must be of Content type application/json. Webhooks can be configured for individual repositories, or a single webhook can be configured for an entire GitHub organization.

Stale sites and repositories require manual deletion

There is currently no facility for automatically deleting stale repositories or the sites generated by them when a repository or its publishing branch is renamed or deleted, or when a site updates its own baseurl via its own pagesYaml file. For the time being, such repositories and generated site directories must be removed from the host manually. We may implement automated site and repository removal in the future.

Additional server-generated Jekyll configuration

For Jekyll sites, the server will generate a temporary Jekyll config file with a name defined by the pagesConfig configuration property, e.g. _config_pages.yml It will define the following values that will override any existing values from the site's _config.yml file:

  • baseurl: - set to the name of the repository without the organization prefix, e.g. /guides-template for the guides-template repo

In most cases, published sites should not have either of these properties defined in their _config.yml files, nor should they publish their own _config_pages.yml file. However, if a site does contain its own _config_pages.yml file, the server will use settings from that file rather than generating its own.

If a site uses this file to define its own baseurl property, and that property is not / or the empty string, then the generated output directory will match the defined baseurl. In this case, baseurl must begin with /.

If baseurl is / or the empty string, or is not defined in the file, the generated output directory will match the default for any other site, which is the repository name without the organization prefix. See the section on creating a symlink to the generated homepage for details about this use case.

Installing the pages-server

Install the following if they are not yet present on your system:

  • Node.js version 0.12.7 or higher; check with node -v
  • Ruby version 2.2.3 or higher; check with ruby -v
  • Git version 1.9.1 or higher; check with git --version

For Ruby, we strongly recommend using a version manager such as rbenv or rvm, though this is not required.

rsync should already be installed on most UNIX-like systems, but the rsyncOpts configuration option may require adjustment, particularly on OS X. You may wish to experiment with rsync manually to determine which options suit you best.

With the correct Node.js, Ruby, and Git versions in place, run the following:

$ gem install jekyll bundler
$ npm install -g pages-server forever

Finally, as the user on the host that will run the server, generate an SSH key to add to your GitHub account. A new key can be generated by another team member should you leave the organization.

Generate and configure pages-config.json

Run pages-server print-template > path/to/pages-config.json to generate a pages-config.json file. Edit this file to support your installation.

The template is a copy of the pages-config.json from this repository and illustrates each of the following settings:

  • port: the port on which the server will listen for GitHub webhooks
  • home: the parent directory for all of the generated site content
  • logLevel (optional): The log level of the application; defaults to info
  • bundlerCacheDir: path to bundle cache relative to home
  • rsyncOpts: options to pass to rsync that control Jekyll-less builds; OS X installations in particular may need to adjust these
  • s3 (optional): if present, will back up each generated site to Amazon S3. When this field is present, you must have the AWS_ACCESS_KEY_ID and AWS_SECRET_ACCESS_KEY environment variables defined. Attributes of this property are:
    • bucket: name of the S3 bucket to which to sync generated sites
  • payloadLimit: maximum allowable size (in bytes) for incoming webhooks
  • webhookType: type of webhook to respond to; currently github (default) and bitbucket are supported.
  • gitUrlPrefix: the prefix used to build git URLs when cloning a repository that includes the collection (i.e. username, organization, or project) to which expected repositories belong. This will be something like:
    For example:
  • pagesConfig: name of the server-generated Jekyll config file that sets the baseurl:Jekyll property
  • pagesYaml: name of the file from which properties such as baseurl: will be read
  • fileLockWaitTime: max time for an incoming build request to wait for the lock file, in milliseconds
  • fileLockPollTime: max interval for an incoming build request to poll for the lock file, in milliseconds
  • secretKeyFile (optional): if you defined a Secret for your webhook, you must enter the path to a file containing the secret value; otherwise ignore this
  • builders: a list of individual webhook listeners/document publishers; each item contains the following fields, each of which must contain a unique value relative to all other builders entries:
    • branch: the publishing branch from which to generate sites
    • repositoryDir: the directory within home into which all repositories will be cloned
    • generatedSiteDir: the directory within home into which all sites will be generated
    • internalSiteDir: the directory within home into which internal views of sites will be generated

Also, each builders entry may override one or more of the following top-level values:

  • gitUrlPrefix
  • pagesConfig
  • pagesYaml
  • secretKeyFile

The builders list allows us to run one server to publish both a public-facing and internal, authenticated hosts such as and

Branch-specific secret keys

The value within the top-level secretKeyFile will be used to validate all incoming payloads across all branches by default. However, it is possible to configure branch-specific secretKeyFile values, if the payloads corresponding to a particular branch are generated by an additional webhook.

For example, if you want to run one Pages server for more than one GitHub organization, rather than sharing secret keys across organizations, each organization will have its own branch with its own secretKeyFile.

Run the pages-server

After that, run the following to launch the server via Forever, where /path/to/ and /usr/local/bin/ are replaced with the appropriate absolute paths:

$ forever start -l /path/to/pages.log -a /usr/local/bin/pages-server /path/to/pages-config.json

You can find the absolute path to pages-server by running command -v pages-server.

Create a symlink to the index.html of the generated homepage

Follow this example if you wish to publish the homepage of your pages-server host using pages-server as well.

In the homepage repository, define a _config_pages.yml file so that the baseurl: override described in the additional server-generated Jekyll configuration section does not take place:


The homepage will still be published into its own directory matching its repository name. The trick to having it appear at the root URL is to manually symlink its index.html into its parent directory (where <HOME_PAGE_REPO> matches the repository name):

$ ln -s /home/ubuntu/pages-generated/<HOME_PAGE_REPO>/index.html /home/ubuntu/pages-generated/index.html

Webserver configuration

The final required step is setting up your webserver to expose the pages-server webhook endpoint and to serve the static content generated by the pages-server. The final optional step is setting up an organization-wide webhook once the webserver is configured and running.

Note how the values from the following Nginx configuration file examples match those from the pages-config.json file, explained in the configuration section.

This first excerpt from the server block defines the webhook endpoint. This endpoint proxies requests to the pages-server running on port 5000. Note that only one webhook endpoint is required, since the single server instance publishes both and

server {
  listen 443 ssl spdy;
  include ssl/;


  location /deploy {
    proxy_pass http://localhost:5000/;
    proxy_http_version 1.1;
    proxy_redirect off;

    proxy_set_header Host   $host;
    proxy_set_header X-Real-IP $remote_addr;
    proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-For $proxy_add_x_forwarded_for;
    proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-Proto https;
    proxy_max_temp_file_size 0;

    proxy_connect_timeout 10;
    proxy_send_timeout    30;
    proxy_read_timeout    30;


This second excerpt from the server block corresponds to the first builders entry from pages-config.json:

server {
  listen 443 ssl spdy;
  include ssl/;


  location / {
    root   /home/ubuntu/pages-generated;
    index  index.html;
    default_type text/html;


These final server blocks define the authenticated host. The block corresponds to the second builders entry from pages-config.json.

You may use bitly/oauth2_proxy for authentication. In the examples below, the block for port 443 imports its oauth2_proxy configuration from vhosts/auth-locations.conf. The oauth2_proxy, in turn, is configured to proxy authenticated requests to Nginx on port 8080, configured via the block:

server {
  listen 443 ssl spdy;
  include ssl/;

  include vhosts/auth-locations.conf;

server {
  port_in_redirect off;

  location / {
    root  /home/ubuntu/pages-staging;
    index  index.html;
    default_type text/html;

Feedback and contributions

Feel free to comment on or file a new GitHub issue or otherwise ping @mbland with any questions or comments you may have, especially if the current documentation hasn't addressed your needs.

If you'd care to contribute to this project, be it code fixes, documentation updates, or new features, please read the CONTRIBUTING file.

Open Source License

This software is made available as Open Source software under the ISC License. For the text of the license, see the LICENSE file.

Prior work

This package was originally forked from 18F/pages-server.


GitHub Pages-inspired static website publishing server



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