mathblog: A program for creating and managing a static, mathematically-inclined weblog

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This package provides a program for creating and managing a statically-generated, VCS-friendly, mathematically-inclined weblog. If you're interested in managing a blog with few moving parts and support for embedded LaTeX math and the UNIX editor of your choice, then this is the blogging platform for you! For detailed information and a full feature list, please see the README. To see a live example of this software, you might consider taking a look at my math-oriented blog at

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Versions 0.1, 0.2, 0.3, 0.4, 0.5, 0.6
Dependencies base (>=3 && <5), bytestring (>=0.9 && <1.0), ConfigFile (==1.0.*), directory (==1.0.*), filepath (==1.1.*), HStringTemplate (==0.6.*), old-locale (==1.0.*), pandoc (==1.6.*), process (==1.0.*), SHA (==1.4.*), time (==1.1.*), unix (>=2.3 && <2.5) [details]
License BSD-3-Clause
Author Jonathan Daugherty <>
Maintainer Jonathan Daugherty <>
Category Web
Home page
Uploaded by JonathanDaugherty at Thu Oct 21 03:49:13 UTC 2010
Distributions NixOS:0.6
Executables mb
Downloads 2092 total (20 in the last 30 days)
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Status Docs not available [build log]
All reported builds failed as of 2016-12-28 [all 7 reports]
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Maintainer's Corner

For package maintainers and hackage trustees

Readme for mathblog-0.2

[back to package description]

mathblog is a Haskell program targeted at people who want to write
statically-generated, mathematically-themed weblogs.

Project vision

I wrote mathblog with a very specific set of requirements in mind,
motivated by the following principles:

 - a blog should be easy to create, host, and update.

 - a blog should be easy to maintain.

 - I should be able to edit posts in my editor of choice and write
   them in an intelligent textual markup language.

 - It should be easy to embed high-quality mathematical symbols and
   equations in the blog posts.

As a result, mathblog has the following properties:

 - the software is composed of a single executable which will
   automatically take care of creating your blog and regenerating
   pages when your post markup changes.

 - all content is stored in plain text files and is generated
   statically.  No database, web framework, or templating system is

 - a mathblog can be hosted with a simple static fileserver such as
   thttpd, lighttpd, or apache.

 - blog posts are written in the Markdown format with extensions, as
   supported by the Pandoc document converter.

 - Math is embedded with $...$ and $$...$$.

These properties have some nice advantages; your blog content is
cacheable and can be subjected to revision control.  Posts are easy to
edit and editing doesn't require a web browser.  The static file
representation model means you can compose a blog post on your laptop
and get it just right using a local installation of mathblog, then
push it up to your server to post it to your public blog.


mathblog takes advantage of three primary software components:

 - pandoc, a document-processing library.  For best results, use the
   revision control version of Pandoc.  If you do not, inline and
   block-level equations will look the same.

 - gladTeX, a package of tools for rendering LaTeX equations.  At
   present you MUST get gladTeX from revision control, since mathblog
   requires features not yet released.

 - a TeX distribution, such as TeX-live

How to use

To begin, set the following environment variable:


This is the location of your blog files on the filesystem.  It must be
an absolute path.

Once you've set the environment variable, just run "mb".  It will take
care of setting up a new blog data directory for you, complete with
some default pages and a default first blog post:

  $ export MB_BASE_DIR=`pwd`/myBlog
  $ mb
  Blog directory: .../myBlog
  Setting up data directory using skeleton: /.../skel
  Configuration file changed; regenerating all content.
  Templates changed; regenerating accordingly.
  Posts changed:
  Post index changed; regenerating next/previous links.
  Rendering first-post

Now you have a blog; fire up a web server pointing at myBlog/html and
you'll see a demo post.

(NOTE: to serve your blog files you can either make the "html"
directory a document root for your web server or virtual host, or you
can symlink the "html" directory to the location of choice.  The
mathblog directory itself is not intended to be in your web server's
document tree because it contains many files that shouldn't be served
to users.)

Next, you'll need to make a few changes to the default configuration,
"blog.cfg".  This file contains information about you which may be
included in the generated pages, such as your name, e-mail address,
and the title of your blog.  Most importantly, this file contains the
base URL of your blog which is used to generate URLs in the blog's

Next, you might want to edit or create a new post, or even remove one.
Just edit the appropriate file in myBlog/posts/ accordingly and re-run
mb.  Here's an example of adding a new post:

  $ mb
  mb: using base directory ".../myBlog"
  Processing: second-post
  Generating all-posts list.

When to run mb

mb looks at the modification times of your post files in posts/, the
config file, template files, and the post index (see below) when
determining when to regenerate content.  It also looks for new posts
that haven't been rendered in the past.  The rule of thumb is: re-run
mb whenever you make any changes to:

 - templates in templates/
 - post files in posts/
 - the post index, posts/posts-index
 - blog.cfg

Modifying a post will cause that post to be re-rendered, but
modifiying the configuration file will cause ALL posts to be
re-rendered (since the configuration file contains values that will
affect all hyperlinks contained inside each post).  mb will always
rebuild the portions of each page affected by template changes even if
post source files are unchanged.

Post format

Posts are formatted in Markdown and support the extended Markdown
syntax as implemented by Pandoc.  The only important convention to
note is that the post title goes on the first line of the file
following a percent sign, as follows:

  %My First Post

  First paragraph starts here.

Running mb in "listen" mode

Ordinarily, you'll just run "mb" once in a while to update your
content.  But if you're in the middle of authoring a new post and you
want to see what it looks like as you edit it rather than run "mb" by
hand periodically, you can run "mb" in "listen" mode; this means that
mb will run forever, peroidically scanning the filesystem for changes
to your blog posts and other data files and regenerate them when it
detects a change.  Running mathblog in listen mode is simple:

  $ mb -l
  Blog directory: /.../blog
  Post index changed; regenerating next/previous links.

  Blog directory: /.../blog
  Configuration file changed; regenerating all content.
  Rendering 1 post(s)...
  Rendering first-post

  Blog directory: /Users/cygnus/blog3
  Posts changed:
  Rendering 1 post(s)...
  Rendering first-post

Above I ran "mb" in listen mode and then modified the post index, then
the blog config file, then one of the posts.  In each case "mb"
detected the change and ran its typical regeneration routine.

Customizing your blog

It's likely that you'll want to customize the look and feel of your
blog.  To this end, mathblog generates the pages of your blog by
assembling various pieces of the page to create the final result.  The
biggest piece of a generated page is the blog post itself, but the
surrounding elements are read from various files that are created by
mathblog when it creates your blog data directory.  These files are
stored in the "templates/" subdirectory of your blog data directory
and are as follows:


    This is the template used to generate your RSS feed.


    This file makes up the overall structure of every page on the


    This file makes up the structure of the post portion of the page,
    for pages which show posts (i.e., not the post index).

In addition, subdirectories of the "html/" directory contain things
you might want to customize, such as a CSS stylesheet.

The templates mentioned above are StringTemplate templates and are
processed with the HStringTemplate library.  The following template
placeholders are supported in each template:


    These placeholders all correspond directly to fields on the
    blog.cfg configuration file.

These placeholders are supported in the post template:


    A brief javascript used to provide information about the page to
    other javascripts (see "Other features" below for usage).


    HTML displaying the "next" and "previous" links for older/newer


    The body of the post itself.

These placeholders are supported in the page template:


    The content of the page to be rendered.

Gnuplot Graph Embedding

mathblog supports embedding gnuplot scripts in blog posts.  To do
this, we overload the Pandoc code block syntax.  Here's an example:

~~~ {#eq-basic}
f(x) = x
plot [-5.0:5.0] [-5.0:5.0] f(x) lt rgb "blue"

This defines a single function and plots it in blue over the specified
intervals.  The most important part is the "#eq-basic" bit: this
specifies the equation preamble to use when generating the output
image.  This string refers to this preamble file in your blog


This file contains the commands responsible for determining the output
image size and axis configuration.  The contents of the code block
that you write get appended to the contents of the preamble file you
specify to result in the full gnuplot script, whose output gets
embedded in the page.  We use these templates to make it easier to
create many graphs that have the same general structure (e.g., axis
configuration, image size) without having to repeat the full gnuplot
script each time.

You can create other gnuplot premables to suit your needs; just
reference them in the code block in the same way.  For example, you
might create eq-preambles/eq-fancy.txt, in which case the code block
syntax to use it is:

~~~ {#eq-fancy}
<your script here>

Note that the pandoc syntax also allows us to assign CSS class names
to the code block, and mathblog passes these through to the generated
image.  So if you wanted to wrap your text around the generated image,
you could create a CSS class like this:

.eq-right {
  float: right;

and then assign it to your equation graph like this:

~~~ {#eq-basic .eq-right}

For more information on the code block syntax, please see:

Other features

Since mathblog doesn't provide many moving parts, it's up to you to
outsource various web site features, such as comments.  I've
successfully integrated mathblog with the Disqus comments service.  To
do this, some javascript needs to be embedded in the blog pages.
Disqus works best when you supply it with a page identifier so it can
guarantee that comments are post-specific rather than URL-specific.
The way mathblog makes this possible is by exposing a JavaScript
variable to other scripts in your page:

  Blog.pageName = "foobar-baz";

This variable name can be used by scripts you embed, such as with
Disqus comment forms:

  var disqus_identifier = Blog.pageName;

Controlling Post Order

Whenever you add a new post, mb automatically updates the "post
index", a file called "posts-index" in the post source directory.
This file lists the filenames of all posts from newest to oldest.  By
default, new posts get added to the beginning of the list, as you
would expect.  Any new posts added to the list are sorted by
modification time so that the newest post on disk appears earlier in
the index.  This feature exists to make it possible for older posts to
be updated without changing their ordering in the overall sequence of

At any time, you can edit the index to reorder the posts as you see
fit.  mb will preserve ordering of posts already in the index when you
run it in the future.

mb will also take care of removing posts from the index if they've
been removed from the post source directory.


I personally use this software package but I'll be pleased if others
find it useful.  In addition, I'm open to accepting contributions on
the project if they're consistent with what I've outlined above.
Happy blogging!

Jonathan Daugherty