Published: April 21, 2019
by Tobias Pleyer
Tags: blog, hakyll

External code inclusion with Hakyll

The possibility to include external code snippets in your blog comes with a bunch of niceties:

  • It keeps your blog posts tidier, more concise and focused on the textual content
  • It saves you from constant copy/paste when you test and modify the code
  • It saves you from remembering which post contains what code if you change something later
  • You can share code between several blog posts

In this blog post I want to present two solutions how to achieve code inclusion for Hakyll.

Template based solution

Hakyll’s template engine already comes with a template context that allows to include the textual content of another file: snippetField.

However, this alone is not enough as the documentation also states:

The contents of the included file will not be interpolated.

Which means without further measures we won’t get syntax highlighting, which is typically what you want when including code.

But this brings us already very close to the solution we want. So our strategy is as follows:

  1. Wrap the included code in code markup annotations
  2. Render the template before the Pandoc conversion to HTML

We need to render the template before the Pandoc conversion, because Pandoc will give us syntax highlighting, so Pandoc needs to know this is code and thus we have to annotate it beforehand.

But this brings up another small problem: All of Hakyll’s pandocCompiler* flavored functions are meant to be at the beginning of the compiler chain. Why? Because they don’t take an Item a input parameter, but instead fetch the markup source internally via getResourceBody. You can have a look at the source to understand what I mean.

So to make our solution work we have to write our own, slightly modified compiler that receives the markup code as input parameter. Here is the code for that:

Now we can write a function template that will wrap the contents of a file in a code block, which is almost the implementation of snippetField, but with the additional markup support:

With these changes we are now able to compile our posts. If your post compiler rule looks like this:

Then you have to rewrite this rule like this:

This works because between loading the post content with getResourceBody and compiling the code to HTML the code-include template is applied. Now we are able to write something like this in our blog posts:

and the syntax highlighted code of the respective file will be rendered into the output.


I, personally, am not very keen on this solution because it presents a very Hakyll specific solution and mixes two DSLs, namely markdown and Hakyll’s template language, in the same file.

But the much bigger problem is that you have to keep an eye on the dollar signs in your blog post! Dollar signs ($) indicate special template elements for Hakyll’s template engine. If your blog posts contains “stray” dollar signs that are not meant as template fields, e.g. because you include some verbatim Haskell code with some dollar signs, this will lead to unexpected and badly rendered results.

Solution based on fenced divs

Edit on 2019-04-26: Made the function codeBlockFromDiv more concise, and made the file path a keyword of the Div.

Fenced divs is a nice extension of Pandoc that allows to embed custom generic blocks within your markup code. These blocks are then represented as Div blocks in Pandoc. These Div blocks can be given arbitrary attributes.

But we don’t want the Div blocks to be written to HTML. Instead we will intervene between Pandoc’s reader (parser) and writer (compiler) process to rewrite the respective Div into a CodeBlock, which will subsequently be properly syntax highlighted.

For this to work we only need two things:

  1. A snippet map that maps a file’s name to its content
  2. A modified Pandoc compiler that will rewrite Divs to CodeBlocks

I keep all my code snippets in a folder named code, so to make the snippets known to Hakyll I need the following Rule:

This makes all the files in the code folder loadable within the monadic compiler code of Hakyll. Further we need the following helper function:

which transforms a list of Items holding a string into a Map from file name to file content.

Now to the compiler. Hakyll already comes with exactly the function that we need: pandocCompilerWithTransform. This function takes as its third parameter a function that transforms a Pandoc into a Pandoc. When we call this compiler with the right transformation function we are done.

Conveniently we do not have to work too hard to write such a function, because the Pandoc class is an instance of the Walkable type class, which exposes the walk function. The walk function takes a per Block element transformation function and applies it over the complete AST of parsed blocks. With this knowledge we are ready to write the function we want:

Now we are able to write our Rule to create our posts:

We are done! With these changes we are from now on able to include external code with the following syntax:

I like this solution because it does not interfere with Hakyll’s template mechanism, but uses conventional markdown syntax to achieve the desired behavior. For reference, below is my complete site.hs file to generate my blog. Have a look at the raw markdown source to convince yourself that it is included via a fenced div:

{-# LANGUAGE OverloadedStrings #-}
import           Control.Arrow ((&&&))
import qualified Data.Map.Strict as M
import           Data.Maybe (maybeToList)
import           Data.Monoid (mappend)
import           System.FilePath
import           Text.Pandoc
import           Text.Pandoc.Definition
import           Text.Pandoc.Walk
import           Hakyll

main :: IO ()
main = hakyllWith config $ do
    match "images/**" $ do
        route   idRoute
        compile copyFileCompiler

    match "css/**" $ do
        route   idRoute
        compile compressCssCompiler

    match (fromList ["links.markdown", "contact.markdown"]) $ do
        route   $ setExtension "html"
        compile $ pandocCompiler
            >>= loadAndApplyTemplate "templates/default.html" blogCtx
            >>= relativizeUrls

    tags <- buildTags "posts/*" (fromCapture "tags/*.html")

    tagsRules tags $ \tag pattern -> do
        let title = "Posts tagged \"" ++ tag ++ "\""
        route idRoute
        compile $ do
            posts <- recentFirst =<< loadAll pattern
            let tagCtx =
                    constField "title" title `mappend`
                    listField "posts" postCtx (return posts) `mappend`

            makeItem ""
                >>= loadAndApplyTemplate "templates/tags.html" tagCtx
                >>= loadAndApplyTemplate "templates/default.html" tagCtx
                >>= relativizeUrls

    match "posts/*" $ do
        route $ setExtension "html"
        compile $ do
            snippetMap <- oSnippetsMap <$> loadAll ("code/**" .||. "site.hs")
            pandocCompilerWithCodeInsertion snippetMap
              >>= loadAndApplyTemplate "templates/post.html" (postCtxWithTags tags)
              >>= loadAndApplyTemplate "templates/default.html" (postCtxWithTags tags)
              >>= relativizeUrls

    create ["archive.html"] $ do
        route idRoute
        compile $ do
            posts <- recentFirst =<< loadAll "posts/*"
            let archiveCtx =
                    constField "title" "Archives" `mappend`
                    listField "posts" postCtx (return posts) `mappend`

            makeItem ""
                >>= loadAndApplyTemplate "templates/archive.html" archiveCtx
                >>= loadAndApplyTemplate "templates/default.html" archiveCtx
                >>= relativizeUrls

    create ["tags.html"] $ do
        route idRoute
        compile $ do
            let tagsCtx =
                    constField "title" "Tags collection" `mappend`
                    listField "tags" postCtx (traverse (makeItem . fst) (tagsMap tags)) `mappend`

            makeItem ""
                >>= loadAndApplyTemplate "templates/tag-list.html" tagsCtx
                >>= loadAndApplyTemplate "templates/default.html" tagsCtx
                >>= relativizeUrls

    match "index.html" $ do
        route idRoute
        compile $ do
            posts <- recentFirst =<< loadAll "posts/*"
            let indexCtx =
                    listField "posts" postCtx (return (take 3 posts)) `mappend`
                    constField "title" "Home" `mappend`

                >>= applyAsTemplate indexCtx
                >>= loadAndApplyTemplate "templates/default.html" indexCtx
                >>= relativizeUrls

    match "code/**" $ do
        route idRoute
        compile getResourceString

    match "site.hs" $ do
        compile getResourceString

    match "templates/*" $ compile templateBodyCompiler

config :: Configuration
config = defaultConfiguration
    { deployCommand = "rsync --size-only -ave 'ssh -p 22' _site/"

blogCtx :: Context String
blogCtx =
    constField "blog_title" "Tobi's blog" `mappend`
    constField "blog_name" "My blog about programming and other stuff" `mappend`

postCtx :: Context String
postCtx =
    dateField "date" "%B %e, %Y" `mappend`

postCtxWithTags :: Tags -> Context String
postCtxWithTags tags = tagsField "tags" tags `mappend` postCtx

oSnippetsMap :: [Item String] -> M.Map FilePath String
oSnippetsMap is = M.fromList kvs
  where kvs = map ((toFilePath . itemIdentifier) &&& itemBody) is

pandocCompilerWithCodeInsertion :: M.Map FilePath String -> Compiler (Item String)
pandocCompilerWithCodeInsertion snippetMap =
  pandocCompilerWithTransform defaultHakyllReaderOptions defaultHakyllWriterOptions (codeInclude snippetMap)

codeInclude :: M.Map FilePath String -> Pandoc -> Pandoc
codeInclude snippetMap = walk $ \block -> case block of
  div@(Div (_,cs,_) _) -> if "code-include" `elem` cs
                          then codeBlockFromDiv snippetMap div
                          else block
  _ -> block

codeBlockFromDiv snippetMap div@(Div (_,_,kvs) _) =
  let classes = maybeToList $ lookup "lexer" kvs
      content = lookup "file" kvs >>= (`M.lookup` snippetMap)
  in maybe Null (CodeBlock ("",classes,[])) content
codeBlockFromDiv _ _ = Null