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Instant Previews

With instant previews, you can take advantage of your static site generator’s built-in “watch” or incrementally-updating mode to dramatically reduce the time it takes to refresh a Forestry preview, providing a shorter feedback cycle for editors working on your site.

Set up Instant Preview

Instant previews are configured via a build command. To use instant previews, navigate to Settings > Previews.

Default Instant Preview Settings

Most of the time, you shouldn’t have to change the defaults. When you pick up an SSG on import, we automatically add a default build commands. We will set a matching preview environment for you, but you can always pick up a different one or use another Docker image available from their Hub.

Forestry default preview environements

Customize your settings

You can edit the command used to run your preview by editing the build command field.

Preview settings example for a Gatsby site

Your instant previewing command needs to be a “watch” style command that will start a process to watch for changes to your files and rebuild your site automatically. This will most likely be the command that a developer would run in their local environment when working on the site, such as hugo server or npm run develop.

  1. Commands for any NodeJS-based static site generator needs to be run as an npm script.
  2. If your site lives in a subfolder, you need to set up the working directory and output path accordingly.

Defaults server commands

hugo server -D -E -F --renderToDisk -d public
bundle exec jekyll serve --drafts --unpublished --future -d _site
vuepress dev
gatsby develop -p 8080
gridsome develop
eleventy --serve --port 8080 --output=dist
hexo server

Start the preview

When you click on the Start Preview button, your preview will spin up. Build time will mostly depend on your stack and your content. It can go from a few seconds on Hugo or Eleventy to several minutes on a large Jekyll or Gatsby site.

Preview environment started

Once your preview environment is running fine, your editors will be able to click to the preview icon button, that will open a preview of your website in a new browser tab.

Preview still not running? See our troubleshooting section to do some checks.

Hot Module Replacement

If your static site generator supports HMR you can prevent to force a refresh on preview to take advantage of this capability.

Opt-out of the “Reload Preview Tab” option and click save. You do not need to restart the preview server.

The reload preview option in Instant Preview settings

Live Reloading

Forestry’s live previewing relies on the built-in live browser reloading provided by your preview process. Instant previews have been tested and confirmed working with Browsersync and LiveReload.

Preview Settings in .forestry/settings.yml

Alternatively, you can set up your instant previews directly from your configuration file in .forestry/settings.yml in the build section.

Here’s an example of a build section in the .forestry/settings.yml file:

  preview_docker_image: node:12 # Our project use a node-based SSG
  install_dependencies_command: npm install # We manage dependencies through NPM
  instant_preview_command: npm start # Our preview script is aliased to npm start script in our package.json
  mount_path: "/srv" # Don't touch this unless you use a custom Docker image
  working_dir: "/srv/src" # Our project lives in a `src` subfolder
  preview_output_directory: "src/dist" # we build our site in `dist` folder
  - ENV=staging # we don't want to optimize for production

Instant Preview URLs

When you click the preview button on a piece of content, Forestry will attempt to determine which URL to open by temporarily inserting a unique preview token in the markdown body. There are two situations where this won’t work:

If the Layout Doesn’t Use Markdown Body

You may have some layouts that don’t utilize the body of the markdown file. This happens when you instead build the page entirely from front matter data, such as when you use blocks.

For these layouts, Forestry also inserts a special front matter value that you can include in these layouts to improve Forestry’s preview URL behavior. By outputting the contents of the forestry_instant_preview_id frot matter key our layout, Forestry will be able to identify the content being previewed. You can output this value anywhere between the opening and closing <body> tags of your HTML. It is recommended to add it as an HTML comment. If your HTML is being run through a minifier that strips comments, it’s fine to insert it differently, such as in a <meta> tag.

Be aware that forestry_instant_preview_id will only be inserted in one file at a time, and won’t be guaranteed to be there, so your code should check for it before outputting its value.

{{ with .Params.forestry_instant_preview_id }}
  {{- safeHTML (printf "<meta property='forestry_instant_preview_id' content='%s'>" .) -}}
{{ end -}}

HTML comments in Hugo must be filtered with safeHTML in order to be output to the document.

{% if page.forestry_instant_preview_id != "" %}
<meta property="forestry_instant_preview_id" content="{{ page.forestry_instant_preview_id }}">
{% endif %}

If the SSG Doesn’t Write Content to HTML Files in Dev Mode

If your static site generator doesn’t write content updates to HTML (such as when using gatsby develop), the preview will always open the home page of your site except if you opt-out of the reload preview tab option to take advantage of your SSG’s Hot Module Reloading feature.

Last updated on January 5, 2019