DocPad

DocPad rethought web development and was the first big static site generator for Node.js gaining over 2000 stars, hundreds of daily users, 200 plugins, and 100 contributors.
Watch the talk that launched DocPad into publicity

DocPad lead the static-site-generator wave throughout 2011 until 2014, and I am proud of my investment's accomplishments during that time. However despite lingering users and a dark age of prolonged unpaid maintenance, these days it should be considered archived for the history books. It could not keep up with the competitive landscape in a way that provided return for investment, especially when considering the sunken ship of opportunity cost of the time that was invested into it.

DocPad's final releases were devoted to wrap up the project with a nice bow, and to admit its mistakes. Something which in hindsight, was also a mistake — an abrupt end would have been a better investment of time — unfortunately my conscience required closure to move on.

These are the summaries of DocPad's final hurrah:

  • v6.79 was as the last release to support legacy plugins

  • v6.80 incorporated many years of ecosystem upgrades, increased performance, solved many long-standing issues, removed all non-vital server communication, and dropped support for legacy plugins

  • v6.81 removed the dynamic abilities from DocPad which was an innovative feature of DocPad at the time but it grew to become better served by newer tooling such as Next and Nuxt

  • v6.82 made many refinements and fixed many long-standing issues

These days you are better served by either:

For those wanting to write their own static site generators, here are my learnings.

For those wanting to avoid the same time investment mistake, please read Zero to One — if that book existed earlier, it would have saved me a decade of my life.

With that said, the documentation continues for your lingering curiosity. DocPad should still work, but if it doesn't, you're on your own. Please submit fixes to the documentation if needed.

Regards, Benjamin Lupton, Creator of DocPad

What is DocPad?

DocPad takes files on your computer, such as easy to read markdown documents, and then transforms them into static output that can be deployed anywhere.

Problems with Traditional Web Architectures

Despite all the amazing wonder of current web application architectures, they're mostly:

  • Inherently slow

    • Usually built on blocking, live-then-die platforms

    • Performance is an afterthought, re-render every single time (by default, caching can be enabled to improve this)

  • Bloated

    • Huge, include-everything codebase, with little or no code re-use (especially between frameworks)

    • Overkill for everything, as no single project will use every feature of the CMS

  • Complex

    • Gigantic learning curves, usually measured in months (instead of days or hours)

    • You require CMS/framework developers instead of web developers

  • Difficult

    • Setting up a new website is time-consuming and complex

    • Uh oh! "database not installed" or "version invalid"

    • Migrations and deployments are a royal pain in the ass

  • Limited

    • WYSIWYG editors are sucky and stupid - why re-invent the wheel? We're already trained with and love our desktop counterparts (Sublime Text, Vim, Byword, etc.)

    • Abstractions on the go? Forget it - you're boxed in, unless you've got a machete

    • Want to use your own pre-processors, markups, and templating engines? Tough: they're handled by the core.

DocPad, an intuitive static-site generator

On the other hand, let's compare that with DocPad, which is:

  • Website inherently fast

    • Built on a non-blocking, stay-alive platform

    • Performance from the ground up, re-render only when changes occur (by default, can be configured differently)

  • Lightweight

    • Tiny core, with anything that's re-usable abstracted out into modules that other systems can use

    • All non-essential core functionality lives in opt-in plugins

  • Simple

    • Tiny learning curve; get started in minutes, become a pro in days

    • Web developers already have everything they need to get started

  • Easy

    • Setting up a new website can be done in minutes

    • In-memory database provides querying without the need for a manual installation

    • Migrations and deployments are handled via Git, the tool we are used to

  • Robust

    • Use your desktop counterparts to edit content naturally (Sublime Text, Vim, Byword, etc.)

    • Abstraction friendly; code the way you want, how you want

    • Use whatever language, pre-processor, markup, templating engine you want - it's all covered via our opt-in plugins (and if it isn't, it's very easy to add)

Besides this, thanks to the opt-in modular philosophy of Node, we benefit from all the innovations of the community as a whole, including:

So as the Node community grows and innovates, so do we. Awesome.

Comparison Table

For those who like tables, here's the above in table form:

Feature

Usual CMS

Usual Static Site Generator

DocPad

Talent requirements

CMS developer

Backend+frontend developer

Frontend developer

Developers proficient in

Months

Days

Days

Plugin and extension system

Yes

No

Yes

Asset pipeline

No

Implicit & bundled

Explicit & extendable

Markup languages (markdown, rst, etc.)

No

1 bundled

Via plugins

Pre-processors (sass, less, etc.)

No

No

Via plugins

Template engines (eco, jade, etc.)

No

1 bundled

Via plugins

Database querying

Yes

No

Via Query-Engine

Layouts

Yes

Yes

Yes

Static website output

No

Yes

Yes

Re-render each request

Always

No

Deprecated

Extend the web server

Yes

No

Via events and API

Watching

N/A

Yes

Yes

Differential regenerations

N/A

No

Yes

Live-reload

No

No

Via livereload plugin

Partials

No

No

Via partials plugin

Manual database installation required

Yes

No

No

Import pages from file system

No

Yes

Yes

Import pages from external database (MongoDB, MySQL, etc.)

Yes

No

Deprecated

Import pages from external services (Tumblr, Dropbox, GitHub, etc.)

No

No

Deprecated

Import data from external services (Atom, XML, JSON, etc.)

No

No

Via feedr plugin

WYSIWYG editors

Yes

No

Deprecated