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Front Matter

Front matter is a snippet of YAML or Ruby data which sits at the top of a file between special line delimiters. You can think of front matter as a datastore consisting of one or more key-value pairs (aka a Hash in Ruby). You use front matter to add metadata, like a title or a description, to files such as pages and documents as well as site layouts. Front matter can be used in various ways to set configuration options on a per-file basis, and if you need more dynamic handling of variable data, you can write Ruby code for processing as front matter.

Table of Contents

Using Front Matter

Any file that contains a front matter block will be specially processed by Bridgetown. Files without front matter are considered static files and are copied verbatim from the source folder to destination during the build process.

The front matter must be the first thing in the file and must either take the form of valid YAML set between triple-dashed lines, or one of several Ruby-based formats (more on that below). Here is a basic example:

layout: post
title: Blogging Like a Hacker

Between these triple-dashed lines, you can set predefined variables (see below for a reference) or add custom variables of your own. These variables will then be available to you to access using Liquid tags both further down in the file and also in any layouts or components that the file in question relies on.

Predefined Global Variables

There are a number of predefined global variables that you can set in the front matter of a page or document.

Variable Description


If set, this specifies the layout file to use. Use the layout file name without the file extension. Layout files must be placed in the _layouts directory.

  • Using null will produce a file without using a layout file. This is overridden if the file is a document and has a layout defined in the front matter defaults.
  • Using none will produce a file without using a layout file regardless of front matter defaults.


You can change the template engine Bridgetown uses to process the file.


If you need your URLs to be something other than what is configured by default, (for posts, the default is /category/year/month/day/title.html), then you can set this variable and it will be used as the final URL.


Set to false if you don’t want a specific page to show up when the site is generated.

Custom Variables

You can set your own front matter variables which become accessible via Liquid. For instance, if you set a variable called food, you can use that in your page:

food: Pizza

<h1>{{ }}</h1>

Or if you’re using the ERB template engine:

food: Pad Thai

<h1><%=[:food] %></h1>

You can also use a document’s front matter variables in other places like layouts, and you can even reference those variables in loops through documents or as part of more complex queries (see Liquid filters for more information).

Predefined Variables for Posts

For documents in the posts collection, these variables are available out-of-the-box:

Variable Description


Specifying a date variable overrides the date from the filename of the post. This can be used to ensure correct sorting of posts. A date is specified in the format YYYY-MM-DD HH:MM:SS +/-TTTT; hours, minutes, seconds, and timezone offset are optional.



You can specify one or more categories that the post belongs to, and then you can use that to filter posts in various ways or use the "slugified" version of the category name to adjust the permalink for a post. Categories (plural key) can be specified as a YAML list or a space-separated string.


Similar to categories, one or multiple tags can be added to a post as a flexible method of building a lightweight content taxonomy. As with categories, tags can be specified as a YAML list or a space-separated string.

Advanced Front Matter Data Structures

YAML allows for pretty sophisticated methods of structuring data, for example representing arrays or hashes (key/value pairs). You can also write out longer multi-line strings like so:

description: |
  I am a multiple line
  string value that can
  go on and on.

For reference, here’s a side-by-side comparison of YAML data structures and their equivalents in Ruby.

The Power of Ruby, in Front Matter

For advanced use cases where you wish to generate dynamic values for front matter variables, you can use Ruby Front Matter (hereafter named rbfm). (Requires Bridgetown v0.21 or greater. Only applies to sites using the Resource content engine—otherwise read the Legacy Format of Ruby Front Matter section below.)

Any valid Ruby code is allowed in rbfm as long as it returns a Hash—or an object which respond_to?(:to_h). There are several different ways you can define rbfm at the top of your file. This is so syntax highlighting will work in various different template scenarios.

For Markdown files, you can use backticks or tildes plus the term ruby to take advantage of GFM (GitHub-flavored Markdown) syntax highlighting.

  layout: :page,
  title: "About"

I'm a **Markdown** file.


  layout: :page,
  title: "About"

I'm a **Markdown** file.

For ERB or Serbea files, you can use ---<% / %>--- or ---{% / %}--- delimeters respectively. (You can substitute ~ instead of - if you prefer.)

For all-Ruby files, you can use ---ruby / --- or ###ruby / ### delimeters.

However you define your rbfm, bear in mind that the front matter code is executed prior to any processing of the template file itself and within a different context. (rbfm will be executed initially within either Bridgetown::Model::RepoOrigin or Bridgetown::Layout.)

Thankfully, there is a solution for when you want a front matter variable resolved within the execution context of a resource (aka Bridgetown::Resource::Base): use a lambda. Any lambda (or proc in general) will be resolved at the time a resource has been fully initialized. A good use case for this would be to define a custom permalink based on other front matter variables. For example:

  layout: :page,
  segments: ["custom", "permalink"],
  title: "About Us",
  permalink: -> { "#{data.segments.join("/")}/#{Bridgetown::Utils.slugify(data.title)}" }

This will now show up for the path: /custom/permalink/about-us

Besides using a simple Hash, you can also use the handy front_matter DSL. Any valid method call made directly in the block will translate to a front matter key. Let’s rewrite the above example:

front_matter do
  layout :page

  url_segments = ["custom"]
  url_segments << "permalink"
  segments url_segments

  title "About Us"
  permalink -> { "#{data.segments.join("/")}/#{Bridgetown::Utils.slugify(data.title)}" }

This will now show up for the path: /custom/permalink/about-us

As you can see, literally any valid Ruby code has the potential to be transformed into front matter. The sky’s the limit!

Legacy Format of Ruby Front Matter

This feature is available for pages, posts, and other documents–as well as layouts for site-wide access to your Ruby return values. To write Ruby code in your front matter, use the special tagged string !ruby/string:Rb. Here is an example:

title: I'm a page
permalink: /ruby-demo
calculation: !ruby/string:Rb |
  [2 * 4, 5 + 2].min

Title: {{ page.title }}
Calc Result: {{ page.calculation }}

In the final page output rendered by Liquid, the value of the calculation variable will be the return value of the Ruby code.

You can write any Ruby code into a front matter variable. However, if you need to write a lengthy block of code, or write code that is easily customizable or reusable in multiple contexts, we still recommended you write a Bridgetown plugin—either in the plugins folder in your site repo or as a separate Gem-based plugin.

Depending on if your Ruby code is added to a document or a layout, certain Ruby objects are provided for your use.

For layouts, you can access: site, layout, and data.

For documents, you can access: site, page or document (they are equivalent), renderer, and data.

Documentation on the internal Ruby API for Bridgetown is forthcoming, but meanwhile the easiest way to debug the code you write is to run bridgetown console and interact with the API there, then copy working code into your Ruby Front Matter.

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