Up until recently I have been predominantly a WordPress based developer. I have dabbled in other things, a little bit of React here and there but nothing crazy. Recently however, I have felt a bit nonplussed with it all. Everything seems to take a little bit too long to spin up, and although I have built Gulp scripts to help speed me along, they hasn’t help as much as I would like them to. Then Gutenberg became a thing. Not that I don’t think WordPress needs to stay with the times, I just don’t think it will make my life any easier.
Enter Grav. I was looking for a simple, easy to spin up static site generator that has a backend simple enough for
idiots clients. It is PHP based (so I can put it on a clients hosting without having to explain Node), and speedy as anything. It seems to cover all those bases.
This was a dream. I already have WAMP and Composer installed on my machine so I had to run 3 commands to get Grav installed and ready to go.
git clone -b master https://github.com/getgrav/grav.git
composer install --no-dev -o
This last one did give me a little bit of trouble. I got the error message:
‘bin’ is not recognised as an internal or external command, operable program or batch file.
Turns out this is due to the PHP directory not being found by Windows. To get past this all I needed to do was show my computer where PHP was located using this command:
C:\wamp\bin\php\php7.0.10\php bin/grav install
At this point everything went well. I already had Wamp switched on, so pointed my browser to that folder in my Localhost.
Installing Admin Panel
The Grav “Learn” section has a really good rundown of all the configuring and option settings that can be set. It walks through the folder structure, what is used for what, and the general layout.
At this point I was not bothered about this. I just want to install an admin panel and smash out a theme (if you are bothered, here is the link: https://learn.getgrav.org/).
It turns out installing the admin plugin is just as easy as installing Grav itself. Firstly you have to make sure that your version of Grav is the latest version.
Then, once you are sure you are on the latest version, add that plugin
bin/gpm install admin
For the two above command, remember that is you had an issue with PHP when installing Grav, you will do again. So reference PHP directly.
I found that my console sat thinking for a while, before anything happened. But something did happen, so sit tight. The admin plugin also requires three other plugins. Login, Forms and Email. These set as though dependencies so will install them for you.
Once this has been completed, I found that when I pointed my browser back to the Grav folder on my Localhost the page had changed. Now there is a admin screen asking me to set up a user. Once this is done you are directed to the admin area.
First thoughts: God damn I like this. It has very obviously been built with ease in mind.
All the options and settings that the “Learn” section went through are all included down the side of the admin section. This made me happy, as I want it as simple and as easy to explain to clients as possible. On a quick click through it seems much like any other CMS, but simplified. There is obvious room for adaption is a project requires it, but for a simple brochure site or blog this setup is perfect.
As Grav is saved down into static files, there is no need for a database. This means that the way the site is backed up, is by downloading the static files. This option is set front and center on the dashboard, alongside a simple user statistic chart.
I like to automate everything I possibly can, and the idea of manually downloading a site backup every week does not appeal to me. Turns out this is not a problem. The Grav CLI allows you to hook into the inner workings of the site, so a cron job could be set to do this for you. Happy days.
The text editor works in the same way the pages do when editing manually. They use Markup. This is a barrier to entry for a lot of people who are not so technically minded. Turns out someone has already got a solution for this.
The TinyMCE Integration Plugin
Once again, installation is a breeze (yes, I like Grav). There are two ways you can manage this.
- Log into your admin panel,navigate to plugins. Search the plugin. Click add.
- Or, if you are like me and want to run everything quickly when rolling out a new project. Run this command.
bin/gpm install tinymce-editor
I am going to spend a bit of time looking into developing a proper, fully fledged theme. But as a general overview to rolling out a site on a localhost, it is a definite winner! As there is no database it means the whole site can be dropped on a hosting service via FTP/SFTP and you are laughing.