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004: Article newsletter structure




We want to define how to organize the articles that contain the updates as a section of the MkDocs site in a way that:

  • It's easy and pleasant for the user to navigate.
  • It's easy for us to parse programmatically.


The frequency of updates can be weekly or monthly, structured in a mkdocs nav similar to:

    - newsletter/
    - 2020:
        - newsletter/
        - February of 2020:
            - newsletter/
            - 6th Week of 2020:
                - newsletter/
                - 11st February 2020: newsletter/
            - 5th Week of 2020:
                - newsletter/
                - 1st February 2020: newsletter/
        - January of 2020:
            - newsletter/
            - 1st Week of 2020:
                - newsletter/
                - 3rd January 2020: newsletter/
                - 1st January 2020: newsletter/


  • Is the landing page of the newsletters. It's prepended with 0_ so it shows the first item when you do ls in the directory. It will be created from a template the first time you run it, then you can change the file to fit your liking.
  • Is an automatic year summary done at the end of the year.
  • Is an automatic month summary for the monthly rss done at the end of the month joining the changes of the month weeks.
  • Is an automatic week summary for the weekly rss done at the end of the week joining the changes of the week days.
  • Is an automatic day summary for the daily rss.

My first idea as a MkDocs user, and newborn plugin developer was to add the navigation items to the nav key in the config object, as it's more easy to add items to a dictionary I'm used to work with than to dive into the code and understand how MkDocs creates the navigation. As I understood from the docs, the files should be created in the on_files event. the problem with this approach is that the only event that allows you to change the config is the on_config event, which is before the on_files one, so you can't build the navigation this way after you've created the files.

Next idea was to add the items in the on_nav event, that means creating yourself the Section, Pages, SectionPages or Link objects and append them to the nav.items. The problem is that MkDocs initializes and processes the Navigation object in the get_navigation function. If you want to add items with a plugin in the on_nav event, you need to manually run all the post processing functions such as building the pages attribute, by running the _get_by_type, _add_previous_and_next_links or _add_parent_links yourself. Additionally, when building the site you'll get the The following pages exist in the docs directory, but are not included in the "nav" configuration error, because that check is done before all plugins change the navigation in the on_nav object.

The last approach is to build the files and tweak the navigation in the on_config event. This approach has the next advantages:

  • You need less knowledge of how MkDocs works.
  • You don't need to create the File or Files objects.
  • You don't need to create the Page, Section, SectionPage objects.
  • More robust as you rely on existent MkDocs functionality.

We need to define:

  • How to translate from a list of newsletter file names to the nav structure.
  • Whether to build the nav from scratch on each build or reuse the done job.

How to translate from a list of newsletter file names to the nav structure

The complex part here is how to get the ordering of the elements in the nav right. We could:

Create a nav_data dictionary with the following structure:

    year: {
        month_number: {
            week_number: {

And then translate the nav_data to the actual nav contents.

Build the nav from scratch or reuse previous run's nav

We can either build the whole newsletter nav each time we build the site or we can store the nav somewhere and only append the new articles. The second option is more efficient in terms of energy, I don't want to store in the mkdocs.yml file as the newsletter nav can grow fast, making the file dirty. Another possibility is to save the nav in docs/newsletter/.newsletter_nav.yaml.

If we store the newsletter nav dictionary, it would be difficult to deduce where does the new entries fit in so that the nav is still ordered. It would make more sense to store the nav_data object, but building that object is relatively cheap, so it may not be worth even storing it.


Follow the only proposal regarding the structure, and we'll build the nav from scratch each time we build the site.