Vuepress default theme tutorial: creating your home page

This is a step-by-step guide to creating a simple site using the VuePress default theme. It's for an imaginary restaurant named Springfield Dim Sum.

Workflow

After you've installed Node.js and VuePress the typical workflow for creating a site is:

  • Create a working directory and change to it
  • Write markup files (text files with names ending in .md following a simple formatting convention called markdown), with the home page always named README.md, and save them in the working directory
  • Open a terminal window and run vuepress dev on the command line. This generates a website from your VuePress source files, which include at a minimum README.md, and runs a webserver on your computer
  • Open a browser window to http://localhost:8080/ to see the live site
  • Make changes to your markdown files or create new ones. VuePress sees they've been created and automatically generates new output each time you save a file

Opening a terminal

You'll need to drop into your operating system's command line to use VuePress. First open a terminal.

Opening a terminal on MacOS

The quickest way to find the terminal program on MacOS is this way:

  • Choose the Spotlight icon, normally at the top of the screen
  • Search for the word terminal and you'll see something like this in the results. Highlight the Terminal icon:

Screen shot of finding Terminal using Spotlight

Creating a Terminal shortcut on the MacOS dock (one time only)

You'll be using the Terminal a lot, so make a shortcut for it. You only need to do this once.

  • Under Top Hits, Drag the Terminal icon to the bottom of your screen, into the Dock.

Screen shot of Terminal being dragged from Spotlight to Dock

Now you'll be able to start the terminal much faster next time.

Opening the Windows command prompt

The quickest way to start the Windows command prompt is this:

  • Press the Windows and R keys at the same time to bring up the Run dialog.

Screen Windows Run dialog

  • Type cmd and press Enter.

The command prompt appears.

Screen Windows command prompt

Creating the directories for your VuePress site, MacOS version

Go to your normal work area, create the working directory, and move to it.

In this case you would replace ~/code/ with wherever you choose to put your VuePress files. This site’s directory is creatively called demo1. It's also good to create subdirectories for image and style sheet assets.

  • Create the working directory and a subdirectory under it named .vuepress (don't forget that it starts with the period character). You can create them all at once like this:
# Create full directory path, including the
# necessary hidden directory .vuepress and
# a directory for public assets
$ mkdir -p ~/code/demo1/.vuepress/public
  • And directories for assets such as images and style sheets. They can go anywhere; Vuepress imposes no convention for directories.
# Create directories for images and CSS.
$ mkdir -p ~/code/demo1/assets/img
$ mkdir -p ~/code/demo1/assets/css

TIP

Always create the .vuepress sudirectory. It's not used at the moment but will be. All VuePress sites other than the tiniest demos require it.

  • Now change to that directory. You will run vuepress dev or vuepress build from within it.
# Make it the working directory.
$ cd ~/code/demo1

Creating the directories for your VuePress site, Windows version

Go to your normal work area, create the working directory, and move to it.

In this case you would replace %HOMEDIR%/code/ with wherever you choose to put your VuePress files. This site’s directory is creatively called demo1. It's also good to create subdirectories for image and style sheet assets.

  • Create the working directory and a subdirectory under it named .vuepress (don't forget that it starts with the period character). You can create them all at once like this:
:: Create full directory path, including the
:: necessary directory .vuepress and
:: a directory for public assets
> md %HOMEDRIVE%%HOMEPATH%\code\demo1\.vuepress\public
  • And directories for assets such as images and style sheets. They can go anywhere; Vuepress imposes no convention for directories.
:: Create directories for images and CSS.
> md %HOMEDRIVE%%HOMEPATH%\code\demo1\assets\img
> md %HOMEDRIVE%%HOMEPATH%\code\demo1\assets\css

TIP

Always create the .vuepress sudirectory. It's not used at the moment but will be. All VuePress sites other than the tiniest demos require it.

  • Now change to that directory. You will run vuepress dev or vuepress build from within it.
:: Make it the working directory.
> cd %HOMEDRIVE%%HOMEPATH%\code\demo1

Creating a minimal home page

A VuePress site is a directory containing at least a file named 'README.md' in Markdown form with at least one header. Open your favorite text editor (not Apple Pages or Microsoft, because they add formatting that won't convert properly).

  • Create a text file named README.md with the following contents:
# Wecome to Example.com 

We hope you love this tiny tiny site.

Running vuepress dev

README.md is all you need to create a minimal VuePress site. Let's take a look at your progress so far. Run vuepress dev on your command line:

$ vuepress dev

If all goes well you'll see output like this:

  VuePress dev server listening at http://localhost:8080/

  [13:55:39] ✔ successfully compiled.

Running vuepress dev creates a sort of temporary copy of the site on the fly. It converts the Markdown files (such as README.md) to HTML, so, for example, ## Location and directions gets converted to HTML that looks like this:

<h1 id="welome-to-example-com">Welcome to Example.com</h1> 

While vuepress dev is running, you can make changes to your Markdown files and the changes will be reflected dynamically the moment you save.

Opening a browser window to localhost:8080

Note the web address, which looks something like http://localhost:8080/.

  • Switch to a browser and browse to that address.

Here's what you'll see:

Screen shot of first default theme home page

Taking a look at special VuePress default theme features

Although this is nominally a bare theme, you can already see it has a few advantages over a normal, blank HTML page. It has an attractive set of defaults for font, margins, and so on, and these will be uniform over all reasonably modern browsers. And there's something else that works great for technical documentation.

Default theme feature: Active anchor for each header

Move your mouse or touch over the headline and you'll see a pound sign appear.

Screen shot of first default theme showing Markdown anchor

That represents a link to this exact location on the page (called an anchor, corresponding to an anchor tag in HTML). If you right-click it and choose to copy the link from the context menu, when you paste in that link it will be pasted as http://localhost:8080/http://localhost:8080/index.html#welcome-to-example-com, not just http://localhost:8080.

Any good website used for reference purposes should use descriptive anchors like this. Vuepress generates them automatically.

Page title is named after the first header in the markup file

You can see that VuePress automatically titles pages by reading the first header from each file.

Explore these new features. For example, click the search icon and type something, for example, L for lunch.

Screen shot of home page with the user typing in

For the purposes of this demo, we created these minimal files and placed them in the project's root directory:

file lunch.md
# Lunch menu
file dinner.md
# Dinner menu

Adding title automates navigation

  • Choose the Lunch menu item to see that page:

Screen shot of minimal

Note how the VuePress default them has built links to the dinner menu and the home page.

  • Choose the Dinner menu item.

Screen shot of minimal

Now you see links to the the home page and the lunch menu.