Getting Started

Setting up a Nikola site is really easy. You will need a few minutes’ time and a Python 3 interpreter.

Step 1. Install Nikola

Nikola is free open-source software, under the MIT license.

Any OS/general instructions

The best way to install Nikola is to use pip in a virtual environment. We recommend installing the "Nikola[extras]" distribution to access all built-in Nikola features. Follow instructions on the right/below.

If you’ve never worked with Python virtual environments, you might want to read Python Virtual Environments in Five Minutes.

Installing "Nikola[extras]" as explained above installs software that Nikola might use. This is quite a lot of software. Alternatively, you can drop the [extras] specifier and install such software later, as you find out you want it. Nikola makes this reasonably convenient, as explained below.

We don’t recommend using Pipenv, Poetry, or PDM to manage Nikola. Those package managers are aimed at people developing software using Python, not running software written in Python, so using them will not offer a good user experience.

Windows support

Nikola supports Windows! Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. If you are installing from Git, it is recommended to enable Developer Mode in Windows and run git config --global core.symlinks true before cloning the Nikola repo (recent versions of the git installer offer to do this for you). Nikola will work either way, but if you don’t enable symlinks, Nikola will have to fix them, which changes the working tree.
  2. Nikola can work with both the Windows Python install and WSL. Both setups are fully supported and stable, and all Nikola features should work in both setups.
  3. Windows has some differences over POSIX, which may cause some features to work incorrectly under Windows. If any problems occur, please do not hesitate to report them. Some of the differences that can cause problems include:
    • \ as path separator (instead of /)
    • the concept of HDD partitions and letters (instead of seamless mounting under one root)
    • some characters in paths are disallowed
    • CR+LF (aka \r\n) as the line separator (instead of LF \n)
    • Certain OS and Python features being unavailable under Windows
  4. We run our test suite on Windows (as well as Linux and macOS), but not all Windows-specific bugs might be caught by it.

Installing on macOS

Installing Nikola on macOS is easy. You can use Homebrew, MacPorts, Fink, or the Apple-provided Python 3 interpreter.

We recommend using Homebrew. After you install it, you can run brew install python3 to install Python 3. You can then follow the instructions on the right/below. Your venvs may require fixing, reconfiguration or recreating if you update Python.

Other package/port managers, such as MacPorts or Fink may be used if you prefer them and have those installed. Make sure to use only one manager to avoid conflicts.

The Apple-provided Python 3 will work too. Starting with Catalina, Python 3 is available, and it seems to be updated reasonably often. You might need to install Xcode Command Line Tools (xcode-select --install), or possibly the full Xcode environment (from the App Store), to use it.

Linux packages

Nikola is packaged for some Linux distributions, you may get that instead of installing via pip (which is the recommended way). Keep in mind that those packages might be outdated and that we don’t support versions that are too old. Proceed with care!

  • Arch Linux: nikola ([community] repo) for the latest stable release or nikola-git for the GitHub master (AUR)
  • Gentoo: www-apps/nikola
  • The Ubuntu package is broken and outdated. The Nikola developers strongly discourage using it and do not support this method of install — please install via pip instead.

GitHub (bleeding edge) installs

You can also install Nikola from GitHub. This will get you the code that is still under development. It probably has bugs, but there are often new features or bugfixes. Start by creating and activating a virtual environment.

$ pip install "git+[extras]"

For development work, or if you otherwise want a local clone of the repository, use this:

$ git clone  # wherever you store your projects; you may also use a ssh remote address
$ cd nikola
$ pip install -e ".[extras]"

Issues with compiling C extensions (Python.h, lxml, Pillow)

You should not need to compile any C extension modules to run Nikola. Both lxml and Pillow have pre-compiled wheels available for Windows, macOS and Linux (compatible with all distributions).

However, if pip still attempts to compile those packages, you may need to do the following:

  1. Upgrade pip, setuptools, and wheel: pip install -U pip setuptools wheel (on Windows, use py -m pip)
  2. Wait a few days or try installing an older version of lxml/Pillow (wheels are not always available at the time of release)
  3. Install manually. Do this only if all other things fail. Here are some tips:
    • If you are getting errors about missing Python.h, you need to install development packages for Python (eg. python3-dev or python3-devel).
    • Install libxml2, libxslt, zlib and their development headers.
    • Use your package manager’s option to install build dependencies for their lxml and Pillow packages.
    • If you run out of RAM during the install (gcc/cc1 are killed), use a swap file.

Docker (unofficial)

There are unofficial Docker images by Olaf Meeuwissen (based on Alpine Linux) available:

$ docker pull
$ docker run --rm -it -v $PWD:/site -w /site -u $(id -u):$(id -g) \ nikola init .

Check out the image’s README for details and usage hints.

There is also a Dockerfile by Rob Brewer, based on Arch Linux and official Arch packages.

Other options

There are also Snapcraft packages (snap install nikola --edge), but those inherit many limitations of the platform and are not recommended for daily use.

What is this [extras]?

The easy way to install Nikola is to include, in the installation, a lot of additional software that you may or may not need. This is what happens when installing Nikola[extras] as mentioned above, and is recommended for casual and first-time users.

Maybe you have reason to be careful about which packages you download and install. If so, you can choose to install plain Nikola without [extras]. This will get you going. When, later, you ask Nikola to provide functionality that needs a dependency (i.e., additional software on which that Nikola functionality depends), and that dependency has not yet been installed, you will receive a helpful error message telling you what is missing. E.g., when using nikola auto --browser for the first time, you might see error message text telling you aiohttp and watchdog are needed to proceed:

In order to use the "auto" command, you must install the "aiohttp" and "watchdog" Python packages.
Exiting due to missing dependencies.

In this situation, run pip install aiohttp watchdog and then repeat your original nikola auto --browser.

Install on Linux/*nix/macOS

First, make sure Python 3 is installed.
On macOS, we recommend getting Python from Homebrew.
On Debian/Ubuntu, you also need the python3-venv package.

When you are done installing, run:
$ python3 -m venv nikola-env $ cd nikola-env $ bin/python -m pip install -U pip setuptools wheel $ bin/python -m pip install -U "Nikola[extras]" ...snip... Successfully installed Nikola You can now use Nikola by launching the script directly: $ bin/nikola Or you can activate the environment before working with Nikola and use the nikola command: $ source bin/activate $ nikola

Install on Windows

First, install Python 3. Then you can run:
> py -m venv nikola-env
> cd nikola-env
> Scripts\python -m pip install -U pip setuptools wheel
> Scripts\python -m pip install -U "Nikola[extras]"
Successfully installed Nikola

You can now use Nikola by launching the script directly:
> Scripts\nikola

Or you can activate the environment before working
with Nikola and use the nikola command:
> Scripts\activate
> nikola

Step 2. Initialize a site

After installing Nikola, you should create a site. A site is a collection of all assets needed to create your site: configuration, posts, pages, images, and all other files and customizations. This is the important data, so put it where you put that kind of things.

To create a site, you need to run nikola init --demo <directory_name>. A friendly wizard will be launched, letting you configure your site easily. The --demo option is used to fill your site with some demo content. (If you do not want the wizard, use the --quiet argument.)

If you’re using a virtual environment, you should use the path to the Nikola script in your virtual environment (bin/nikola init on *nix, Scripts\nikola init on Windows), or alternatively, you can activate the environment (source bin/activate on *nix, Scripts\activate on Windows) and use the nikola command directly.

Do not store your site inside your virtual environment. Virtual environments are meant to be ephemeral (you should be able to delete and recreate one at any time).

$ nikola init --demo my_first_site
Creating Nikola Site

This is Nikola.  We will now ask you a few easy questions about your new site.
If you do not want to answer and want to go with the defaults instead, simply restart with the `-q` parameter.
--- Questions about the site ---
Site title [My Nikola Site]: My First Nikola Site
...a couple more questions...

That's it, Nikola is now configured.  Make sure to edit to your liking.
If you are looking for themes and addons, check out and
Have fun!
INFO: init: A new site with example data has been created at my_first_site.
INFO: init: See README.txt in that folder for more information.

Step 3. Build your site

You can now build the site you created. Just run nikola build inside your site directory. The output directory will then be filled with the contents of your site, which is now ready to deploy.

$ cd my_first_site
$ nikola build
Scanning posts....done!
.  render_galleries:output/galleries
.  render_galleries:output/galleries/demo
.  render_galleries:output/galleries/index.html
.  render_galleries:output/galleries/rss.xml
.  render_galleries:output/galleries/demo/tesla4_lg.thumbnail.jpg
...and many more files in between...
.  render_tags:output/categories/cat_nikola.xml
.  render_pages:output/stories/social_buttons/index.html
.  render_pages:output/stories/quickref/index.html
.  render_tags:output/categories/python.xml
.  generate_rss:output/rss.xml
.  render_pages:output/stories/a-study-in-scarlet/index.html
.  sitemap:output/sitemap.xml
.  sitemap:output/sitemapindex.xml
.  robots_file:output/robots.txt

Step 4. Write your first post

Your site currently contains demo content — that is, some Nikola documentation, a demo gallery and listing, and a blog post welcoming you.

You should make it more interesting and personal. Write your own post!

To do that, you can just use nikola new_post -e. (The -e option will open the post in your text editor of choice; many more options are available)

The command will create the file for you in the right place, with the metadata headers and a writing prompt.

By default, Nikola creates posts in reStructuredText. You can read the reStructuredText Primer to get accustomed to the syntax.

If you prefer Markdown, it is also available and configured by default: run nikola new_post -e -f markdown to create a new Markdown post.

You can also use many other input formats; to do this, your site needs some special configuration.

What if I don’t want a blog?

If you want a static site that does not have any blog-related elements, see our Creating a Site (Not a Blog) with Nikola guide.

$ nikola new_post -e
Creating New Post

Title: My First Blog Post!
Scanning posts....done!
INFO: new_post: Your post's text is at: posts/my-first-blog-post.rst

Step 5. Rebuild your site

When you’re done writing your post, you must rebuild your site to make it visible on your site. Run nikola build again.

Note that the list of files is much shorter now: Nikola does fast, incremental rebuilds (courtesy of doit). Nikola built only the pages for this post, the indexes, the feeds, and the previous post (to add a Next post navigation button). All the demo pages and assets were left untouched, saving you time and resources (it does not have to work on building some larger things, and rsync will not have to upload everything)

$ nikola build
Scanning posts....done!
.  render_posts:timeline_changes
.  render_posts:cache/posts/my-first-blog-post.html
.  render_sources:output/posts/my-first-blog-post/index.rst
.  render_archive:output/2018/index.html
.  render_archive:output/archive.html
.  render_indexes:output/index.html
.  render_pages:output/posts/welcome-to-nikola/index.html
.  generate_rss:output/rss.xml
.  render_pages:output/posts/my-first-blog-post/index.html
.  sitemap:output/sitemap.xml
.  sitemap:output/sitemapindex.xml

Step 6. Start the development server

You’re done! You just created a Nikola site, wrote your first post and built your site. Congratulations!

Run nikola serve --browser to start the development server and open your site in a web browser. Press Ctrl+C to stop the server.

You can also use a server with automatic rebuilds by running nikola auto --browser. Note that both servers should be used for development only; use other deployment solutions instead.

$ nikola serve --browser
INFO: serve: Serving HTTP on port 8000...
INFO: serve: Opening in the default web browser...

Next steps


  • Check out the demo content installed with the site to see what Nikola can do — and that’s not all it has to offer!
  • Find out what other commands are available by using nikola help.
  • Read the Nikola Handbook to learn more about Nikola.
  • Edit the file to your liking.
  • Check out themes and plugins for Nikola, or write your own.

Configuring other markup formats

Input formats other than reStructuredText, Markdown, and raw HTML need some configuration, which has been described in The Nikola Handbook.

Removing demo content

When you’re done exploring, you should remove the demo content before deploying it to your server. Remove the demo stories, welcome post, demo gallery and listing manually. Run nikola build to make them disappear from the archives. Note that this is not enough; you need to delete the now orphaned files. Nikola can do it for you — run nikola check --clean-files. Note that this command will delete all files in the output directory it does not know about, which can be dangerous — please back up your files or find out what will be deleted by using nikola orphans.

Hint: files in the files/ directory are copied to the output directory as-is.


The development server (nikola serve) should not be used outside of your local network. Instead, you should use a more serious web server. Nikola sites work on any web server which can host html files. You can use shared hosting, your own server (VPS/dedicated), GitHub Pages, or any other service that lets you host a website. For more details on deployment and related configuration, see the Deployment section in the Handbook.