Michael Lanyon's Blog Notes and thoughts from LanyonM

Alphabetizing Jekyll Page Tags In Pure Liquid (Without Plugins)


When you host a Jekyll site on GitHub, it renders the site in safe-mode. This means you can’t use any plugins enhance Jekyll’s functionality and, more specifically, you can’t write a Liquid tag that alphabetizes the site’s tags. Unordered tags make a Jekyll tag list look sloppy, so if you care about the details, you likely want your tag list to be alphabetized.

It’s easy to alphabetize the tag list on a given page (just list the tags alphabetically), but getting your tags.html to list tags alphabetically is a bit more convoluted if you aren’t able to use plugins.

Waist-Deep in Liquid

Liquid provides some pretty good documentation for figuring out what logical operators and functions are built into the templating language. Particularly useful are capture and assign, which each capture values as variables. These logical operators can contain additional logic like for-loops, splits, sorts and joins. Here’s the code I use to generate a sorted list of tags:

{% capture site_tags %}{% for tag in site.tags %}{{ tag | first }}{% unless forloop.last %},{% endunless %}{% endfor %}{% endcapture %}
{% assign tag_words = site_tags | split:',' | sort %}

Line 1 above will get the tag name for every tag on the site and set them to the site_tags variable. Each tag object contains both the tag name and a list of the associated posts. This capture statement is all on one line so that the commas can reliably be used as delimiters. Line 2 creates the tag_words variable that is a sorted array of the tag names. If you want to see what these two statements would produce within Jekyll, you’ll find them printed in html comments on my tags page.

Building The HTML

As you can see on tags.html, the tags are listed alphabetically with post counts and then each tag’s post is listed below. Here’s the Liquid code:

<div id="tags">
  <ul class="tag-box inline">
  {% for item in (0..site.tags.size) %}{% unless forloop.last %}
    {% capture this_word %}{{ tag_words[item] | strip_newlines }}{% endcapture %}
    <li><a href="#{{ this_word | cgi_escape }}">{{ this_word }} <span>{{ site.tags[this_word].size }}</span></a></li>
  {% endunless %}{% endfor %}

  {% for item in (0..site.tags.size) %}{% unless forloop.last %}
    {% capture this_word %}{{ tag_words[item] | strip_newlines }}{% endcapture %}
  <h2 id="{{ this_word | cgi_escape }}">{{ this_word }}</h2>
  <ul class="posts">
    {% for post in site.tags[this_word] %}{% if post.title != null %}
    <li itemscope><span class="entry-date"><time datetime="{{ post.date | date_to_xmlschema }}" itemprop="datePublished">{{ post.date | date: "%B %d, %Y" }}</time></span> &raquo; <a href="{{ post.url }}">{{ post.title }}</a></li>
    {% endif %}{% endfor %}
  {% endunless %}{% endfor %}

On line 4 you’ll notice an unless forloop.last. This is because it’s a quick an easy way to keep the array index in bounds. Lines 6 and 14 show how you can use a tag’s name to pull the tag from site.tags. I checked for post.title != null because I don’t want to display pages without titles.


Alphabetizing Jekyll site tags is trickier than it should be. If you plan to deploy the site via GitHub Pages, you can’t use plugins. The source code for my pure-Liquid, alphabetized tags is on GitHub and deployed here.