Adding GitHub Actions to Blog


As you may know, I use MkDocs to generate the static pages for my website. This means that the posts that I write are written in Markdown and then I have to run a couple of Python commands to convert those Markdown files to static HTML files.

I decided to use GitHub pages to automation this portion of the publishing process. This will allow me to make updates to the website or publish new posts from anywhere that has an internet connection.

CD (Continuous Deployment) Completed

Prior to setting up GitHub Actions, I had my Production environment already pulling the latest version of the gh-pages branch of my website repository. This automated pull is done via cronjob that runs every 3 hours.

Setting Up GitHub Actions

To get started with GitHub Actions, you can go to the repository that you have some tasks that you want to automate and click on the Actions tab on the page.

If you do not have any actions set up for the repository, you will be presented with a list of defined workflows that you can immediately use in your repository. Since there was not a workflow for MkDocs, I had to create my workflow from scratch.

In order to get my workflow going, I used a combination of looking at the workflows that others had created and the Github Actions documentation.

My workflow file to automatically generate the static files is broken down as follows:

Name of the workflow

name: Generate static pages

Trigger for the Workflow

            - master

            - master

This defines the trigger for when the workflow should be started. In my case, I set it to trigger when a push is done or a pull request is done on the master branch.

Jobs and Build


Operating System

name: buildout
    runs-on: ubuntu-latest

Steps to Do

- name: Checkout latest master
    uses: actions/checkout@v2
        repository: almostengr/almostengrwebsite


- name: Installing Python
  run:  python -m pip install --upgrade pip

Handling Errors

mkdocs command not found

Run mkdocs gh-deploy
/home/runner/work/_temp/ line 1: mkdocs: command not found
##[error]Process completed with exit code 127.

When attempting to run the command to deploy the MkDocs website, I would receive the above message. Looking on the MkDocs documentation, I found that it mentioned on Windows systems that "python -m" may need to be used in order to execute a command.

So if you receive the above error message, then change the command from

mkdocs gh-deploy


python -m mkdocs gh-deploy

in your workflow file.

Not A Commit or A Branch

Run git checkout -b gh-pages origin/gh-pages
fatal: 'origin/gh-pages' is not a commit and a branch 'gh-pages' cannot be created from it
##[error]Process completed with exit code 128.

If you receive the above error, that means that the branch does not exist. When the repo is cloned, it only copies the master branch. If you want to have access to the other branches in the repository, then you will need ot perform a fetch and then checkout the branch of your choosing.

You can add a fetch to your workflow by adding the below command:

- name: Fetching branches
  run:  git fetch -p

gh-pages (or deployment) Branch Does Not Exist

WARNING -  Version check skipped: No version specificed in previous deployment. 
INFO    -  Copying '/home/runner/work/almostengrwebsite/almostengrwebsite/site' to 'gh-pages' branch and pushing to GitHub. 
ERROR   -  Failed to deploy to GitHub with error: 
 ! [rejected]        gh-pages -> gh-pages (fetch first)
error: failed to push some refs to ''
hint: Updates were rejected because the remote contains work that you do
hint: not have locally. This is usually caused by another repository pushing
hint: to the same ref. You may want to first integrate the remote changes
hint: (e.g., 'git pull ...') before pushing again.
hint: See the 'Note about fast-forwards' in 'git push --help' for details.

##[error]Process completed with exit code 1.

If you receive the above error, it is because the mkdocs gh-deploy command is trying to build and push the code into the same branch, which it should not.

I added the following to my file, which resolved my issue.

- name: Checking out gh-pages branch
  run:  git checkout -b gh-pages origin/gh-pages

- name: Checking out master branch
  run:  git checkout master

- name: Building static site
  run:  python -m mkdocs gh-deploy


Before setting up GitHub actions, I was only able to make updates when I was at home as I only have my Development server configured for MkDocs.

Even better is that this allows me to commit and publish from my phone.

You can view my Actions file in the website repository.

Posted: 2022-02-26
Author: Kenny Robinson, @almostengr