Self-hosted git pages with stagit (featuring ed, the standard editor)

This is a follow-up to my earlier blog entry How I update my website.

If you work on one or more personal software projects as a hobby, chances are you are using git. To publish your project online you may be using a website like GitHub, or perhaps a more open source friendly alternative such as GitLab or sourcehut.

But have you considered hosting your repositories, and serving them via web pages, on your personal server? In this post I am going to show you how I do it, in the usual minimalist and not-using-what-I-do-not-understand style.

You can see the final result on my git pages. The scripts and other files I use to set this up are accessible here.

Hosting git repositories on your own server

This step is quite simple, and you can just follow Roman Zolotarev’s tutorial like I did - adapting the first few steps to your OS if you are not running OpenBSD.

To sum it up, you need to:

  1. Create a dedicate git account on your server (optional, if you know what you are doing).

  2. Add your public SSH key to the ~/.ssh/authorized_keys file of your newly created remote account.

  3. Initialize a git repository on your server with git init REPOSITORY.

  4. Clone it via SSH with git clone git@SERVER:REPOSITORY.

And you are done! If you want to use multiple remotes, for example your private server and GitHub, you can do so by adding a push-only URL with git remote set-url --add --push origin URL. But don’t trust me on this exact command, I always have to look it up - you should do the same before running it.

Now your repositories are online, but how can you make them browsable via web?


The tool I use to serve my git repositories as static web pages is stagit. It is very easy to describe what stagit does: running it on a git reporitory produces some directories with a bunch of html files that you can simply move to your www hosting directory.

After generating the pages you can personalize them by copying your logo, favicon or CSS style sheet. You can use stagit-index to generate an index page for your repositories. Since everything consists of html files, you can simply edit them to personalize your git pages even further - and below you’ll see some examples.

But you definitely do not want to do this by hand every time you push a commit. Since the pages stagit generates are static, they do not update automatically: you’ll have to run stagit again every time. You can automate this for example by running stagit periodically with cron, but there is an easier way: git hooks.

Git hooks

By saving suitably named executable files inside your project’s .git/hooks directory you can automate any process you want during certain stages of your git workflow. For example you can use a pre-commit script to run commands before you commit changes, or a pre-push script to do something before pushing a commit.

The hooks are divided in client-side and server-side. We are interested in the server-side post-receive hook, which is executed on the remote every time a commit is received. This is the last ingredient we need for our setup: a simple post-receive hook that runs stagit and copies the files it generates to the appropriate folder will do the trick.

My setup

Throughout the rest of the post I will use the following variables, to be set at the beginning of the script:

yourname="Sebastiano Tronto" # Author's name
repo="$PWD" # The full path of the repository
name="$(basename $repo .git)" # The name of the repository
baseurl="" # The base URL for the repository
basedir="/var/www/htdocs/" # The base directory for www files
htdir="$basedir/$name" # The www directory for the repository

Basic stagit usage

The first thing we want to do is to set up some basic information in the owner and url files that stagit is going to use. The hook is run in the repository’s directory, so it is not necessary to specify a full path:

echo "$yourname" > owner
echo "$baseurl/$name" > url

Next we prepare the target directory by removing old files and creating it if necessary:

rm -rf "$htdir"
mkdir -p "$basedir"

To make the repository clonable by anyone from the same URL used to view it, we need to copy the whole directory to the www directory we have just created:

cp -r "$repo" "$htdir"

And finally we can run stagit:

cd "$htdir"
stagit -l 100 "$repo"

The -l option is used to specify how many commits should be visibile in the log page.

For some basic personalization we can choose a different default page (index file). I like to have the file list:

cp "$htdir/files.html" "$htdir/index.html"

And we can use our css style sheet, logo and icon:

cp $filesdir/favicon.png ./
cp $filesdir/logo.png ./
cp $filesdir/style.css ./

Bells and whistles

I like stagit’s simplicity, but there are a couple of things that I want to add or change:

If I were calling stagit by hand after each git push, I could simply make these changes with a text editor. But I want to automate this! How can we edit files in a shell script?

Enter ed, the standard editor. ed is a line text editor initially released with UNIX Version 1. I am going to talk about it more extensively in the next episode of my man page reading club series. Without going into detail, ed does not show you the text you are editing in a 2-dimensional windows: instead, it offers you a command line prompt that you can use to run editing commands, such as a to add text or p to print one or more lines of the file.

This might seems like a totally cumbersome way of editing a file, but there is one nice side-effect: ed is completely scriptable. This means that if you know exactly what the file you want to edit looks like, you can write the commands you want to run in advance and feed them to the editor via standard input, instead of typing them interactively. This is exactly what we want to do!

Going back to my stagit setup, say we have a file bottom.html that looks like this:

<hr class="line">
<footer> <table>
<tr> <td class="contact">
    Back to <a href=""> </a>
<td class="hosted">
    Generated with <a href="">stagit</a>
</td> </tr>
</table> </footer>

and we want to insert its content in the file file.html, before the line that contains the closing tag </body>. We can use the following one-liner:

printf '%s\n' "/<\/body>" i "$(cat bottom.html)" . w | ed -s file.html

Here the printf command is used to feed the tokens /<\/body>, i, $(cat bottom.html), . and w to ed. These are going to be interpreted as: “search for the closing tag </body>; insert the following text until you encounter a single dot on a line: [contents of the file bottom.html] single dot; save.” If this seems obscure, I suggest you read ed’s manual page, or wait for my next blog post!

The command for adding the download button is similar, after we generate a zip archive of the repository using git archive:

git archive HEAD -o "$basedir/$"
printf '%s\n' \
    "/log\.html\">Log<\/a>" i \
    "<a href=\"$baseurl/$\">Download</a> |" . w \
| ed -s file.html

Here I am using backlashes to ignore the newline character, so that I can use more lines for readability.

The two code snippets above have to be run for every html file generated by stagit. To loop over all these files, you can use find:

for f in $(find "$htdir" -name "*.html"); do

The command to turn files into a formatted html page is a bit more complicated, but I will try to keep the explanation short, since this post is already quite long. Feel free to send me an email if you have questions!

To have an idea of what the file generated by stagit looks like, you can check out the html of this page, for example (right click and “View page source” or something similar in most browsers, or curl [URL] if you are cool).

First, since I am using bare git repositories, I need to actually “create” the original file - instead of using its rendered-as-plain-text html version generated by stagit - using git show. Then we need to remove from all the lines that are part of the code listing, i.e. all those that contain a class="line" string. The ed command to do this is g/class=\"line\"/d. Then we need to remove a couple more lines and finally we can insert the result of the command lowdown file/, which converts the markdown file to html, into the correct place. The final result is:

git show > file/
printf '%s\n' \
    g/class=\"line\"/d \
    "/<pre id=\"blob\">" d d i "$(lowdown file/" . w \
| ed -s file/ > /dev/null


Just a quick mention to how I use stagit-index, the command used to generate the index page. The only change I make from the default configuration is to change the links to each repository to point to the file list instead of the log page. stagit-index writes its result to standard output, so I can simply use sed:

stagit-index /home/git/*.git | sed 's|/log\.html||g' > "$basedir/index.html"

And that’s it. Well, I also copy the style files and add a bottom bar, and change the title from a <span class="desc"> to an <h1> element, again using ed. If you want to see the details you can check them out here.


stagit is the perfect minimalist tool to publish your git repository with a simple, static web interface. It requires nothing more than an http server capable of serving html files. Static files are also very simple to customize and tune to your needs.

I have wanted to make this post for quite some time now, mainly as an excuse to clean up and document my scripts. I finally had some time to work on this - even if scattered around multiple days.

As always, I have tried but failed to keep my post short - I am too eager to explain everything I know as clearly as possbile! I hope you enjoyed or found it useful. If you have questions or comments, feel free to send me an email.