Ye' Olde Site By Joby


A CMS to build websites like it's the 90s, but good.

I don't like to think about it in these terms exactly, but I'm old enough to remember building websites on free hosts in the 90s. It was a simpler time, before we all had toolchains a mile long, and node_modules and vendor directories that weigh a thousand pounds. Before our "easy" auto-deployment systems required a Gitlab server, several scripts, and the spinning up of multiple virtual machines just to minify some crap, SSH into somewhere, and run like 3 commands.

There was just something ineffable and joyous about hacking away on a live site over FTP. In those days I mostly used Notepad++, because it had a built-in FTP panel and back then that was useful. Leafcutter is my attempt to bring back that sensation. I mean, do you remember when a built-in FTP panel in a text editor was an absolutely killer feature? It was wild!

So Leafcutter. It's a CMS without an admin interface, or user accounts, or even a database. I've spent years working with various CMSs, extending them, and even building a few from scratch. Some of what I've made has even been ... borderline decent. The thing is, though, that no matter how hard I try to build the content-editing interface of my dreams, deep down in my core I just hunger for that nerd shit. My heart calls out for a text editor.

So I built Leafcutter. This is not your CMS if you want a WYSIWYG editor, a media manager, and Ajax upload progress bars. This is not for you if you want to sign in from a web browser and update content, or give other people limited editing permissions. This is a CMS pretty much exclusively designed for nerds like me to build their own websites with.

I may eventually add things like sign-ins, users, an admin system, and web-based content management, but that will all be optional add-ons, and never core features.

If you want to build your site with a text editor and be allowed to put any old crazy crap in there, in any format you like, Leafcutter just might be your cup of tea. If you want to FTP files to a server like you did in the 90s, and have them appear on a website? That's Leafcutter's jam.

It does not hold your hand. It does not make you coffee. It does take the really boring grunt work out of building a straighforward flat-file website. It does let you write raw HTML when you want, but also augment it with Twig and Markdown however makes sense at that precise moment.

It also has some damn clever performance optimizations, so you don't need to concern yourself overmuch with CSS or JS bundling, minification, load order, or any of that nonsense. That's a whole other can of worms though.