Dactyl is intended to be used with a config file (typically dactyl-config.yml) that specifies a full list of files to build with necessary metadata and other config. So, if you've got this set up, you can run Dactyl like this:


By default, this outputs HTML. You can also build a PDF or even Markdown. For a full list of Dactyl's commandline options, use the -h parameter.

Ad-Hoc Usage

Simple ("Ad-Hoc") usage:

$ dactyl_build --pages

By default, the resulting HTML pages are written to a folder called out/ in the current working directory. You can specify a different output path in the config file or by using the -o parameter.

Building PDF

Dactyl generates PDFs by making temporary HTML files and running Prince. Use the --pdf command to generate a PDF. Dactyl tries to come up with a sensible output filename by default, or you can provide one (which must end in .pdf):

$ dactyl_build --pages --pdf MyGuide.pdf

Specifying a Config File

By default, Dactyl looks for a config file named dactyl-config.yml in the current working directory. You can specify an alternate config file with the -c or --config parameter:

$ dactyl_build -c path/to/alt-config.yml

For more information on configuration, see Configuration and the examples folder.

Specifying a Target

If your config file contains more than one target, Dactyl builds the first one by default. You can specify a different target by passing its name value with the -t parameter:

$ dactyl_build -t non-default-target

Static Files

Your templates may require certain static files (such as JavaScript, CSS, and images) to display properly. Your content may have its own static files (such as diagrams and figures). By default, Dactyl assumes that templates have static files in the assets/ folder. You can configure this path and also specify one or more paths to static files referenced by your content. When you build, Dactyl copies files from these folders to the output folder by default depending on which mode you're building:

Build Mode Files copied to output folder by default
HTML Both template and content static files
PDF Neither template nor content static files (cannot be overridden)
Markdown Content static files only
ElasticSearch JSON Neither template nor content static files

You can use a commandline flag to explicitly specify what gets copied to the output folder, except in the case of PDF. (In PDF mode, Dactyl writes only the final PDF to the output folder.) The flags are as follows:

Flag (long version) Short version Meaning
--copy_static -s Copy all static files to the out dir.
--no_static -S Don't copy any static files to the out dir.
--template_static -T Copy only templates' static files to the out dir
--content_static -C Copy only the content's static files to the out dir

The following config file parameters control what paths Dactyl checks for static content:

Field Default Description
template_static_path assets/ Static files belonging to the templates.
content_static_path (None) Static files belonging to content. This can be a single folder path, as a string, or an array of paths to files or folders. Dactyl copies all files and folders (regardless of whether the current target uses them).

Listing Available Targets

If you have a lot of targets, it can be hard to remember what the short names for each are. If you provide the -l flag, Dactyl will list available targets and then quit without doing anything:

$ dactyl_build -l
tests        Dactyl Test Suite
rc-install        Ripple Connect v2.6.3 Installation Guide
kc-rt-faq        Ripple Trade Migration FAQ

Building Markdown

This mode runs the pre-processor only, so you can generate Markdown files that are more likely to display properly in conventional Markdown parsers (like the one built into GitHub). Use the --md flag to output Markdown files, skipping the HTML/PDF templates entirely.

$ dactyl_build --md

Building Only One Page

If you only want to build a single page, you can use the --only flag, followed by the filename you want to build (either the input filename ending in .md or the output filename ending in .html):

dactyl_build --only index.html --pdf

This command can be combined with the --pdf or --md flags. You can also use it with the --target setting (in case you want the context from the target even though you're only building one page.)

Watch Mode

You can use the -w flag to make Dactyl run continuously, watching for changes to its input templates or markdown files. Whenever it detects that a file has changed, Dactyl automatically rebuilds the output in whatever the current mode is, (HTML, PDF, or Markdown).

To be detected as a change, the file has to match one of the following patterns:


Beware: some configurations can lead to an infinite loop. (For example, if your output directory is a subdirectory of your content directory and you use Dactyl in --md mode.)

Limitations: Watch mode can be combined with --only, but re-builds the page even when it detects changes to unrelated pages. Watch mode doesn't detect changes to the config file, static files, or filters.

To stop watching, interrupt the Dactyl process (Ctrl-C in most terminals).