Getting Started

This page tells you how to get started with the Docsy theme, including installation and basic configuration.

Prerequisites and installation

Install Hugo

You need a recent extended version (we recommend version 0.75.0 or later) of Hugo to do local builds and previews of sites (like this one) that use Docsy. If you install from the release page, make sure to get the extended Hugo version, which supports SCSS; you may need to scroll down the list of releases to see it.

For comprehensive Hugo documentation, see


Be careful using sudo apt-get install hugo, as it doesn’t get you the extended version for all Debian/Ubuntu versions, and may not be up-to-date with the most recent Hugo version.

If you’ve already installed Hugo, check your version:

hugo version

If the result is v0.52 or earlier, or if you don’t see Extended, you’ll need to install the latest version. You can see a complete list of Linux installation options in Install Hugo. The following shows you how to install Hugo from the release page:

  1. Go to the Hugo releases page.

  2. In the most recent release, scroll down until you find a list of Extended versions.

  3. Download the latest extended version (hugo_extended_0.5X_Linux-64bit.tar.gz).

  4. Create a new directory:

    mkdir hugo
  5. Extract the files you downloaded to hugo.

  6. Switch to your new directory:

    cd hugo
  7. Install Hugo:

    sudo install hugo /usr/bin    


Install Hugo using Brew.

Install PostCSS

To build or update your site’s CSS resources, you also need PostCSS to create the final assets. If you need to install it, you must have a recent version of NodeJS installed on your machine so you can use npm, the Node package manager. By default npm installs tools under the directory where you run npm install:

sudo npm install -D autoprefixer
sudo npm install -D postcss-cli

Starting in version 8 of postcss-cli, you must also separately install postcss:

sudo npm install -D postcss

Note that versions of PostCSS later than 5.0.1 will not load autoprefixer if installed globally, you must use a local install.

Using the theme

To use the Docsy Hugo theme, you have a couple of options:

  • Copy and edit the source for the Docsy example site. This approach gives you a skeleton structure for your site, with top-level and documentation sections and templates that you can modify as necessary. The example site uses Docsy as a Git submodule, so it’s easy to keep up to date.
  • Build your own site using the Docsy theme. Specify the Docsy theme like any other Hugo theme when creating or updating your site. With this option, you’ll get Docsy look and feel, navigation, and other features, but you’ll need to specify your own site structure.

Option 1: Clone the Docsy example site

The Example Site gives you a good starting point for building your docs site and is pre-configured to use the Docsy theme as a Git submodule. You can clone the Example Site either by:

Using the GitHub UI

Note that the following approach forks our repo and so creates a connection in GitHub between your project repo and the Docsy example site project repo - our project will be the “upstream” version of your site project:

  1. In the Docsy example site’s GitHub repo, click Fork and follow the prompts.

  2. Rename your new fork:

    1. Click Settings, and type a new name in the Repository name field.
    2. Click Rename to save your changes.
  3. Get the web URL for cloning your site repo by clicking Clone or download on its main repo page.

  4. Make your own local working copy of your repo using git clone, replacing with your repo’s web URL:

    git clone --recurse-submodules --depth 1

You can now edit your local versions of the site’s source files. To preview your site, go to your site root directory and run hugo server (see the known issues on MacOS). By default, your site will be available at http://localhost:1313/. To push changes to your new repo, go to your site root directory and use git push.

Using the command line

To copy the example site:

  1. Make a local working copy of the example site directly using git clone:

    git clone
  2. Switch to the root of the cloned project, for example:

     cd docsy-example
  3. Get local copies of the project submodules so you can build and run your site locally:

     git submodule update --init --recursive
  4. Build your site:

     hugo server
  5. Preview your site in your browser at: http://localhost:1313/. You can use Ctrl + c to stop the Hugo server whenever you like. See the known issues on MacOS.

  6. Now that you have a site running, you can push it to a new repository:

    1. Create a new repository in GitHub for your site with your chosen repo name. For clarity you may also want to rename the root directory (docsy-example) of your working copy to match, though everything will still work even if you don’t.

    2. Configure origin in your project. From your site’s root directory, set the URL for origin to your new repo (otherwise you’ll be trying to push changes to google/docsy rather than to your repo):

        git remote set-url origin
    3. Verify that your remote is configured correctly by running:

        git remote -v
    4. Push your Docsy site to your repository:

        git push -u origin master

Option 2: Use the Docsy theme in your own site

Specify the Docsy theme like any other Hugo theme when creating or updating your site. This gives you all the theme-y goodness but you’ll need to specify your own site structure. You can either use the theme as a submodule (our recommended approach for easy updates), or just clone the theme into your project’s themes subdirectory.

Whichever approach you use, for simplicity we recommend copying and editing our example site configuration for your project, or you may get Hugo errors for missing parameters and values when you try to build your site.

Using the Docsy theme as a submodule

Adding Docsy as a Git submodule is our recommended approach for using the theme, as it means your project always refers to the Docsy repo version at your chosen revision, rather than you having your own copy in your repo that may result in merge conflicts when you try to update it. This is the approach used by our example project.

To create a new Hugo site project and then add the Docs theme as a submodule, run the following commands from your project’s root directory.

hugo new site myproject
cd myproject
git init
git submodule add themes/docsy
echo 'theme = "docsy"' >> config.toml
git submodule update --init --recursive

To add the Docsy theme to an existing site, run the following commands from your project’s root directory:

git submodule add themes/docsy
echo 'theme = "docsy"' >> config.toml
git submodule update --init --recursive

Cloning the Docsy theme to your project’s themes subdirectory

If you don’t want to use a submodules (for example, if you want to customize and maintain your own copy of the theme directly, or your deployment choice requires you to include a copy of the theme in your repository), you can clone the theme into your project.

To clone Docsy into your project’s theme folder, run the following commands from your project’s root directory:

cd themes
git clone

If you want to build and/or serve your site locally, you also need to get local copies of the theme’s own submodules:

git submodule update --init --recursive

For more information, see Theme Components on the Hugo site.

Preview your site

To build and preview your site locally:

cd myproject
hugo server

By default, your site will be available at http://localhost:1313/. See the known issues on MacOS.

Basic site configuration

Site-wide configuration details and parameters are defined in your project’s config.toml file. These include your chosen Hugo theme (Docsy, of course!), project name, community links, Google Analytics configuration, and Markdown parser parameters. See the examples with comments in config.toml in the example project for how to add this information. We recommend copying this config.toml and editing it even if you’re just using the theme and not copying the entire Docsy example site.

The Docsy example site comes with some defaults you may want to remove or customize straight away:


The Docsy example site supports content in English and Norwegian. You can find out more about how Docsy supports multi-language content in Multi-language support.

If you don’t intend to translate your site to Norwegian, you can remove the language switcher by removing the following lines from config.toml:

title = "Docsy"
description = "Docsy er operativsystem for skyen"
languageName ="Norsk"
contentDir = "content/no"

To remove the translated source files, delete the docsy-example/content/no directory.

By default, the Docsy example site uses its own Google Custom Search Engine. To disable site search, delete or comment out the following lines:

# Google Custom Search Engine ID. Remove or comment out to disable search.
gcs_engine_id = "011737558837375720776:fsdu1nryfng"

To use your own Custom Search Engine, replace the value in the gcs_engine_id with the ID of your own search engine.

Known issues


Errors: too many open files or fatal error: pipe failed

By default, MacOS permits a small number of open File Descriptors. For larger sites or when you’re similtaneously running multiple applications, you might receive one of the following errors when you run hugo server to preview your site locally:

  • POSTCSS v7 and earlier:

    ERROR 2020/04/14 12:37:16 Error: listen tcp socket: too many open files
  • POSTCSS v8 and later:

    fatal error: pipe failed

To temporarily allow more open files:

  1. View your current settings by running:

    sudo launchctl limit maxfiles
  2. Increase the limit to 65535 files by running the following commands. If your site has fewer files, you can set choose to set lower soft (65535) and hard (200000) limits.

    sudo launchctl limit maxfiles 65535 200000
    ulimit -n 65535
    sudo sysctl -w kern.maxfiles=200000
    sudo sysctl -w kern.maxfilesperproc=65535

Note that you might need to set these limits for each new shell. Learn more about these limits and how to make them permanent.

What’s next?

Last modified January 19, 2021: apply edits (a28dad2)