Publish github pages using git submodules

28 Jul 2014

When I first start using github pages to publish web pages, it was pretty difficult for me keep the source code and build seperately. To publish the build with gihub pages I need to

  • commit code to master
  • build and copy the build to temporary location
  • switch to gh-pages branch
  • copy back the build and push to gh-pages.

It was too much complicated until I got introduced to git submodules.

Submodules allow you to keep a Git repository as a subdirectory of another Git repository.

Its not only another repository, but also another branch of the same repository. Here to make publishing easier, I used git submodules which will convert my publish directory points to gh-pages branch.

Setup the Git respository

To start with commit your sourcecode to master branch and push to the remote repository. Then create a orphan branch named gh-pages.

git checkout --orphan gh-pages

Removed all the files which are cached to commit. Then create a sample file and push to the remote. This is to create the branch at remote. Then switch to master branch.

Setup dist/publish folder

If you already have a dist/publish directory remove it from the project and .gitignore.

Create submodule

Create a gh-pages as the submodule to the dist directory

git submodule add -b <branch name> <repo url> <dist/publish directory>


git submodule add -b gh-pages dist

You are done, the gh-pages is now cloned to dist directory. Now when I change directory to dist the git branch will be be set to gh-pages

Change to dist

and when I change back the git branch will be master.

change back


Sometimes I forgot to create a gh-pages branch in the remote before trying to clone gh-pages to dist. This will lead to an error. Then I go and set up gh-pages and come back to clone it again, But then I get another error which says

A git directory for ‘dist’ is found locally with remote(s)

In this case the only solution which worked for me is to remove the dist module.

rm -rf .git/modules/path_to_submodule

In my case it is rm -rf .git/modules/dist

If you particularly enjoy my work, I appreciate donations given with Gittip.