Quire Basics Tutorial

Get started with a walkthrough of Quire fundamentals

Get started with a walkthrough of Quire fundamentals

Developed by Getty, Quire offers an elegant and affordable digital publishing solution ideal for creating dynamic publications in a variety of formats, including web, print, and e-book. Through the use of static site generation and plain text files, Quire makes it possible to preserve and distribute works in a stable and accessible format.

There is no user interface in Quire. This is an intentional decision. The transparency of Quire’s backend provide more flexibility and opportunity for customization. For that reason, as you get started with Quire, it is important to familiarize yourself with the three core components that you will use to create, edit, and output your Quire project:

  • - Use a freely available text editor to edit your publication files
  • - Use your computer’s built-in command-line shell to tell Quire what to do (like quire new to start a new project and quire preview to preview your project)
  • - Use a web browser to preview your work in real-time
When you work in Quire, you’ll be using a text editor (left), a command-line shell (center), and a web browser (right).

In the following sections, you’ll learn more about these interconnected components and get some hands-on experience working on a Quire project.

1. Understand the Command-Line Shell

The first thing you’ll need is a command-line shell, which is an interface that allows you to control your computer through text. Macs already have a good shell installed called Terminal. It can be found in the Applications/Utilities folder or by pressing Command–Spacebar and typing “Terminal” to search for it. PCs also come with a built-in shell called PowerShell. Open it by right clicking on Start and selecting “Windows PowerShell” or you can use the search bar to find it.

In addition to telling Quire what to do, the command-line shell is an effective text-based way of viewing and navigating your computer’s files. You can use the command-line shell to move between different directories and list the contents of particular directory (otherwise known as a folder) in the same way you would use Finder or File Explorer. When you open your shell, by default, you will be in your .

Both the command-line shell (left) and the Finder window (right) are views of the same directory on your computer. In this case, we are in a directory called “my-project” in a user account “workstation” and we can see a number of files and sub-directories which happen to make up a Quire project.
  • ls lists all the files in the directory you’re in
  • cd my-project followed by a space and a directory name, will move you into that directory (for example, my project)
  • cd by itself will return you to your home directory
  • !! will re-run the last command you entered
  • Pressing Control–C will stop any process from running
  • Typing cd and then dragging and dropping the Quire directory icon into your shell will copy the full file path.

For a deeper dive into the command-line, check out a “Really Friendly Command Line Intro”, or the Programming Historian’s “Introduction to the Bash Command Line”.

Try it for Yourself

  1. Open your shell.
  2. Type ls to list the folders and files in your home directory.
  3. Type cd followed by the name of a directory you want to navigate to. For example, cd Downloads will take you into the Downloads directory.
  4. Run ls again to view the contents of that folder.
  5. Pull up your Finder or File Explorer to compare the listed files.
  6. Type cd ~ again to go back to your home directory.

2. Install Quire

Now that you understand how to use the command-line shell, follow the steps in the documentation links below and use it to install Quire:

3. Create a New Project

Once you’ve successfully installed Quire, it’s time to create a new project to work on. When you run the command quire new in addition to a name for your new project in the command-line shell, Quire will create a new directory in your home directory with a sample Quire publication, including content, images, and relevant metadata that you can use as a template for your own project.

  • Below we use the example my-project, but you can call your project anything you want as long as you use hyphens rather than spaces and all lowercase text.

Try it for Yourself

  1. Open your command-line shell.
  2. Run the following command:
quire new my-project
  1. When your starter project has finished installing, you will see your computer username appear with a cursor. This means you are ready to run the next command and preview your project.

4. Preview Your Project

Quire allows you to preview your work in realtime. All you need is your browser. Your Quire project will not be visible to anyone other than you. The preview lives locally on your computer and can be viewed even if you are not connected to the internet.

When your run quire new Quire starts you with a demo project with some default content. You can then preview this project locally in your browser as you make changes.

Try it for Yourself

  1. Type cd my-project in your command-line shell and press enter. This will move you from your home directory into your new my-project folder.
  2. Once you are in the my-project folder, type quire preview and press enter.
  3. You will know your project is ready to be viewed when you see the URL http://localhost:8080. Cut and paste that link into your browser to see a realtime preview of your project.

5. Work in a Text Editor

Some placeholder demo content comes with each new Quire project. To start customizing it you’ll need a text editor. Like its name implies, a text editor is simply a program used to edit text. It’s like Microsoft Word, but instead of dealing with text formatted for print, text editors use human-readable code and markup to format the text for conversion to HTML.

Macs and PCs come with some simple text editors built in, but we recommend using one that offers more in terms of auto-formatting as well as being able to see and work in multiple text files at a time. Visual Studio Code, Brackets, and Sublime Text are good options.

When working on a Quire project in a text editor you can see and access all your project files from the sidebar at the left.

Try it for Yourself

  1. If you haven’t already, download and install the text editor of your choosing.
  2. Open your text editor.
  3. Click “File” at the top of your screen and navigate to your home directory.
  4. Select your my-project directory and open it in your text editor.

6. Enter Publication Metadata

The metadata for your publication (its title, subtitle, contributors, publication date, etc.) is used under the hood for (SEO). It is also used in various areas of your site including headings, navigation labels, and on your About or Copyright page. As much as possible, Quire works on the principle of having information exist in only one place in your files and using code to display it in multiple places in the publication as needed. This means when you make a change to something you only do it once and it changes everywhere.

All publication metadata is in the publication.yaml file for your project. You can find this file in the _data folder of your content directory. The format of how the metadata is stored is called (yam-ul). It’s designed to be a plain-text way of capturing information that appears in multiple places throughout your project and is therefore treated as data. The general principal is to have the name of a data item followed by a colon, a space, and then the data item’s value. For example:

title: "New Deal Photography"
subtitle: "The Works of Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans"
Basic publication information lives in the publication.yaml file, and is used throughout the site. Here we see the title being used on the cover, in the PDF version of the publication, and in the side navigation.
  • Certain character combinations can cause issues with the way the YAML data is processed and may cause your site preview to fail. It is recommended to always wrap YAML information in straight quotes to prevent these types of errors.
  • Changes made to YAML files sometimes don’t preview right away in the browser. If refreshing the browser doesn’t work, stop and restart the quire preview process in your command-line shell.
  • If you can’t pinpoint what’s causing an error, copy and paste your YAML text into an online YAML validator, which will alert you to any formatting issues.

To learn more about the way metadata is used in Quire, visit the Metadata & Configuration section of this guide.

Try it for Yourself

  1. Open the content/_data/publication.yaml file.
  2. Change the title and subtitle.
  3. Save the changes.
  4. Preview the work in your browser and notice the changes to the navigation bar and expandable side-bar menu.
  5. If you do not see the changes right away, use Control-C to stop the preview and run quire preview again.

7. Edit Content

One of the most important directories in your Quire project, and where you will spend the majority of your time, is the aptly named content directory. In addition to the _data, _assets, and _computed folders, the content directory contains the editable (.md) files that make up the bulk of your publication’s content. Each .md file represents a page of your website/book. These files are created using YAML and Markdown.


Just as the overall publication has metadata, each page has metadata that is also stored in YAML. You will notice the page YAML, surround by three dashes (---) at the top of each .md file. The three most basic types of page YAML that you’ll always want to include are the title, layout, and order. The layout determines how the page will be structured and order determines the overall page order of your publication. Without order the pages will default to alphabetical order.


Learn more in the Pages Types & Structures section of this guide.

Try it For Yourself

  1. Open the project’s intro.md file.
  2. Change the .md file name to preface.md. Do this by right clicking on the file in your text editor and selecting “Rename”. This will also change the URL of the page.
  3. In the page YAML, change the title value from Introduction to Preface.
  4. Change the layout value from splash to page. This change will eliminate the image that appears across the top of the Preface. (You can also delete the YAML image: figures/lange-house.jpg as it is no longer necessary.)
  5. Open the about.md file.
  6. Change the order in the about.md file to 7. If you look at the sidebar menu, you will see this places About directly after the Table of Contents which has order: 6, and before Preface (preface.md), which has order: 10.
  7. If you do not see the changes right away, use Control-C to stop the preview and run quire preview again.


In addition to the page YAML, .md files also contain . Markdown is a simple, plain-text markup language that uses basic symbols, such as hash marks, asterisks, and brackets, to format content for easy conversion into HTML.

Here are some of the things you can do with Markdown:

  • Add italics to a word or phrase by surrounding it with single asterisks: *a phrase in italics*.
  • Add bold to a word or phrase by surrounding it with double asterisks: **a phrase in bold**.
  • Add a second-level heading by putting the text on it’s own line, preceded by two hashmarks: ## Heading 2.
  • Add a link by putting the link text in square brackets followed by the URL in parentheses: [click here](http://www.myurl.com).

Learn more in the YAML & Markdown section of this guide.

Try it for Yourself

  1. In the about.md file, delete all the text that falls below the page YAML, starting with “This starter theme…”.
  2. With your page now empty, aside from the page YAML, copy-and-paste the following text that has been formatted with Markdown:
## A Riotous Energy

There are many canvases the subjects of which are more
pathologic than artistic, subjects only fit for the
confessional or the privacy of the clinic. But, apart
from these *disagreeable episodes*, the main note of the
is a riotous energy, the noisy ebullition of a gang
of students let loose in the halls of art.
  1. View the changes in your browser preview.

8. Add Images

To add more specialized features to your publication, such as images, multimedia, or citations, Quire extends Markdown’s capabilities with a set of . Shortcodes pull data from the YAML files in the _data folder and insert them into your .md files. For example, the figures.yaml file contains YAML values for caption, src, and id, among others. The id is critical and is used in the shortcode as an identifier. It pulls the image and any additional information found in the figures.yaml entry into the .md file that includes the shortcode. Keep in mind, if you update the information stored in figures.yaml, it will not only update on your page but also anywhere else that figure id is used.

Figures are added with a “shortcode” that references an id. The id is listed in your project’s figures.yaml file along with a caption and other YAML values.

Learn more in the Figure Images section of this guide.

Try it for Yourself

  1. Type the following figure image shortcode on a new line in your about.md file.
{% figure 'fig-1' %}
  1. Save the change and check the preview in your browser. A new image should appear on the About page.
  2. Navigate to your project’s figures.yaml file and look for the id value of fig-1.
  3. Make edits to the caption value for fig-1 and preview your changes.
  4. If you do not see the changes right away, use Control-C to stop the preview and run quire preview again.

9. Customize Styles

There are number of ways you can customize the look and feel of your Quire publication, including updating the cover image or altering the colors and styles of different interface elements (like the menu, navigation bar, and links) with variables.

A background image can be added to the cover by adding it to the page YAML of your cover.md page (images: cover_2.jpg). Colors and other styles can be customized in the variables.scss file of your project’s theme.

Cover Image

A background image can be added to most pages by indicating the image in the page YAML of that page. The image itself is stored in the content/_assets/images/figures/ directory of your project. You’ll see that this is also where images are stored for use with the {% figure %} shortcode mentioned above.

Try it for Yourself

  1. Open the index.md file found in the main content directory. This is your cover page.
  2. Delete the YAML value "pattern-spiral-overlay.png" and replace it with the text below:
  1. Save the file and preview the results in the browser.
  2. If you do not see the changes right away, use Control-C to stop the preview and run quire preview again.

CSS Variables

Variables live inside the content/_assets/styles folder in a file called variables.scss. Here you’ll find a number of variables, prefixed with a dollar sign $, that are descriptive of what they control.

Read more about applying your own custom CSS styles, altering page templates, and creating a new theme in the “Customizing Styles” section of this guide.

Try it for Yourself

  1. Navigate to the variables.scss file in your text editor.
  2. Find the section labeled “// Declare the navbar color style: normal/accent” and change the $navbar value to accent.
  3. Then scroll down to the section labeled “// Declare navbar colors.” These variables control the background color of the navigation bar at the top of every page.
  4. Now change the $quire-navbar-color value to rosybrown.
  5. Now, save the changes in your text editor and preview it in your browser.
  6. If you do not see the changes right away, use Control-C to stop the preview and run quire preview again.

10. Output Your Project

Once you’ve played around with adding content and customizing your project, it’s time to output it. One of the most significant differences between Quire and other digital publishing tools is the ability to produce your project in multiple formats, including website, E-book, and print. You can create these different versions of your project by running the command quire build which will create the site files that are then used to build the PDF and EPUB. Those formats are then generated with the commands quire pdf or quire epub.

Read more about outputting your publication files and deploying your project in the “Output Your Project”and “Deploy Your Project” sections of this guide.

Try it For Yourself

  1. Use Control-C to stop the preview of your project.
  2. While you are still in the project folder, run the command quire build.
  3. Once that process is done, run the command quire pdf.
  4. Open your Finder and go into your project folder, you should see the PDF for your project there as pagedjs.pdf!

Congratulations! Now What?

Congratulations on completing the tutorial! We’ve touched on Quire’s core concepts and functionality, but of course there’s more to learn and do.

Next Steps: