Front Matter: a headless CMS for Hugo that runs in VS Code
Forestry.io is scheduled to shut down this spring. When it does, the Jamstack world will lose one of the most editor-friendly, easy-to-use git-based CMSes around. CloudCannon is a fine alternative, and run by an awsome team with whom I’ve worked with in the past.
I run a few websites using Hugo — like this one. So this CMS migration offered an opportunity for me to reconsider my whole approach for the next few years. As an indie creative and publisher, do I really need a (subscription-based) hosted SaaS CMS built for teams? Isn’t there something easier?
Still in love with Hugo
I even took a few steps waaaay back — is Hugo for sitebuilding still the right choice for me? Should I consider migrating to WordPress?
That decision came quickly: no way. I’m still in love with the ease and simplicity of static sites. I don’t want to manage a database, PHP, a web server, and the relentless grind of security updates just to publish a couple of blogs and some community websites.
Plus, I write all my notes in Markdown already in my favorite note taking app / knowledge management system, Obsidian. I’m still in love with the eduring simplicity and power of plain text, driving Hugo and some templates, to quickly and easily publish a website.
Then I discover Front Matter
I’d stumbled across the headless CMS Front Matter in the past, but never gave it too much attention. This time, I looked more closely, and loved everything that I saw:
- No hosting or SaaS required: Front Matter works as an extension to Visual Studio Code, my standard code editor already.
- Works Hugo and many more: Like a good headless CMS, Front Matter is mostly concerned with the editing experience of markdown files. It works seamlessly with Hugo and a bunch of others, too.
- Offers a visual index for asset management: nice image library? Check. Easy to drop images to content? Check.
- Provides powerful tag and category management: what!? That’s right: Front Matter provides powerful cross document tag management, allowing for easy taxonomy updates when needed.
- Offers easy previews right in VS Code: set a few configuration variables and, bang, you’ve got integrated content previews, locally, right in VSC.
It’s been a breeze updating Front Matter’s content model to suit my site’s content, and it has rich content types that meet my publishing needs.
Probably not for teams, obviously
Since Front Matter runs locally directly in VS Code, it’s not a good fit for teams who might be editing the same documents at the same time. And VS Code can be a bit intimidating, so non-technical editors might have a learning curve getting used to it. Fortunately, Front Matter’s excellent UI provides big value for even VS Code ninjas: there’s nothing quite as easy as selecting tags from a dropdown, or images from an asset library.
And quite a bit to grow into
Out of the box, Front Matter “just worked.” A joy! But there’s plenty of room to explore and configure, too. I’ll write up my notes on Front Matter and Hugo over time as I get settled into this new superpowered, local, headless CMS.
Thank you, Front Matter, for making exactly what I needed!