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Travis-CI to Github Pages

I don't remember how I got on this, but I believe I had a recent twitter exchange with some persons (or saw it fly by) about pushing R package vignettes to the web after building and checking on travis-ci. Hadley Wickham pointed to using such a scheme to push the web version of his book after each update and the S3 deploy hooks on travis-ci. Deploying your html content to S3 is great, but given the availability of the gh-pages branch on GitHub, I thought it would be neat to work out how to deploy the html output from an R package vignette to the gh-pages branch on GitHub. This is useful because more and more packages are being hosted only on GitHub and building and testing use the travis-ci service, and it takes work to remember to knit and push stuff separately to the gh-pages branch. In addition, although it is possible to deploy one's html output to other services from within travis-ci, there is not an easy pushbutton solution to deploying to GitHub pages. After some searching and looking, this is what I have come up with for my own package.

All subsequent steps assume that:

  • You are hosting your package development on GitHub
  • You have html content in the gh-pages branch of your package repo (see more about gh-pages here and here)
  • You already have your package doing building and testing using travis-ci. See the r-travis project for more information on how to set this up.


To start, you will need to generate an OAUTH token on GitHub that will be used to allow you to push back to your GitHub repo. This will be some really long alphanumeric string. You can generate one by going to settings -> applications -> personal access tokens -> generate new token. Make sure to copy this into a file that is not under version control.

You will also need to install the travis ruby framework.

gem install travis

After installing, navigate to your git repo for the project you want to enable automatic pushing of content for, and then login to travis-ci and secure the GitHub token.

travis login

travis encrypt GH_TOKEN="yourgithubtoken"

This will generate output that should be copied to your .travis.yml file. Essentially we have created an environment variable GH_TOKEN with your actual GitHub token, that is encrypted on the travis-ci servers. So this way you don't expose your actual GitHub token to anyone who looks at your .travis.yml file.

Deploy Script

We also need a bash script that will actually push the content for us. As part of the R process on travis-ci, we get a tar.gz file of the package with the compiled vignette. So we just need to untar that file, copy the html file, and create the git repo and push. The code below is what I have done for my own package, categoryCompare. I saved this code in the file


rm -rf out || exit 0;
mkdir out;



for files in '*.tar.gz'; do
        tar xfz $files

cd out
git init
git config "rmflight-travis"
git config "travis"
cp ../categoryCompare/inst/doc/categoryCompare_vignette.html index.html

git add .
git commit -m "deployed to github pages"
git push --force --quiet $FULL_REPO master:gh-pages

Note that we remove the directory where we want to create our git repo, create it, setup the remote repo with the token string, and then we untar and unzip the previously built package, and copy over the file that we want to be the index.html page on the gh-pages branch. Finally we add it, commit it, and do a force push.

This script is actually part of the package repo, but does not get included in the built tar.gz file (add it to .Rbuildignore). This makes it easy to keep it in sync with any changes to the overall package itself.

Note that this is completely overriding the current contents of the gh-pages branch. If you wanted to do something nicer (i.e. preserving commits or working with an index page pointing to multiple vignettes), you could pull just the gh-pages branch first, and then make modifications.

Modifying .travis.yml

In addition, we need to add three lines to the .travis.yml file.

# under env: global:
  - secure: "yoursecurestring"

# under before_install:
  - chmod 755 ./

# under after_success:
  - ./
  • Adding the GH_TOKEN to the global environment variables
  • Making the deploy script executable
  • Adding the running of the deploy script after_success, so only when build and check and tests run successfully

And it seems to work quite nicely. As an example, my categoryCompare package now has it's vignette on the gh-pages branch, and this will get updated every time I push a commit.


As Carson pointed out below, there was an error in the second code block. travis secure should be travis encrypt, as you are encrypting the credentials. secure is for decrypting something that was already encrypted. Thanks for catching it!

Tagged in: R
Posted on 2014-11-05
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