Let’s look at Jekyll’s collections, which are a way to group information together within the static website generator Jekyll. We’ve talked about jekyll before, so if you are new to it, check out this article or browse through the related jekyll articles.

Now let’s go into the main subject! We are assuming you are working with Jekyll version 3.7.0 and above, for the demonstrated examples.

Enabling Collections

To enable the collection feature, you can follow the jekyll documentation, but let me get you a run down to set it for two collections.

  • First, add in your _config.yml file the collections:
    output: true  # For Jekyll to render the content of the collection
    category: talk # To add metadata to all content of the collection
    output: true  

By default the collections’ content is not rendered, so we need to specify the output:true. For the content to be picked up, the naming must match the jekyll _ pattern.

  • Second, add the content with the correct folder structure:
├── _conference
   └── // ...conference's content
├── _portfolio
   └── // ...portfolio's content
└── _posts
    └── // ...posts

The _portfolio and _conference folders are now defined, and you can start adding some content into it. Same as any page or posts, you can also create a specific layout for each collection. At this point it’s up to you to make the most of it.

You can use the name of the collection directly to navigate through its content, for example printing the title of each element:

{% for item in site.portfolio  %}
  <li><a href="{{ item.url }}">{{ item.title }}</a></li>
{% endfor %}

But the major drawback is that you need to access the collection by name using site.portfolio or site.conference which doesn’t make for much flexibility.

Going through all collections

In some cases, you would want to take care of each collection in a for loop without duplication using the previous method. Worry not, as Jekyll has you covered!

Let’s look at the site.collections object:

<p>{{ site.collection.size }}</p>
{% for collection in site.collections %}
  <p>{{ collection.label }} </p>
{% endfor %}

As you can see there’s not 2 but 3 collections represented, portfolio, conference and posts! Even if there are no posts, the collection is built-in.
Now you could ignore it if you don’t have posts as it won’t interference, but if you do, it’s not as straightforward as you might think.

Here’s how to loop through each collection and print the collection’s name and the title, url of each item:

{% for collection in site.collections %}
  <h2>{{ collection.label }}</h2>
  {% unless collection.label == "posts" %}  
    {% for item in site[collection.label] %}
      <li><a href="{{ item.url }}">{{ item.title }}</a></li>
    {% endfor %}
  {% endunless %}  
{% endfor %}

Using unless to display the content unless it’s part of the posts collection. Remember that if you are looping through a collection, to use metadata that is in the content of both collections or you might get unexpected results.


With this article, we’ve seen how to set up the basic collection features and how to push it further. Collections can feel a bit redundant, since for the two main usages, there’s already a pushed upon alternative:

  • You could use collections for metadata, like in for a list of authors.
    • But you can also do that with _data and specify the data another yaml file.
  • You could use collections for separate content, like here for different kinds of “posts” or “pages”
    • But you could also use metadata like category on the pages to filter them out.

But redundancy is not necessarily a bad, and collections give you some flexibility and out-of-the-box solutions for common problems without having to deal with additional liquid markup customization in layouts.

We saw that posts are a built-in collection in Jekyll. Mastering collections, means you can leverage in the _config.yml file the collections_dir: my_collections options and put everything _posts and other _{collections} under a new folder. Although it does trim the root of your project, for an open-source theme that you wish to share, this might make adoption more complicated (more work for the end user to convert to your theme).