Deploy Preview Links

by Shawn Erquhart on February 8, 2019

Netlify CMS 2.4.0 brings deploy preview links!

Deploy preview link for unpublished content

Seeing is believing

The editorial workflow allows editors to create draft content in Netlify CMS, and Netlify can provide deploy previews of draft content, but there hasn't been a way to access links to these preview builds from within Netlify CMS. The preview pane in the editor is a good tool for seeing how content will look on the site, but in the words of Marvin Gaye, "ain't nothing like the real thing!" As Mr. Gaye bemoaned the absence of his beloved, so content creators long for the warm embrace of an actual production build. Their words, not ours.

Solution: GitHub Statuses

GitHub statuses

For sites using the GitHub (or Git Gateway with GitHub) backend, we now have deploy preview links in the CMS using the GitHub Statuses API. Many static sites already have continuous deployment and deploy previews configured on their repo, and they often use statuses to provide a link to a deployment directly from a commit or pull request. To retrieve a commit status that provides a deploy preview URL, we check for a status whose "context" contains one of a list of keywords commonly associated with deploy previews.

If a status is not found, nothing happens in the UI. If a status is found, but the deploy preview isn't ready, we provide a "Check for Preview" link, allowing the content editor to manually check back until the preview is ready:

Deploy preview link for unpublished content

When the preview is ready, the "Check for Preview" button is replaced with a link to the content:

Deploy preview link for unpublished content

Deploy preview links generally direct to the root of a site, but Netlify CMS can also link straight to the piece of content being edited. By providing a string template for each collection, you can get links that go right where editors expect them to. More complex URL's can be constructed using date information from your content files.

Unpublished vs. published

If you're not using the editorial workflow, you may not feel you need this very much. Whenever you save content, it's immediatlely published, so you can navigate to your live site to see the changes. That said, it's at least convenient to have a link direct to your content from the CMS, so deploy preview links can also work for CMS installs that do not use the editorial workflow. Instead of retrieving a URL from a commit status, this functionality requires setting a site_url in your config, and that URL is used in place of the deploy preview URL.

GitLab and Bitbucket

Support is coming soon for these two awesome backends! Stay tuned.

Try it out!

Deploy preview links are live in Netlify CMS 2.4.0. Please give them a try and let us know if you have any problems by opening an issue or reaching out in our community chat on Gitter!

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