Adding Critical CSS in Pelican

Posted on 2015-09-14

Last updated 2017-01-05

As it turns out, adding critical css wasn't trivial, but didn't take as much effort as I had originally thought. My site's layout doesn't contain that much styling, and so I simply added all of my CSS as an inline style tag. The tricky part, was getting Jinja to play nicely.

The first step was to generate a separate css file that only contained what was needed when you first load and see the page. I use Less as my pre-processor, and created a very small Less file that looked like this:

@import (inline) '../tipuesearch/tipuesearch.css';

@import 'default_mobile.less';
@import 'largescreens.less';

Once compiled and minimized1, I needed to add it to my base.html template.

<style type="text/css">
{% include 'critical.css' %}
</style>

Here is where the problem when generating my site.

WARNING: Caught exception "TemplateSyntaxError: Missing end of comment tag". Reloading.

Since my minimized CSS contained '{#', Jinja was interpreting this as a comment and raised an exception. While this is an easy fix by changing the Jinja environment variables within Pelican's generators.py, I didn't want to go this route since I would need to update this2 every time there was an update to Pelican. Instead, I wrote a Jinja extension which Pelican supports natively.

# in pelicanconf.py
from jinja2.ext import Extension

class CustomCommentStrings(Extension):
    def __init__(self, environment):
        super(CustomCommentStrings, self).__init__(environment)

        environment.comment_start_string = '###'
        environment.comment_end_string = '/###'

JINJA_EXTENSIONS = [CustomCommentStrings]

Update 2017-01-05

If you're using Pelican version 3.7+, you don't have to write the custom extension shown above, you can simply update the JINJA_ENVIRONMENT settings variable:

JINJA_ENVIRONMENT = {
    'comment_start_string': '###', 
    'comment_end_string': '/###'
}

One thing to note here is that if you are using {# ... #} as comment strings in Jinja, you'll need to update them to whatever new start and end strings you define.

And success! The critical.css file was successfully imported and I now my critical CSS is included on page load. With this, Google now gives me a 100/100 speed score for mobile and 98/100 on desktop.


  1. Google suggests that you minimize critical css to reduce your file size. 

  2. I plan on submitting a pull-request to allow manually setting Jinja environment variables. 

Tags: pelican scripting python

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