Repeatable items


Sometimes across a book or a collection of books, you want to repeat snippets of content. For instance, you may have a standard introduction to all your books, or ‘About the author’ text that you want to add to the ends of certain chapters. Or you might want several books to draw questions or create quizzes from the same set of possible questions.

You can create repeatable items like this by saving them as standalone files in the _items folder. The contents of the _items folder should be structured in the same way as a book folder. That is, markdown files should be in _items/text, and markdown files for a French translation would be in _items/fr/text.

To include an item in your book, use the include item tag, and specify in the tag which file you want to include. For example:

{% include item file="" %}

In your output, the content in _items/text/ will appear where you placed that tag.

Note that the file extension is optional. So you can also use:

{% include item file="about-charles-dickens" %}

This is convenient, but also means that you shouldn’t use the same file name for different files with different extensions. If you had both and about-charles-dickens.html in _items/text, your output will include the second one alphabetically:

Note that include tags (or other Liquid tags) inside items may not regnerate when you’re running an incremental build with Jekyll, because of the sequence in which Jekyll processes Liquid tags and content.

YAML frontmatter in items

An item must start with YAML frontmatter, just like your book’s text files, even if it’s blank. At a minimum, blank YAML frontmatter is two lines of three hyphens at the top of the document:


This tells Jekyll to process the file, which ensures that Jekyll knows about it when you include it somewhere.

You can also add YAML frontmatter data to each item. This is important for multiple-choice questions, for example, which must include the correct answer options in their frontmatter:

correct: 1, 4

Overriding items per book

Items in a book’s text folder will override the ones in the main _items folder, if they have the same file name.

Let’s say you have five books in your project that use the ‘About Charles Dickens’ item; but, in one of your books, you want that item to say something different. Just copy the item to that book’s /text folder, and edit it there.

When you use {% include item file="about-charles-dickens" %} in that book, you’ll get the version in the book’s /text folder, and not the one from _items.

Translated items

When you need to create translations of items in the _items folder, save those in a subfolder of _items that has the same name as the book’s translation folder.

For instance, if your book’s French translation is in book/fr, save your French items to _items/fr, in relevant text or images subfolders.

Then in the French book text, use the include item tag as usual:

{% include item file="" %}

This way, you can use exactly the same tags across translations, and your output will include the relevant item from the relevant translation folder automatically. No need to rename files.


Images stored in _items/images follow the same conventions as in books. That is, place master images in _items/images/_source and process them using the output script (or gulp --book _items).

Translated images should go into language subfolders of _items, such as _items/fr/images/_source for French images.


Unlike book directories, items may not inherit their parent-language’s images. This ability is still in development. All images in the _items parent folder may need to be copied to (or translated in) each translation’s images folder in _items, such as _items/fr/images.

Using include figure with images in items is also a feature in development.

Creating new item-based includes (advanced)

The YAML metadata in an item can be very useful, especially if you want to create your own include tags that use items.

The mcq include is an example: it uses the item include to get the item as a programming object, and then outputs the parts of that object that it needs. Each of the item’s YAML-frontmatter fields is accessible in the item object.

To get an item as an object, rather than as generated output, add return="object" when you include item in your new include. For example:

{% include item file=include.file return="object" %}

For instance, let’s say you’re creating an include that outputs the title and reading-grade of a poem stored in _items. You might create an include called poem-grade, which uses the item include to fetch an item object.

This YAML in the item

title: "The Tiger"
grades: 10, 11, 12

would be accessible in your poem include as {{ item-file-object.grades }} and {{ item-file-object.title }}.

Your poem-grade include might look like this:

{% include item file=include.file return="object" %}
'{{ item-file-object.title }}': grades {{ item-file-object.grades }}

And when you use that include in your book’s text, you’d use:

{% include poem-grade file="the-tiger" %}

assuming that you’d saved the poem in _items/text as