Librarian - a minimalist file-based, headless CMS in PHP

Librarian - a minimalist file-based, headless CMS in PHP

Posted 2 years ago in

Update: Librarian now has its own documentation website, built with Librarian :) check it out:

Disclaimer: as a DigitalOcean employee, I am not entitled to win any prizes in this hackaton, but I was encouraged to participate as an exercise and to provide a sample PHP application that can help others get inspired :)

What I built

A headless CMS that can be used as a personal portfolio of your DEV content.

Category Submission:

Personal Site/Portfolio

App Link


Screenshot: Librarian as headless CMS pulling content from


Librarian is a minimalist file-based, headless CMS written in PHP, on top of minicli.

Link to Source Code

Permissive License



Last year, I wanted a simple website to show all my DEV posts in a more "branded", personal way. So I started working on this application, but I never really finished it.

As the year started, I decided to finally get this application finished and submit it to the DigitalOcean + DEV hackaton as an exercise.

The great thing about this project is that it is very small, it uses only a small $5 instance and doesn't require databases or other components. You can quickly spin up a sample app using the Deploy to DO button below, but for a more serious usage you should fork the project on GitHub so you're able to customize the templates to your own liking.

Deploy to DO button

How I built it

This project uses PHP to parse markdown files based on pre-defined directory structure conventions. It is built on top of a dependency-free CLI library I built called Minicli.

Although I have created a good starting point last year, there were a lot of things missing, so this time around I included an RSS feed, fixed dozens of bugs, improved the layout, and made sure it is deployable to App Platform.

I learned a lot about BulmaCSS while working in the updated front end, and also learned more about the App Spec format and the "Deploy to DO" button. My favorite thing is that I can now quickly spin up small project documentation sites and content-focused, segmented sites for only $5 a month using this app.

Additional Resources/Info

I will be updating the project repository with more docs soon.

The following video shows the whole process of deploying the sample app using the DO button and importing DEV posts to the new blog.