Version 5.0 Beta 0 (October 2020)

What’s new?

There are a number of exciting updates in this version that we hope you will like, including:

  • šŸ“ˆ Data visualization
  • Cite pages and publications with the new Cite shortcode
    • {{< cite page="/publication/preprint" view="4" >}}
  • Option to highlight specific authors (such as colleagues) in author lists (details below)
  • Add author notes such as for clarifying affiliations or contributions (details below)
  • New book layout for multi-page content - easily create online courses, notebooks, knowledge bases, project documentation, or - you guessed it - books
    • Similar to the docs layout, but more intuitive to use
    • No need to manually define all the book menu links!
    • New shortcode for listing child pages {{< list_children >}}
    • We’ve already converted this Wowchemy Docs site to the books layout to make managing content even simpler
  • Add podcasts and music to your pages with the new Audio shortcode
    • For example, place markvard.mp3 in a page’s folder and use {{< audio src="markvard.mp3" >}}
  • Now also edit authors, talks, publications, projects, and the homepage (to an extent) in the Netlify CMS admin panel
  • Use emojis and custom SVG images as icons in the Featurette (skills) widget
  • Add spoilers such as to reveal answers to questions (details below)

Other improvements include:

  • Significant performance increase such as by preloading pages
  • Customize the see all link in the Pages widget (details in Beta 1 release note)
  • Ability to add a Creative Commons copyright license on either a site wide or per page basis (details below)
  • Ability to write the names of authors, tags, and categories in Unicode (e.g. Chinese)
  • Flicker-free light/dark theming
    • There’s no longer page flicker when a user’s light/dark preference differs to the theme’s default light/dark mode
  • More intuitive approach for users to choose a light, dark, or automatic (system default) appearance
  • Screen reader support added for featured images
  • Initial support for Right to Left (RTL) languages
  • Enable non-rectangular widget styles and shaped background reveals with the experimental clip_path option under a widget’s [design] section
    • Refer to CSS clip-path docs and generators for inspiration - draw a heart, a circular reveal of an underlying photographic background, or even a bear :D

Learn how to use these exciting new features on your site by following the links and checking out the New Features section on this page šŸš€

Update to this version

ā¤ļø If you upgrade, please support the significant effort which goes into this open source movement by kindly giving back and sponsoring on GitHub

Supported Hugo Versions

This release is compatible with Hugo Extended v0.78.2. (Future Hugo versions may work but are untested.)

  • If you deploy your site with Netlify, update HUGO_VERSION in your netlify.toml to "0.78.2".
  • If you run Hugo on your computer, update the Hugo Extended app to a compatible version

Convert your site to use Hugo Modules

Wowchemy and its templates, such as Academic, use the open source Hugo tool to generate sites, converting Markdown to HTML.

Hugo team have taken the strategic decision to significantly transform Hugo with a plugin-like Module system, similar to competing static site generators. Hugo Modules are now the core building blocks in Hugo.

As such, we have taken the initiative to create a dedicated repository for Hugo Modules and convert the Wowchemy templates to use the new modular system.

If your site does not contain a go.mod file (i.e. was based on the old Academic Kickstarter template), it can be converted to use Hugo Modules.

You can attempt to upgrade in the cloud by using the GitHub editor. Otherwise, we can edit locally - the full version of Hugo now requires Git and Go, so let’s run a couple of commands to install those dependencies on your computer. It’s worth mentioning that the Hugo team hope to remove these dependencies in a future version of Hugo.

Open your Terminal (Mac/Linux) or Powershell (Windows) app and use the cd command to navigate to your website folder.

Remove the Git submodule for Academic:

git submodule deinit themes/academic    
git rm themes

(Alternatively, deleting the .gitmodules file and the themes folder may remove most of the old system.)

If you use the Netlify CMS admin panel, remove the static/admin/ folder as we’ll install it via the Module plugin system so that your site can automatically get updates for it.

Then update config/_default/config.toml:

  • Remove theme = "academic"
  • Add to the bottom of the file:
        path = ""
        path = ""

Add then hugo mod init my-site to create a go.mod file for Hugo to record your Hugo Modules (or copy the new go.mod file to your site folder). The go.mod file tells Hugo which version of Wowchemy (or any other modules) to load.

You may find it useful to compare your site with the latest Academic template.

If you wish to use the tagged v5.0.0 Beta 0 version (rather than the cutting edge work-in-progress version), you can ensure this by running:

hugo mod clean
hugo mod get
hugo mod get
hugo mod tidy

Apply Breaking Changes

  1. Optionally, add the following lines to your config/_default/params.toml - view example:
    # Content Management System
     # Enable the admin panel. See
     netlify_cms = true
    # Icon Pack Extensions
     ai = true  # Enable the Academicons icon pack
  • Customize the new options above to your liking
    • Set ai = true above if your site uses the academic (ai) icon pack, otherwise you can get a performance boost by setting it to false
    • Set netlify_cms = true to enable the Netlify Identity authentication for you to login to the Netlify CMS admin panel
  1. The media library folder is now configurable, with the default changing from static/img/ to static/media/ as it can now contain any kind of media. Either:
  • Rename your site’s static/img/ folder to static/media/ (and update any references to the img/ folder in your Markdown files);
  • OR, add media_dir = "img" to params.toml to continue using the legacy location (note Netlify CMS uses media folder)
  1. To align better with the Hugo framework, rename the name field to title in author profiles within the author/ folder and ensure each author profile is within its own folder - view example
  • E.g. name: Nelson Bighetti is renamed to title: Nelson Bighetti in content/authors/admin/

Optional Changes

  • Make taxonomy URLs singular, consistent with other Wowchemy pages by adding the following to your config/_default/config.toml file:
    # Workaround Hugo publishing taxonomy URLs as plurals - consistently use singular across Wowchemy.
      authors = "/author/:slug/"
      tags = "/tag/:slug/"
      categories = "/category/:slug/"
      publication_types = "/publication-type/:slug/"
  • Rename any instances of the alert shortcode to callout as alert will be deprecated in a future release - warning messages will show which pages to update
  • Convert any pages using the docs type to use the more intuitive books type
    • docs type is still available to use, but may be deprecated in a future release
    • the books type doesn’t require any menu items to be created šŸ˜ƒ
  • If you are using a custom address format, the address formats have moved to a dedicated file. To modify the available formats, copy to data/address_formats.toml or contribute an improvement
  • Update your data/page_sharer.toml (if exists) to open WhatsApp sharing links in the WhatsApp mobile app rather than the web app
  • For non-English sites, add language pack options for translating Light (theme_light), Dark (theme_dark), and Automatic (theme_auto). Refer to the docs on customising the interface language for more info.


Check out the troubleshooting guide.

If you deploy with Netlify, you might see Error: failed to download modules...unknown subcommand "mod" in which case login to Netlify and set GO_VERSION to 1.12 in your Environment settings. Then click Deploys tab, and from the Trigger Deploy dropdown, choose Deploy Site.

You can also compare your site structure, config, and front matter with those in the templates. Alternatively, consider starting fresh with one of the new templates and migrating your domain and content across.

If the issue is not resolved, feel free to post on our GitHub Discussions Forum with a link to your GitHub repository and a description of the issue.

New features

Highlight authors in author lists

Multiple author names can now be highlighted in bold in author lists, for example if you wish to highlight your colleagues.

If you wish to highlight an author name in bold, add highlight_name: true to their author profile. The default user profile can be found at content/authors/admin/ (view example).

Add author notes for affiliations and contributions

Author notes can be added to a page’s front matter in the form:

- "Someone"
- "Someone else"
- "Equal contribution"
- "Equal contribution"

where the index of each author note corresponds with an author in the authors list.

An author note is rendered as a tooltip next to an author’s name:

Add author notes for affiliations and contributions.
Add author notes for affiliations and contributions.

Emojis and custom SVG images as icons

Use emojis and custom SVG images as icons in the Featurette (skills) widget.

In the future, we plan to extend support for emojis and custom SVG icons to other Wowchemy components.

Icon pack “emoji” gives you the ability to use emojis as icons

  • See all icons
  • Enter the emoji shortcode, such as :heart:, in Wowchemy’s icon field

Icon pack “custom” gives you the ability to use custom SVG icons

  • Create an SVG icon in your favorite image editor or download one from a site such as Flat Icon
  • Place the custom SVG icon in assets/images/icon-pack/, creating the folders if necessary
  • Reference the SVG icon name (without .svg extension) in the icon field

Examples for use in Featurette (skills) widget:

# Uncomment to use emoji icons.
# [[feature]]
#  icon = ": heart :"  # Remember to remove the spaces around the colons.
#  icon_pack = "emoji"
#  name = "Emojiness"
#  description = "100%"  

# Uncomment to use custom SVG icons.
# Place custom SVG icon in `assets/images/icon-pack/`, creating folders if necessary.
# Reference the SVG icon name (without `.svg` extension) in the `icon` field.
# [[feature]]
#  icon = "your-custom-icon-name"
#  icon_pack = "custom"
#  name = "Surfing"
#  description = "90%"

Create spoilers

To create a spoiler:

{{< spoiler text="Click to view the spoiler" >}} You found me! {{< /spoiler >}}

View the spoiler demo

Enables adding Creative Commons copyright licenses on both site wide and per page basis with the new params.toml and front matter option:


# Show a copyright license from in the site footer?
# Page specific copyright licenses are also possible by adding this option to a page's front matter.
copyright_license = {enable = false, allow_derivatives = false, share_alike = true, allow_commercial = false, notice = "This work is licensed under {license}"}

More intuitive appearance selector

Version 5 makes choosing a site appearance even more intuitive with textual labels rather than icons for the _light_, _dark_, and _auto (system default)_ modes.
Version 5 makes choosing a site appearance even more intuitive with textual labels rather than icons for the light, dark, and auto (system default) modes.

Rather than a 3-way icon-based toggle through light, dark, and automatic modes, present the user with a dropdown list of modes displayed in full textual representation. See #1596.

Adds language pack options for translating Light (theme_light), Dark (theme_dark), and Automatic (theme_auto).

Integration with Netlify Identity for Netlify CMS

Netlify Identity has been integrated for logging into Netlify CMS. It can be controlled via the new cms option in params.toml, as described in the Site Changes above.

If you had manually added the Netlify Identity script, it can be removed.

You can now customize which types of page show recommended content in the footer by adding the following option to your params.toml:


# Show related content at the bottom of pages?
show_related = {page = false, post = true, project = true, publication = true, talk = true}

An optional alt_text parameter can be added when specifying a featured image in a page’s front matter. Alt text is used to describe the image when the page is read aloud by a screen reader. See #1592.

Additionally, the profile photo alt text has been improved from “avatar” to the person’s name, in alignment with major CMS and social sites.


  • Fix social sharing image for author pages
    • The social sharing logic was attempting to use the legacy system of defining the avatar image name in site.Params.avatar, however since the author system was added to Wowchemy, site.Params.avatar is now a group of params and the avatar itself is stored in the author’s page bundle.
    • Hence, use the avatar in the author’s page bundle (if it exists) to represent an author page
    • This bug could affect the image used to represent a page in social sharing and RSS

Language Packs

  • Initial support added for Right To Left (RTL) languages
  • Add Arabic (ar) language pack (#1642, #1654)
  • Add Somali language pack (#1607)
  • Add Lithuanian language pack (#1617)
  • Add Norwegian (nb) translation (#1914)
  • Fix Czech translation (#1597)
  • Update NL translation (#1622)
Ask a question