Cover image for Don’t use frontmatter to seperate your markdown files in GatsbyJS - Use the file system

Don’t use frontmatter to seperate your markdown files in GatsbyJS - Use the file system

george profile image George Nance Originally published at georgenance.com on ・3 min read


I am going to walk you through how to separate your markdown files in Gatsby in a way that more sense then a frontmatter field.

How splitting up markdown is normally done

For the longest time I had to use solutions like front matter fields to specify the difference between posts and pages types

Before I learned you could tell GraphQL to know the which markdown file was a page or post. My front matter would look something like this:


title: 'How to be productive as a programmer with ADHD'

date: '2020-06-19'

published: true

tags: ['adhd', 'productivity']

coverImage: cover.jpg

type: article

description: Being productive while having ADHD can sometimes feel like a colossal task.


I would use type: article so I could filter out only posts or articles.

Why its bad

  • Adds extra syntax to every markdown file
  • It can easily become error prone
  • File Systems were designed for this task.

I wanted to simplify how my blog generated articles so I could focus on creating content and not figuring out why a post was missing.

And I already had a folder structure like this:

my folder structure

Wouldn’t it be nice if GatsbyJS knew if a markdown file was a page or blog post based on the folder it's in?

That makes more sense to me.


You need to have gatsby-source-filesystem installed.

If you are using gatsby-transform-remark or gatsby-plugin-mdx you will already have this installed. 👍

Step 1 - Create the folder structure

Create the folder structure you want to use.

I like to separate my posts from my code so I put mine at the root level like thisproject-folder/content

This is the folder structure I will use

📂 content

├── 📂 blog

│ ├── 📂 hello-world

│ │ ├── 📄 index.md

│ │ └── 🖼 salty\_egg.jpg

│ ├── 📂 my-second-post

│ │ └── 📄 index.md

│ └── 📂 new-beginnings

│ └── 📄 index.md

└── 📂 pages

   ├── 📂 about

   │ ├── 📄 index.md

   │ └── 🖼 profile-pic.jpg

   └── 📂 now

      └── 📄 now.md

Each page or blog post has its own folder. This makes it easy to keep images or files it needs organized.

Step 2 - Set up the file system in Gatsby

Install gatsby-source-filesystem if you don’t have it

yarn add gatsby-source-filesystem

We are going to be using the Gatsby Source File System to separate our folders.

To do this, first add gatsby-source-filesystem as a plugin to gatsby.config.js . You might already have this added.

For each type of content you want separated add a new gatsby source filesystem object with the name and path.

In our case, we want to separate posts and pages, so we need 2 sections.

It should look something like this:

plugins: [


      resolve: `gatsby-source-filesystem`,

      options: {

        path: `${\_\_dirname}/content/blog`,

        name: `blog`,




      resolve: `gatsby-source-filesystem`,

      options: {

        path: `${\_\_dirname}/content/pages`,

        name: `page`,





Step 3 - Update Gatsby config

In gatsby-node.js add this code to onCreateNode.

exports.onCreateNode = ({ node, getNode, actions }) => {

const { createNodeField } = actions;

if (node.internal.type === `MarkdownRemark`) {

const parent = getNode(node.parent);

let collection = parent.sourceInstanceName;



      name: 'collection',

      value: collection,




If you are using MDX, just swap out allMarkdownRemark for Mdx

First off, we make sure that the node we are editing is a markdown file, we are grabbing the parent node so we can access some additional information.

sourceInstanceName is the field we set on gatsby-source-filesystem in the last step.

allMarkdownRemark alone does not have this field for us to use so we have to get it from the parent.

Then you add a field to the markdown node for the collection it belongs to.

Step 4 - Let the separating begin

We can now pass a filter to gatsby to let it know what collection we want to access. Hooray! No more frontmatter types

query {


sort: { fields: [frontmatter\_\_\_date], order: DESC }

filter: { fields: { collection: { eq: "posts" } } }

) {

    edges {

      node {


        fields {



        frontmatter {




          date(formatString: "MMMM DD, YYYY")


        excerpt(pruneLength: 280)





Wrap Up

Thanks for stopping by! This was a quick tutorial I made to solve an issue I was having with GatsbyJS. This article is a part of my "write one blog post a month" challenge.

If you would like to see more tutorials like this, let me know on twitter or by subscribing to my newletter.

Also I recommmend checking out Josh W Comeau if you want more Gatsby goodness. His tutorial on darkmode inspired me to add it to my site

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george profile

George Nance


I make the code do pretty things


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