Send data to the window with Eleventy

Static-site generators like Eleventy are great at building websites. But when you want to add additional functionality, like a search feature, it might feel like they fall short.

All the data to generate your site exists at build time, how can you access that with some client-side JavaScript?

Here we’ll look at one solution with Eleventy to expose data on the global window object to add interactive elements to your static site.

Besides familiarity with Eleventy, the only prerequisite here is creating custom shortcodes.

Nunjucks #

Out-of-the-box, you can use Nunjucks’ dump and safe filters to stringify data and leave it unescaped, respectively. Put that all within a script tag, and you have a simple method for exposing data:

<!-- index.njk -->
window.__DATA__ = {{ ['hello', 'there'] | dump | safe }};

This works but is a little fiddly and limited to Nunjucks. For a more universal solution, let’s create a custom shortcode.

Shortcode #

A better solution to send data to the client is with a reusable shortcode. Let’s add a it to .eleventy.js:

// .eleventy.js
module.exports = eleventyConfig => {

eleventyConfig.addShortcode("expose", data => {
return `<script>

return { /* ... */ }

Then use the new shortcode like so:

<!-- index.njk -->
{% expose ['hello', 'there'] %}

Nice and simple! I’m going to offer an optional improvement to cleanup after exposing the data:

eleventyConfig.addShortcode("expose", data => {
return `<script id="__EXPOSE__">

With those changes, the script will execute on the client, add the data to the window, and then remove the script tag.

Hope that helps! Let me know if you have a better method of exposing data on the window, or how you can accomplish this with your favorite static-site generator.

Happy scripting!

Joshua 2:15 (SDG)


My name is Sean McPherson (SeanMcP), and I am a software engineer based in Pittsburgh, PA. Here I write articles about programming for developers of all levels.