Travis CI Deployment

It can be handy to have code run when commits are pushed to GitHub – you can do lots of things with this, but commonly it is used to run unit tests, build a docker image, or deploy something. In this example we will deploy this website to github pages using Travis-CI (which is free for open repositories).

Step by step

Enable Travis for your Github account via the website It will guide you through the process of activating a repository. For private repositories you will have to pay money and use the website The rest of this guide assumes that you have activated Travis for your personal account or organisation.

Choose a language

Travis will run based on instructions stored in a .travis.yml file. See Travis documentation for more information. We specify that we are using R and that we want to cache packages.

‘Caching’ will speed up the build considerably, by reusing compiled dependencies from one build in subsequent builds. Travis has to compile packages because pre-compiled ‘binary’ packages are not available for the Linux operating system, which is what Travis runs on. A recent website was built 10 times faster by using caching (3 minutes rather than 30 minutes).

language: r

# cache packages so that each build doesn't require installation...
    packages: true
# Install packages we need

2. Generate an SSH key

Each time we push or pull from GitHub we will use an ssh key generated just for this repo. Don’t use your personal ssh key. To create a new key, use the command below, and make a note of where you save the key.

ssh-keygen -t rsa -b 4096 -C ""
>Generating public/private rsa key pair.
>Enter file in which to save the key (/Users/will.bowditch/.ssh/id_rsa): />Users/will.bowditch/projects/rap-website/deploy_key

Encrypt the key

We don’t want people to be able to read the key, so we use travis to encrypt it (you’ll need to install the travis command line tool). The command travis encrypt-file deploy_key adds a line to the .travis.yml file that tells Travis to use the encrypted key. If you run the command travis encrypt-file deploy_key --add then you can skip step 4.

travis encrypt-file deploy_key
> encrypting deploy_key for ukgovdatascience/rap-website
> storing result as deploy_key.enc
> DANGER ZONE: Override existing deploy_key.enc? |no| yes
> storing secure env variables for decryption
> Please add the following to your build script(before_install stage in your >.travis.yml, for instance):
>    openssl aes-256-cbc -K $encrypted_516b420c1ae6_key-iv $encrypted_516b420c1ae6_iv -in deploy_key.enc-out deploy_key -d
> Pro Tip: You can add it automatically by running with --add.
> Make sure to add deploy_key.enc to the git repository.
> Make sure not to add deploy_key to the git repository.
> Commit all changes to your .travis.yml.

If you store unencrypted key deploy_key in the repo folder, then name it in .gitignore to avoid accidentally publishing it on GitHub. It doesn’t matter if you lose the key because you can create a new one.

4. Tell Travis to decrypt the key

If you ran the command travis encrypt-file deploy_key --add in the previous step (note the --add) then you can skip this step. If you ran the command travis encrypt-file deploy_key then it it will have shown you an openssl command. Add this command to the .travis.yml file. This command uses two environment variables stored by travis to decrypt the ssh key.

# Decrypt the deployment key, used to push the result to the repo
    - openssl aes-256-cbc -K $encrypted_516b420c1ae6_key-iv    $encrypted_516b420c1ae6_iv -in deploy_key.enc-out deploy_key -d

Note that, with this setup, the decryption will happen for every run of Travis regardless of if you actually need the deployment key. In some scenarios this can be a problem. For example, if you have a pull request from a forked repo, Travis will not have permission to access the encrypted enviroment variables and the build will fail. To get around this, you can move the openssl command into a script that only runs when deployment is needed (for example, only when on the master branch if [[ $TRAVIS_BRANCH == 'master' ]]).

5. Add the key to GitHub

Add the ssh key to the repository as a deployment key. Find the place to put it on GitHub by navigating to Repo > Settings > Deploy keys > Add deploy key. There, paste in the contents of the deploy_key file you generated earlier.

on OS X you can usecat | pbcopy to copy the key to the clipboard.

Tick allow write access if you want the key to have permission to push to the repo. This is the case if you are using Travis to render a website and publish it in a /docs folder or gh-pages branch.

6. Tell Travis what to do

Tell Travis what scripts to run on each commit. To allow them to run they need to be made executable with the command chmod +x. The scripts can do anything. In this example the scripts tell Travis to build a website using rmarkdown and push it to the gh-pages branch on github. GitHub will then publish the website.

Travis has several environment variables to control whether scripts run only on pull requests or on certain branches. Below we are only going to run the deploy script if it isn’t a pull request and is on the master branch. Put this either in the .travis.yml file or in the bash scripts (see the file

# Make bash scripts executable, so they can be run later. 
- chmod +x ./
- chmod +x ./

- "./"
- if [ "$TRAVIS_PULL_REQUEST" = "false" ]; then bash ./; else echo "PR so
not deploying"; fi

Example scripts


# Build the site in `/site`
Rscript -e "rmarkdown::render_site(input='site')"


# Start ssh agent and add key
eval "$(ssh-agent -s)" # Start the ssh agent
chmod 600 deploy_key
ssh-add deploy_key

# Only publish to gh-pages if on the master branch
if [[ $TRAVIS_BRANCH == 'master' ]]
  # configure your name and email if you have not done so
  git config --global ""
  git config --global "your_github_username"

  # clone the repository to the book-output directory
  git clone -b gh-pages \ \

  cd book-output
  # Remove everything from this branch.
  git rm -rf *
  # Copy the new site, add all, and commit!
  cp -r ../site/docs/* ./
  git add --all *
  git commit -m "Travis built book"
  git push -q origin gh-pages
  echo "Not publishing as not in MASTER branch"