An Introduction to Ghost – A Headless, Open-Source CMS

Ghost is the number-one, open-source, headless Node.js CMS. Essentially, it’s a customizable platform for running blogs, magazines, or journals. It’s fully open-source and runs blogs including OpenAI, DigitalOcean, and Mozilla.

The Tech

Behind the scenes, Ghost is running its admin panel with Ember.js, which can be run on the web and any OS. Since it uses Node.js, it easily integrates with third-party applications like Slack, Mailchimp, and Shopify. There’s also a command-line interface that makes it super-easy to get up and running locally or on a production server.


The power of being open-source is clear here. The Ghost theme that comes with the default installation is clean and ready to go, but it offers lots of room for creativity and customization. You can easily create your own themes, and locally, it even supports hot-reloading.

If you’re familiar with Ember.js, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the templating language, which is Handlebars. Like any other templating language, though, it’s pretty easy to pick up and writes similarly to HTML.

There are also a ton of themes for purchase (and for free!) on Ghost’s official website.

Getting Started

To begin, I’d recommend messing around with a local install first. In order to do this, you’ll need Node.js, Yarn, or npm and a fresh directory for your project.

  1. Install Ghost-CLI.npm install ghost-cli@latest -g
  2. Install Ghost.
    • cd into your empty project directory
    • Run this command: ghost install local
  3. Visit http://localhost:2368 to view your site and http://localhost:2368/ghost to access the admin panel.

Some useful commands:

  • ghost stop to stop Ghost
  • ghost start to start Ghost
  • ghost log to view logs
  • ghost ls to list all running Ghost instances


If you want to roll your own server, there are quick setup guides for Ubuntu (recommended) or Docker, and both are free.

Ghost also offers hosting. It has a cost, but all proceeds go toward supporting the development of Ghost. They also give you a free 14-day free trial with no automatic charge.

If you’re interested in blogging in an efficient way with a clean, responsive user interface, Ghost may be the platform for you. It’s so easy to get started and has lots of room for growth and customization through themes and hosting providers.