Automating Your Web Development Workflow Using Gulp

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Are you tired of switching between browsers and code editors just to refresh the little changes done to your codes? If yes, tag along as I introduce you to the world of automation that will speed up your web development workflow. But first, understand what automation tools are.

Automation tools are great for saving time and avoiding human error. They allow us to offload mundane tasks and can usually end up doing these tasks faster and with better precision. Two tools that are known to be quite effective in performing automated tasks are Gulp and Grunt.

There’s no point in investing your time into learning a new tool if you don’t even know what problem it solves. Gulp and Grunt solve the problem of repetition. Many of the tasks that web developers find themselves doing over and over on a daily basis can be simplified by becoming automated. Automating repetitive tasks = more time to do non-repetitive tasks = more productivity.

Gulp is a tool that helps you out with several tasks when it comes to web development. It’s often used to do front-end tasks like:

  • Spinning up a web server
  • Reloading the browser automatically whenever a file is saved
  • Using preprocessors like Sass or LESS
  • Optimizing assets like CSS, JavaScript, and images etc.

This is not a comprehensive list of things Gulp can do.

Gulp vs Grunt: How Are They Similar?

Now that you have an idea of what Gulp and Grunt can do, let’s talk about how they do what they do. Both tools are task runners that use Node.js, which is an open-source JavaScript runtime environment used to develop tools and applications. Grunt and Gulp both also use plugins to accomplish whatever tasks you need them to automate for you.

Both tools use .js files to build tasks; for Grunt, you use a Gruntfile.js, and for Gulp, you use a Gulpfile.js.

So that’s what this article is for. It helps you get so good with the basics of Gulp that you can begin exploring everything else for yourself.

Before we dive into working with Gulp, let’s talk about why you may want to use Gulp as opposed to other similar tools.

Gulp vs Grunt: What are the Major Differences?

While both tools can perform many of the same tasks, the major differences when comparing Grunt vs Gulp are how they accomplish them. The first significant difference is that Gulp has been designed to use a series of plugins that each do a task. Each plugin for Gulp is written with the goal of doing one thing very well. At the time of writing this article, the gulp plugin registry contained 3,569 different plugins for different purposes.

Grunt, on the other hand, uses plugins that often accomplish multiple tasks at the same time. This means that the plugin creation process is very different depending on which tool you’re using. Additionally, at the time of writing this article, the grunt plugin registry contained 6,412 plugins, a considerable amount more than Gulp.

Why Choose Gulp over Grunt?

Tools like Gulp are often referred to as “build tools” because they are tools for running the tasks for building a website.

The main difference is how you configure a workflow with them.

  • Gulp configurations tend to be much shorter and simpler when compared with Grunt.
  • Gulp also tends to run faster.

Installing Gulp

Remember that for you to be able to use this tool, Gulp requires you to have Node.js and Node Package Manager (NPM) installed on your computer, so if you haven’t gotten them yet, just head over to Node.Js’s website and download the installer for free.

Once you’re done installing Node.js and NPM, you can install Gulp by typing the following command in the command line (I prefer using the command line in Git Bash):

$ sudo npm install gulp -g
# Note: Only Mac users require the 'sudo' keyword

This command installs gulp globally and allows you to use the gulp command anywhere on your computer.

You are now done with installing Gulp into your system and you can move on to create a new project that uses Gulp.

Good Luck!