Praveen Puglia Web Developer

Ready Steady Gulp!

Lately, if something has totally changed the way I work, it’s Gulp - the streaming build system . There are lot of cool things you can do with gulp with great flexibility. Let’s get started!


NodeJS and NPM must be installed.

Gulp needs to be installed both globally ( for command line usage ) and locally into our project( for creating project tasks )

Global Installation

sudo npm install -g gulp

Local Installation

cd path/to/your/project/root
npm install gulp --save-dev

Hello World!

Assuming our project directory is my-project, create a gulpfile.js file in it. All gulp tasks reside in this file. Now, we create our first task that prints Hello .

// require gulp. this is why we install gulp locally.
var gulp = require("gulp");

// say hello
gulp.task("sayHello", function(){
  • First, we require gulp so we can use gulp’s API for creating tasks.
  • Next, we create a task using gulp.task method with the task name being sayHello and an anonymous function that defines what sayHello does. In this case, we just print Hello.

Executing a Task

Most of the work with gulp happens on the command line. To run a task, we navigate to our project directory( or the directory containing gulpfile.js ) and ask gulp to run a specific task.

    /gulpfile.js  <- YOU GOTTA BE WHERE THIS FILE IS
cd my-project
gulp sayHello

Did you see what happened? It might look something like this…

$ gulp sayHello
[15:30:28] Using gulpfile ~/code/my-project/gulpfile.js
[15:30:28] Starting 'sayHello'...
[15:30:28] Finished 'sayHello' after 83 μs

Following along? Great!

Dependent Tasks

It’s easy to make one task wait for another to finish. This is done by passing an array of tasks as the second parameter to gulp.task method.

// say world after saying hello is done
gulp.task("sayWorld",['sayHello'], function(){

Move over to terminal and execute gulp world.

The Default Task

If we move over to terminal and execute gulp, without specifying a task name, it looks for a task named default. Go ahead! give it a try.

gulp.task("default", function(){
    console.log("La la la!");

Exploring Gulp’s API

Gulp has 3 other methods .src,.dest & .watch apart from .task. We’ll look into those by trying to minify CSS, a real world use case for gulp.

Before we go ahead, we need to know a little more about how gulp works. Gulp generates a stream from the files we pass in via gulp.src  method. We then pipe the stream through various processors like minify, uglify, sass, sourcemaps etc. Remember, all the processing done, is still on the generated stream and not written to disk. To do that, we use gulp.dest .

Minify CSS

Create a style.css in css directory and put the following content.

  box-sizing: border-box;
  padding: 0;
  margin: 0;
body, html{
  height : 100%;

We will install gulp-minify-css plugin to do the minification.

npm install gulp-minify-css --save-dev

In gulpfile.js, we require this module just like we did it for gulp.

var minify = require('gulp-minify-css');
// minify css
gulp.task("css:minify", function(){

So what did we do?

  • We create a new task named css:minify  (namespacing is good).
  • We tell gulp which sources to use to build the stream to process using gulp.src and passing in the file path.
  • We then pipe the generated stream through the minify process.
  • Finally, we pipe the processed stream through gulp.dest which then writes the new, minified style.css inside min directory.

The last thing I want to mention is how to watch files for changes. In our example, we’ll setup a watch task and look for changes in .css files. Whenever that happens, we would want the css:minify task to run automatically. Here’s how.

// watch for changes in source
gulp.task("watch", function(){"css/style.css",['css:minify']);

On terminal execute gulp watch. It may look like the the prompt has hanged but it’s actually watching for file changes. Let’s go ahead and add some new rules in style.css, save it and see what happens!

In the next post, I’ll write about file include patterns, various recipes for doing things like sass compilation, generating sourcemaps, cleaning directories before running tasks and more. Stay tuned!

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