Grunt, Gulp and NPM scripts

Two years ago I ran into Grunt and started using it as my preferred build tool. The more I used it and the bigger the projects became, the more I screamed for a better tool. The configuration gets so complicated. I read a bit about Gulp but didn't want to convert all projects again. And then recently I read an article from Keith Cirkel about how to use npm as a build tool. It was really interested and gave it a try.

NPM scripting

I converted the Grunt tasks and started to explore npm as a build tool. At first everything was fine but recently I started experimenting with living styleguides and KSS. Using npm scripts became slow and it crashes on errors. I haven't found a solution for catching the errors yet. In case you are wondering, here is the code:

  "name": "my-project",
  "private": true,
  "scripts": {
    "setup": "npm run setup:npm -s && npm run setup:jshint -s && npm run setup:less -s && npm run setup:uglify-js -s && npm run setup:bower -s",
    "setup:npm": "npm install npm -g",
    "setup:jshint": "npm install jshint -g",
    "setup:less": "npm install less -g",
    "setup:uglify-js": "npm install uglify-js -g",
    "setup:bower": "npm install bower -g",
    "setup:watch": "npm install -g watch",
    "setup:parallelshell": "npm install -g parallelshell",
    "setup:live-reload": "npm install -g live-reload",
    "setup:kss": "npm install -g kss",
    "update": "npm run update:bower -s",
    "update:bower": "bower install",
    "clean": "rm -rf _sites && rm -rf assets && rm -rf styleguide && mkdir \"assets\" && mkdir \"assets/css\" && mkdir \"assets/img\" && mkdir \"assets/js\"",
    "test": "npm run test:lint -s",
    "test:lint": "jshint src/js/",
    "build": "npm run build:css -s && npm run build:images -s && npm run build:jquery -s  && npm run build:js -s",
    "build:css": "npm run build:stylesheet -s && npm run build:styleguide -s",
    "build:stylesheet": "lessc -x src/less/stylesheet.less > assets/css/stylesheet.css",
    "build:styleguide": "kss-node --source src/less/ --template src/styleguide-template/",
    "build:images": "cp src/img/** assets/img/",
    "build:jquery": "uglifyjs components/jquery/dist/jquery.js -o assets/js/jquery.js -mc",
    "build:js": "cat components/bootstrap/dist/js/bootstrap.js | uglifyjs -o assets/js/bundle.js -mc",
    "prebuild:js": "npm run test:lint -s",
    "livereload": "live-reload _site --port 35729",
    "watch": "parallelshell \"npm run livereload\" \"npm run watch:css\" \"npm run watch:js\"",
    "watch:css": "watch \"npm run build:css\" src/less/",
    "watch:js": "watch \"npm run build:js\" src/js/"

The main purpose was rebuilding sources on changes and notifying the browser. With mostly unexplained errors from the Jekyll auto generation and sometimes my own coding errors it became a problem restarting the build system all the time. Besides that Jekyll didn't detect changes straight away. Sometimes it even took minutes before it woke up.

Converting to Gulp

So with the issues in npm and I didn't want to go back to grunt, I gave gulp.js a try. Again I converted all tasks and after some tweaking and speed optimizations, it looks like I've got a pretty stable build system now. It didn't crash yet and the errors are reported nicely. It feels a lot faster than grunt and especially npm.

var gulp = require('gulp');
var cp = require('child_process');
var del = require('del');
var concat = require('gulp-concat');
var shell = require('gulp-shell');
var express = require('express');
var livereload = require('gulp-livereload');
var plumber = require('gulp-plumber');
var notify = require('gulp-notify');
var less = require('gulp-less');
var autoprefixer = require('gulp-autoprefixer');
var minifycss = require('gulp-minify-css');
var imagemin = require('gulp-imagemin');
var jshint = require('gulp-jshint');
var uglify = require('gulp-uglify');
var bundler = process.platform === 'win32' ? 'bundle.bat' : 'bundle';

var onError = function (err) {
    title: 'Gulp',
    subtitle: 'Failure!',
    message: 'Error: <%= error.message %>',
    sound: 'Beep',


gulp.task('default', ['watch']);

gulp.task('build', ['clean', 'images', 'styles', 'lint', 'scripts', 'styleguide']);

// Run static file server
gulp.task('serve', function () {
  var server = express();

// Watch for changed files
gulp.task('watch', ['jekyll', 'serve'], function () {
  // Create LiveReload server
  livereload.listen({ port: 35729, basePath: '_site' });
  // Watch files, reload on change'_site/**').on('change', function (file) {
  });'src/images/**/*', ['images']);'src/styles/**/*.less', ['styles']);'src/scripts/**/*.js', ['scripts']);['src/styles/**/*', 'src/styleguide/**/*'], ['styleguide', 'jekyll']);

// Cleanup
gulp.task('clean', function (cb) {
  // Force cleaning first before all other tasks
    ['_site', 'assets/css/**/*', 'assets/img/**/*', 'assets/js/**/*', 'styleguide'],
    function (err, deletedFiles) {
      //console.log('Files deleted:', deletedFiles.join(', '));

// Process images
gulp.task('images', function () {
  return gulp
    .pipe(plumber({ errorHandler: onError }))
        progressive: true,
        svgoPlugins: [{ removeViewBox: false }],
    .pipe(gulp.dest('_site/assets/img')); // Copy to static dir

// Compile style sheets
gulp.task('styles', function () {
  return gulp
    .pipe(plumber({ errorHandler: onError }))
    .pipe(autoprefixer('last 2 version', '> 1%'))
    .pipe(gulp.dest('_site/assets/css')); // Copy to static dir

// Lint scripts
gulp.task('lint', function () {
  return gulp
    .src(['gulpfile.js', 'src/js/**/*.js'])
    .pipe(plumber({ errorHandler: onError }))

gulp.task('scripts', ['scripts:jquery', 'scripts:bundle']);

// Compress jquery
gulp.task('scripts:jquery', function () {
  return gulp
    .pipe(plumber({ errorHandler: onError }))
    .pipe(gulp.dest('_site/assets/js')); // Copy to static dir

// Compile all custom scripts and plugins into one bundle
gulp.task('scripts:bundle', function () {
  return gulp
    .src(['src/scripts/app.js', 'src/scripts/**/*.js'])
    .pipe(plumber({ errorHandler: onError }))
    .pipe(gulp.dest('_site/assets/js')); // Copy to static dir

// Build styleguide docs
      // kss-node [source folder of files to parse] [destination folder] --template [location of template files]
      'kss-node <%= source %> <%= destination %> --template <%= template %>',
      templateData: {
        template: 'src/styleguide',
        source: 'src/styles',
        destination: 'styleguide',

// Compile pages with Jekyll
gulp.task('jekyll', function () {
  return cp.spawn(bundler, ['exec', 'jekyll', 'build', '--drafts', '--quiet'], {
    stdio: 'inherit',

So far I like gulp.js. I like it better than the Grunt config file and it's more readable than npm scripting.