.txt Thoughts, Tips and Tricks

  "author": "Alex Milanov",
  "avatar": "http://1.gravatar.com/avatar/0edabe98dd46b7ca4b69476a6be41736",
  "createDate": "2015-11-11",
  "lastUpdate": "2015-11-30",
  "techStack": ["gulp","nodejs","bower","sass","Jade","LiveReload"]

Gulp Automation Guide

In this article I will go through all the steps to create your own gulp automation setup that will help you:

  • compile and minify sass
  • pick and compile bower dependencies
  • compile js and jade
  • add livereload support

I. Prerequisites

First you need to have node installed. In most cases you should follow the info at https://nodejs.org

There is also a good tutorial to set up node via nvm so that you can support different versions on the same machine: https://www.digitalocean.com/community/tutorials/how-to-install-node-js-with-nvm-node-version-manager-on-a-vps

After you have node setup, you should also have npm by default. You will use it to install the backend/node dependecies.

Our first being gulp itself:

$ npm install -g gulp-cli

While we are here we should also install bower. Which in a similar fashion as npm will take care of the front-end dependencies:

$ npm install -g bower

Further on we will be installing global and local dependencies based on the task on hand.

II. Initial Project Setup

In 80% of the cases the initial directory structure for a new project I start would look like this:

├── .gitignore
├── .bowerrc
├── gulpfile.js
├── bower.json
├── package.json
├── node_modules
└── src
    ├── assets
    ├── content
    ├── jade
    ├── js
    ├── lib
    └── sass

.gitignore is to specify which files/directories should be ignored on git commits. The base directories to ignore are the node_modules, src/lib and the dist where we will be automating stuff into.


.bowerrc is in json format basicly specifies the directory for the front-end/bower managed dependencies. Usualy I set it to:

  "directory": "src/lib"

bower.json & package.json are used to specify the project configuration in regards to fron-end/bower and backend/npm. They automaticly generated. And we will go into details later but first you can just start by initing them:

$ npm init
$ bower init

I usualy create the initial directory strcture via:

$ mkdir -p src/{js,jade,sass,assets,lib}

So, after we created our initial project structure it's time to create our ...

III. First Gulp Task

Let's install some "dev" dependencies (we will be using them in the development environment - where most of the automation would be triggered) In this case gulp itself.

$ npm install --save-dev gulp

This will install the gulp library/module in the node_modules directory and add gulp as a devDependency in package.json.

Afterwards open up/create gulpfile.js and paste:

// loads up the gulp module and assigns it to the gulp variable
var gulp = require('gulp');

// defines the task js
gulp.task('js', function(done) {
  // initializes the gulp stream by specifying the source dir
    // copies all the files from the folder to the destination folder, in our case ./dist/js/
    .pipe( gulp.dest('./dist/js/'))
    // when we are done trigger the callback

Before we trigger the js task, we need something to be copied. Create ./src/js/init.js with the following content:

$ console.log("Hello World!");

Now lets trigger our first task:

$ gulp js

Which should produce ./dist/js/init.js with the same content.

So we are copying files around. Alright, but I can do this with cp you say.

True, we are just beginning. Let's take the js task up a notch.

IV. Advanced JS Task - Minifying and Hinting/Linting

I am currently not using this functionality. Though when some of my libraries are production ready there is going to be the need to minify them in order to save space and also they should be consistent with a styleguide where jshint/jslint would help.

Let's break it down in two parts. First let's do the

IV. Part 1 - Minifying or concating and uglifying

Let's install the dependencies:

$ npm install --save-dev del gulp-concat gulp-rename gulp-uglify gulp-sourcemaps


  • del for cleaning up the directory before deploying to it
  • gulp-concat will be using to paste together all the js files into one
  • gulp-rename for renaming the file
  • gulp-uglify would be used to shorted the code
  • and gulp-sourcemaps would create a sourcemap which links together the minified code to it's original (useful for debugging.)

Then we need to modify gulpfile.js by adding the new modules:

// loads up the gulp module and assigns it to the gulp variable
var gulp = require('gulp');
var del = require('del');
// minifying
var concat = require('gulp-concat');
var rename = require('gulp-rename');
var uglify = require('gulp-uglify');
var sourcemaps = require('gulp-sourcemaps');

Afterwards we need to modify the js task itself:

// define the task js
gulp.task('js', function(done) {
  // clean up the dist/js folder before deploying
    // get the js files
      // init the sourcemaps
      .pipe( sourcemaps.init() )
      .pipe( concat('app.js'))
      // send the concated file to the dist directory
      .pipe( gulp.dest('dist/js'))
      // next up the .min.js file
      .pipe( rename('app.min.js') )
      .pipe( uglify() )
      // write the sourcemaps
      .pipe( sourcemaps.write({includeContent: false, sourceRoot: '../../src'}) )
      // again send the files to the same directory
      .pipe( gulp.dest('dist/js'))
      // when we are done trigger the callback

When you run gulp js it will create the following structure:

└── js
    ├── app.js
    └── app.min.js

The problem is there is no minification visible yet.

Let's also change the src/js/init.js file

// put the console log into function
function printHelloWorld(){
  var someLongVarName = "Hello World!";

// listen to when the dom content is loaded - equivalent to $(document).ready()
document.addEventListener("DOMContentLoaded", function(event) { 

Now gulp js again and we should be able to see the difference between app.js and app.min.js

Next up. Let's talk about ...

IV. Part 2 - Coding Style, Hinting and Linting

One of the great things and at the same time worst things in JavaScript is it's flexibility and expressiveness. You have a dozen ways to write the same functionality. Now with all ES6/ES2015 syntactic sugar things are taken up a notch.

How can we survive the jungle of spagetti code. Is there a light at the end of the tunnel.

I won't go into details there are couple of community sourced styleguides. Most of them conflict with each other. The best bet is to pick one of them or follow the one that is already picked.

In the meantime let's make our lives a little bit easier by setting up some jshinting in our gulp automation:

Step 1 - Dependencies

$ npm install --save-dev jshint gulp-jshint jshint-stylish

Step 2 - Require gulp-jshint in gulpfile.js

var sourcemaps = require('gulp-sourcemaps');
// hinting
var jshint = require('gulp-jshint');

Step 3 - Add hinting to the js task

      // init the sourcemaps

Run gulp js again and we should get:

  line 9  col 20  Missing semicolon.

  ⚠  1 warning

Oops we forgot a semicolon. I'll let you fix it and run the task again. Now it should finish with no errors.

Next up. Let's do some templating.

V. Templating automation with jade