Code utilized in production is different from development code. In production, it’s good to construct packages that run fast, manage dependencies, automate tasks, load external modules, and more. Tools that make it possible to show development code into production code are called construct tools. Frontend developers mostly work with the next sorts of construct tools:
- package managers,
- task runners,
- module loaders,
- module bundlers,
In this text, we now have collected one of the best construct tools you should use in frontend development. Note that every one these tools run within the command line, so that they don’t include a graphical user interface.
1. npm (package manager)
The acronym npm stands for Node Package Maid that’s the default package manager of Node.js. If you install Node.js in your system, npm can be mechanically installed and you may access it out of your command line interface. With npm, you may install any Node.js package with a single command.
You will discover all existing Node.js packages within the npm registry that you would be able to access via the search bar on top of npm’s homepage. You simply must type the name of the package you’re in search of (e.g. ‘postcss’) into the search bar, and you’re directed to the package page that features all the things it’s good to know concerning the package, its installation process, and all of its dependencies.
- Easy installation process.
- Cross-platform software (Windows, Linux, macOS, SmarOS, and more).
- Lots of of hundreds of packages.
- Efficient dependency management through the package.json file.
- Multiple configuration options (through the command line).
- Extensive documentation and helpful community.
2. Yarn (package manager)
Yarn is a frontend package manager that may be used as an alternative choice to npm. As Yarn itself is a Node.js package, you’ve to put in Node.js before you should use Yarn in your system. Then, you simply must follow the installation guide to make use of it to administer your frontend dependencies.
Although npm is an awesome tool, you’ll find that constructing packages with it sometimes takes significant time. This is just not necessarily an issue in the event you don’t have that many dependencies to put in, or don’t use a package manager regularly. Nevertheless, in the event you are a heavy user, it might probably be a great idea to look into Yarn that takes pride in ultrafast construct times.
Yarn hastens the construct process by caching every package so that you simply don’t must download your dependencies multiple times. It also runs parallel operations to cut back construct times much more.
- Cross-platform tool (Windows, Linux, macOS) with separate installation guides for every platform.
- Compatible with all Node.js packages.
- Fast construct times.
- Extra security by utilizing checksums to confirm the integrity of packages.
- Offline mode.
- Flat mode to avoid creating duplicates.
3. Grunt (task runner)
Grunt is a frontend task runner that means that you can automate repetitive tasks reminiscent of minification, linting, testing, and others. Task runners are different from package managers, as you may’t use them to administer dependencies. You simply need them if you should perform the identical task(s) during each construct process.
As Grunt is a Node.js package, you may install it with npm, Yarn, or one other Node.js package manager. Grunt keeps the custom dependencies it must perform your pre-defined tasks within the package.json file. You may define your tasks within the Gruntfile (see an example) that runs during every construct process and mechanically performs each task it includes.
- Cross-platform command line tool that runs on any operating system.
- Straightforward configuration process.
- Huge ecosystem with tons of of plugins so as to add frontend tools (reminiscent of Sass, Jade, JSHint, Handlebars, RequireJS, and others) that complete the pre-configured tasks.
- Asynchronous tasks if needed.
- Extensive documentation.
- Widely adopted.
4. Gulp (task runner)
Gulp is one other automated task runner and likewise the strongest competitor of Grunt. Just like Grunt, you should use Gulp to automate recurring front-end tasks reminiscent of CSS preprocessing, auto-prefixing, image optimization, and plenty of others. It’s a Node.js package, too, that you would be able to install with each the npm and Yarn package managers. You may define your tasks within the Gulpfile and configure your dependencies related to your tasks within the package.json file.
The largest difference to Grunt is that Gulp uses a more efficient automation technique that enables for faster construct times. While Grunt uses temporary files to process the tasks, Gulp performs in-memory operations without writing into temporary files. These in-memory operations are called Node streams that may prevent quite a lot of time, especially if you should process multiple tasks at each construct.
- Cross-platform task runner that may be installed as a daily Node.js package.
- Uses Node streams to hurry up operations.
- Huge ecosystem with hundreds of plugins.
- Quality code base using Node.js best practices.
- Easy-to-follow documentation.
- Minimal API surface for easy adoption.
5. Browserify (module loader/bundler)
- Bundles all Node.js dependencies into a single file.
- Speeds up modular applications that rely on multiple Node.js modules.
- Allows external requires (you can require modules from other tags).
- Makes it possible to split up bundles if necessary.
- Exclude, ignore, and transform functionalities.
- Detailed documentation and helpful Browserify handbook.
6. Webpack (module loader/bundler)
Webpack is an advanced module bundler that allows you to bundle all your dependencies and load them as static assets in the user’s browser. While Browserify only bundles Node.js modules, Webpack can handle any kind of front-end files such as .html, .css, .js, .scss files, images, and other assets.
As Webpack itself is also a Node.js module, you can install it with either the npm or the Yarn package manager.
By default, the configuration of Webpack projects takes a lot of time due to the multiple options that let you fine-tune your project. However, since Webpack 4, it includes a zero-configuration option that automates the build process and only requires you to define the entry file.
- Multiple configuration options.
- Code splitting into smaller chunks that can load asynchronously.
- Dead code elimination.
- Hot module replacement.
- Support for source maps.
- Zero-config option (since Webpack 4).
- Huge ecosystem with a rich plugin interface.
Frontend build tools help you turn your development code into production-ready code that runs on any device or platform without a problem. In this collection, we have looked into the most well-adopted build tools that you can use in your web project, including package managers, task runners, and module loaders/bundlers.
Besides the widely adopted solutions, there are also (relatively) new tools in the market that are constantly gaining traction, such as the pnpm package manager (an alternative to npm and Yarn), the Parcel module bundler (an alternative to Webpack), and the Rollup ES module bundler (similar to Browserify but bundles ECMAScript modules instead of CommonJS ones). If you are up to new solutions, these newer tools are also worth giving a look.
Adding new tools to your workflow can take your development process to the next level. If you also want to improve your programming skills, check out our collection of the best places to learn how to code, too.