Introduction to Gulp.js with practical examples

What is Gulp.js?

Gulp.js is what we call a JavaScript Task Runner, it is Open Source and available on GitHub. It helps you automate repetitive tasks such as minification, compilation, unit testing, linting, etc. Gulp.js does not revolutionize automation but simplifies it tremendously.

Today the Web automation ecosystem is dominated by Grunt.js (which is a great tool BTW) but lately Gulp.js is getting more trending and soon will be overtaking Grunt.js (according to the GitHub popularity, aka “stars”: 7900 for Grunt.js and 6250 for Gulp.js).

How is it better than Grunt or Cakefile?

I would say it is no better nor worse than Grunt or Cakefile, it is different. While Cakefile or Grunt use files to execute tasks, Gulp.js uses streams. It means that a typical Cakefile or Grunt workflow would be to execute a task that dumps a temporary file, than based on this file to execute another task that dumps another temporary file an so on…

With Gulp.js everything happens on the fly using Node’s stream, temporary files are not needed anymore which make it easy to learn, use and enjoy.

Installation

Use the -g options to install Gulp globally on your machine.

sudo npm install -g gulp

Practical examples

Now let’s use Gulp a little bit. Throughout those examples we will discover how to use plugins to create specific tasks such as minifying, concatenate or even linting your code.

Source available on Github

HTML Minification

Using gulp-minify-html

npm install --save-dev gulp-minify-html

gulpfile.js:

// including plugins
var gulp = require('gulp')
, minifyHtml = require("gulp-minify-html");

// task
gulp.task('minify-html', function () {
	gulp.src('./Html/*.html') // path to your files
	.pipe(minifyHtml())
	.pipe(gulp.dest('path/to/destination'));
});

Run:

gulp minify-html

CSS Minification

Using gulp-minify-css

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

gulpfile.js:

// including plugins
var gulp = require('gulp')
, minifyCss = require("gulp-minify-css");

// task
gulp.task('minify-css', function () {
	gulp.src('./Css/one.css') // path to your file
	.pipe(minifyCss())
	.pipe(gulp.dest('path/to/destination'));
});

Run:

gulp minify-css

JS Minification

Using gulp-uglify

npm install --save-dev gulp-uglify

gulpfile.js:

// including plugins
var gulp = require('gulp')
, uglify = require("gulp-uglify");

// task
gulp.task('minify-js', function () {
	gulp.src('./JavaScript/*.js') // path to your files
	.pipe(uglify())
	.pipe(gulp.dest('path/to/destination'));
});

Run:

gulp minify-js

CoffeeScript Compilation

Using gulp-coffee

npm install --save-dev gulp-coffee

gulpfile.js:

// including plugins
var gulp = require('gulp')
, coffee = require("gulp-coffee");

// task
gulp.task('compile-coffee', function () {
	gulp.src('./CoffeeScript/one.coffee') // path to your file
	.pipe(coffee())
	.pipe(gulp.dest('path/to/destination'));
});

Run:

gulp compile-coffee

Less Compilation

Using gulp-less

npm install --save-dev gulp-less

gulpfile.js:

// including plugins
var gulp = require('gulp')
, less = require("gulp-less");

// task
gulp.task('compile-less', function () {
	gulp.src('./Less/one.less') // path to your file
	.pipe(less())
	.pipe(gulp.dest('path/to/destination'));
});

Run:

gulp compile-less

Sass Compilation

Using gulp-sass

npm install --save-dev gulp-sass

gulpfile.js:

// including plugins
var gulp = require('gulp')
, sass = require("gulp-sass");

// task
gulp.task('compile-sass', function () {
	gulp.src('./Sass/one.sass') // path to your file
	.pipe(sass())
	.pipe(gulp.dest('path/to/destination'));
});

Run:

gulp compile-sass

ECMAScript 6 Compilation

Using gulp-babel

npm install --save-dev gulp-babel

gulpfile.js:

// including plugins
var gulp = require('gulp')
, babel = require("gulp-babel");

// task
gulp.task('compile-es6', function () {
	gulp.src('./ES6/one.es6.js')
        .pipe(babel())
	.pipe(gulp.dest('path/to/destination'));
});

Run:

gulp compile-es6

JavaScript Linting

Using gulp-jshint

npm install --save-dev gulp-jshint

gulpfile.js:

// including plugins
var gulp = require('gulp')
, jshint = require("gulp-jshint");

// task
gulp.task('jsLint', function () {
	gulp.src('./JavaScript/*.js') // path to your files
	.pipe(jshint())
	.pipe(jshint.reporter()); // Dump results
});

In case of success:

[gulp] Starting 'jsLint'...
[gulp] Finished 'jsLint' after 6.47 ms

In case of failure:

[gulp] Starting 'jsLint'...
[gulp] Finished 'jsLint' after 5.86 ms
/var/www/gulp-examples/JavaScript/two.js: line 3, col 15, Expected '}' to match '{' from line 3 and instead saw '['.
/var/www/gulp-examples/JavaScript/two.js: line 3, col 16, Missing semicolon.
/var/www/gulp-examples/JavaScript/two.js: line 3, col 154, Expected an assignment or function call and instead saw an expression.

3 errors

Run:

gulp jsLint

CoffeeScript Linting

Using gulp-coffeelint

npm install --save-dev gulp-coffeelint

gulpfile.js:

// including plugins
var gulp = require('gulp')
, coffeelint = require("gulp-coffeelint");

// task
gulp.task('coffeeLint', function () {
	gulp.src('./CoffeeScript/*.coffee') // path to your files
	.pipe(coffeelint())
	.pipe(coffeelint.reporter());
});

In case of success:

[gulp] Starting 'coffeeLint'...
[gulp] Finished 'coffeeLint' after 7.37 ms

In case of failure:

[gulp] Starting 'coffeeLint'...
[gulp] Finished 'coffeeLint' after 6.25 ms

one.coffee
?  line 3  Line contains a trailing semicolon

? 1 error

Run:

gulp coffeeLint

Rename a file

Using gulp-rename

npm install --save-dev gulp-rename

gulpfile.js:

// including plugins
var gulp = require('gulp')
, rename = require('gulp-rename')
, coffee = require("gulp-coffee");

// task
gulp.task('rename', function () {
	gulp.src('./CoffeeScript/one.coffee') // path to your file
	.pipe(coffee())  // compile coffeeScript
	.pipe(rename('renamed.js')) // rename into "renamed.js" (original name "one.js")
	.pipe(gulp.dest('path/to/destination'));
});

Run:

gulp rename

Concatenate files

Using gulp-concat

npm install --save-dev gulp-concat

gulpfile.js:

// including plugins
var gulp = require('gulp')
, concat = require("gulp-concat");

// task
gulp.task('concat', function () {
	gulp.src('./JavaScript/*.js') // path to your files
	.pipe(concat('concat.js'))  // concat and name it "concat.js"
	.pipe(gulp.dest('path/to/destination'));
});

Run:

gulp concat

Add copyright

Using gulp-header

npm install --save-dev gulp-header

Copyright

/*
Gulp Examples by @julienrenaux:

* https://github.com/shprink
* https://twitter.com/julienrenaux
* https://www.facebook.com/julienrenauxblog

Full source at https://github.com/shprink/gulp-examples

MIT License, https://github.com/shprink/gulp-examples/blob/master/LICENSE
*/

gulpfile.js:

// including plugins
var gulp = require('gulp')
, fs = require('fs')
, concat = require("gulp-concat")
, header = require("gulp-header");

// functions

// Get copyright using NodeJs file system
var getCopyright = function () {
	return fs.readFileSync('Copyright');
};

// task
gulp.task('concat-copyright', function () {
	gulp.src('./JavaScript/*.js') // path to your files
	.pipe(concat('concat-copyright.js')) // concat and name it "concat-copyright.js"
	.pipe(header(getCopyright()))
	.pipe(gulp.dest('path/to/destination'));
});

Run:

gulp concat-copyright

Add copyright with version

Using gulp-header and Node’s file system

npm install --save-dev gulp-header

Copyright

/*
Gulp Examples by @julienrenaux:

* https://github.com/shprink
* https://twitter.com/julienrenaux
* https://www.facebook.com/julienrenauxblog

Version: <%= version %>
Full source at https://github.com/shprink/gulp-examples

MIT License, https://github.com/shprink/gulp-examples/blob/master/LICENSE
*/

Version

1.0.0

gulpfile.js:

// including plugins
var gulp = require('gulp')
, fs = require('fs')
, concat = require("gulp-concat")
, header = require("gulp-header");

// functions

// Get version using NodeJs file system
var getVersion = function () {
	return fs.readFileSync('Version');
};

// Get copyright using NodeJs file system
var getCopyright = function () {
	return fs.readFileSync('Copyright');
};

// task
gulp.task('concat-copyright-version', function () {
	gulp.src('./JavaScript/*.js')
	.pipe(concat('concat-copyright-version.js')) // concat and name it "concat-copyright-version.js"
	.pipe(header(getCopyrightVersion(), {version: getVersion()}))
	.pipe(gulp.dest('path/to/destination'));
});

Run:

gulp concat-copyright-version

Mix them up (Lint, Concat, Compile, Minify etc.)

The purpose of this task is to mix the previous tasks into just one.

Copyright

/*
Gulp Examples by @julienrenaux:

* https://github.com/shprink
* https://twitter.com/julienrenaux
* https://www.facebook.com/julienrenauxblog

Version: <%= version %>
Full source at https://github.com/shprink/gulp-examples

MIT License, https://github.com/shprink/gulp-examples/blob/master/LICENSE
*/

Version

1.0.0

gulpfile.js:

// including plugins
var gulp = require('gulp')
, fs = require('fs')
, coffeelint = require("gulp-coffeelint")
, coffee = require("gulp-coffee")
, uglify = require("gulp-uglify")
, concat = require("gulp-concat")
, header = require("gulp-header");

// functions

// Get version using NodeJs file system
var getVersion = function () {
	return fs.readFileSync('Version');
};

// Get copyright using NodeJs file system
var getCopyright = function () {
	return fs.readFileSync('Copyright');
};

// task
gulp.task('bundle-one', function () {
	gulp.src('./CoffeeScript/*.coffee') // path to your files
	.pipe(coffeelint()) // lint files
	.pipe(coffeelint.reporter('fail')) // make sure the task fails if not compliant
	.pipe(concat('bundleOne.js')) // concat files
	.pipe(coffee()) // compile coffee
	.pipe(uglify()) // minify files
	.pipe(header(getCopyrightVersion(), {version: getVersion()})) // Add the copyright
	.pipe(gulp.dest('path/to/destination'));
});

Run:

gulp bundle-one

Tasks automation

Using gulp.watch you can easily automate any tasks when files are modified. It is really convenient because you do not have to run single tasks by hand every time a file is modified, and therefore your code is always up to date.

// including plugins
var gulp = require('gulp');

// task
gulp.task('watch-coffeescript', function () {
    gulp.watch(['./CoffeeScript/*.coffee'], ['compile-coffee']);
});

Run:

Now run the task:

gulp watch-coffeescript

and see what happens when you modify one of the source file.

20 thoughts on “Introduction to Gulp.js with practical examples”

  1. Pingback: Gulp
  2. julien, thanks brosef so much for this post. fyi, under tasks automation you have the gulp-watch plugin requiring the object literal {glob:””}; the latest version of gulp has an api change (see here: https://github.com/floatdrop/gulp-watch/issues/90 ) , such that the glob itself is written as the first parameter. e.g.
    gulp.task(‘watch-coffeescript’, function () {
    watch(‘./CoffeeScript/*.coffee’, function (files) { // watch any changes on coffee files
    gulp.start(‘compile-coffee’); // run the compile task
    });
    });

  3. Hey, this is very helpful. I was thinking if there’s a way to auto-generate the distribution folder with gulp.. I’m working with angular, I have some dependencies on the bower_components folder, I’d like that Gulp reads all my dependencies, and put the necesaries files in the distribution folder like in /js /img /css etc.. Any idea on how to do this?

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