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Jan Wed

The Quick and Dirty Guide to CSS Preprocessors

  •  1-13-2016
css preprocessors

CSS is a part of life. Or at least, it’s a part of a developer’s life. Luckily, there are tools available to make managing CSS easier. A CSS Preprocessor is a tool that reduces the amount of code you need to write. It does this by helping to future-proof your code and keep your code maintainable. Simply stated, it extends CSS scripting language while compiling it into regular syntax CSS. Here we will explore some of the current CSS Preprocessor tools and the benefits they offer.

Positive Benefits Of A CSS Preprocessor

  • Your code will be cleaner
  • Your code is reusable
  • You have more flexibility with your code. The use of conditions and incorporating math help CSS Preprocessors simplify the process, because changes do not have to be hard coded into CSS to take effect.
  • You can quickly write CSS that is compatible across multiple browsers
  • You can organize your CSS code in a way that makes it easy to read
  • You can import the snippets and changes others have added to libraries

Exhibit 1: Sass

Sass has gained popularity in the CSS Preprocessor world by being a compatible tool that works well with any version of CSS. Any and all CSS libraries can be used with Sass. It’s been around a while, over 9 years. Sass is responsible for frameworks like Bourbon, Susy and Compass.

To use Sass, you need Ruby. You have an option of using Sass syntax or SCSS.

Exhibit 2: Less

Another option is Less. Unlike Sass which uses Ruby, Less runs on Node in Rhinos browser. You can add in a variety of third party tools to watch out for changes or compile files. Less not only extends CSS language but allows for functions, features and variables to keep your CSS clean and easy to maintain.

Exhibit 3: Rework

Rework’s framework is Node.js built. They allow a large number of plug-ins to help with code you want preprocessed.

Exhibit 4: Stylus

Stylus bills itself as a “CSS Superhero”. This CSS Preprocessor boasts a large list of features. The short list includes optional colons, braces, commas and semi-colons, variables and variable function calls, error reporting and CSS literal.

The Basics

All of the CSS Preprocessors mentioned can clean up and maintain your CSS. Syntax, variables, complied CSS, mixins, nesting and inheritance all have their positives with each tool.

You should be using a CSS preprocessor to make your coding easier. Your code will be easier to maintain by the use of variables, functions and mixins. When you don’t have to repeatedly rewrite the same code, you will be saving time and money.

CSS Preprocessors are easy to setup and offer interfaces to help you along the way.

Hopefully we have given you a few options to explore and soon enough your own sites will be prettier, cleaner, and running smoother with the help of one of these tools.

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