Introduction to gulpjs

Working on a future blog post I hit some problems involving files that needed to be moved around as part of build process. This is one of the problems that gulp solves.

What is gulp?

Gulp is a task runner that utilizes node. The core idea behind task runners is automation. Have less that needs compiled into css, minified and output into the proper directory? That is a great use case for a task runner.

Gulp is not the only task runner out there. Grunt is another option and has actually been around longer. I am using gulp because it is the default in Visual Studio 2015. Google gulp vs grunt and decide which is right for you.

Installation

  1. Install node if needed from this site.
  2. From the console install gulp using npm install gulp -g

Project setup

Next add a gulpfile.js the root of the project where gulp is to be used. If using ASP.NET 5 this file will already exist and will include a few prebuilt tasks. If you are not using ASP.NET 5 the following is a mimimum gulpfile from the official getting started guide.

Also add gulp to the devDependencies section of the project’s package.json file. Since Visual Studio handles edits to package.json so nicely (intellisense and automatic package restore) I tend to edit the file manually instead of using npm.

Plugins

The base gulp API only contains 4 functions (src, dest, task and watch) and doesn’t do a whole lot on its own. This is where plugins come in. Gulp has a ton of plugins that do all sorts of useful things. For example, the default gulpfile.js provided by Visual Studio has a min:js task that used gulp-concat and gulp-uglify to combine javascript files and then minify the result.

Example gulpfile for minification of javascript

The following is a full gulpfile based on the default file generated by Visual Studio stripped down to just the bits needed for the min:js task.

The above will pull all the javascript files from wwwroot/js and its subfolders and combine them and output the results to site.min.js in the wwwroot/js folder.

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