Grunt vs gulp vs Webpack

Grunt
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Webpack vs Gulp vs Grunt


Introduction

With the increasing complexity of Javascript projects and the need to automate tasks, track app performances and execute some maintenance activities, it has become very salient to decide what type of build tool to adopt. Before build tools became a necessity, it was not clear how to handle routine tasks. This was not very necessary because Javascript did not particularly need to be compiled; however, with projects like single page applications, and the advent of build tools, tasks that reoccur are now automated. Seeing that it has become more than a necessity to use build tools, software developers in this present time are faced with the challenge of picking one which is perfect for their project.

In this article, we will be comparing Grunt, Gulp and Webpack in relation to the following features:

  • Ease of Use
  • Popularity
  • Reliability
  • Extensibility

Grunt and Gulp are task runners, while Webpack is a module bundler. Task runners are basically used to automate tasks in a development process. Some of these tasks include compressing JS files, compiling Sass files, watching out for file changes, minifying files and auto-prefixing. Module bundlers take several modules of the application that each have dependencies and bundle them into static assets. Module bundlers perform the task of task runners, and take several steps further. Hopefully at the end of the article, it will be clearer what build tool to use for your project.

Ease of Use

The more complex a tool is, the more difficult it is to use it. Being task runners, Gulp and Grunt offer features like code minification, CSS preprocessing, unit testing and a list of others.

Compared to Grunt or Webpack, Gulp is a lot easier to use. It is possible to start up a project using Gulp in a few minutes. Grunt, however, has less configuration hassle than Webpack.

To set Gulp up, the following steps are taken

  • Check that node, npm, and npx are installed
  • Install Gulp CLI using npm install --global gulp-cli
  • Create a package.json file for devDependencies
  • Install gulp package into the devDependencies using npm install --save-dev gulp@next
  • Create a gulp.js file where the tasks will be written function defaultTask(cb) { // place code for your default task here cb(); } exports.default = defaultTask

In order to use Grunt, you have to do the following:

  • Update your npm [ Node.js package manager] using npm update -g npm
  • Install Grunt CLI [Command line interface] using npm install -g grunt-cli
  • Setup your package.json file where your devDependencies are listed
  • Create a Gruntfile.js file where the tasks are written. The tasks are always written within this block: module.exports = function(grunt) { // Grunt tasks go here };

The processes for setting up Gulp and Grunt look similar. However, Gulp is more expressive; it allows you to write code that clearly states its function. Gulp is based on Node streams, allowing for pipelining. Grunt, on the other hand, relies on data configuring files where every source and destination file must be declared. As the project gets larger, Grunt becomes even more cumbersome to manage.

If, for instance you need to compile Sass, minify the resultant CSS file and Uglify your JS file using Grunt, the Gruntfile.js file will look like this

module.exports = function (grunt) {
    grunt.initConfig({
        sass: {
            dist: {
                files: {
                    'dist-grunt/css/style.css': 'assets/scss/style.scss'
                }
            }
        },
        cssmin: {
            dist: {
                files: {
                    'dist-grunt/css/styles.min.css': ['dist-grunt/css/styles.css']
                }
            }
        },
        uglify: {
            dist: {
                files: {
                    'dist-grunt/js/scripts.min.js': ['dist-grunt/js/scripts.js']
                }
            }
        },
        grunt.loadNpmTasks('grunt-sass');
        grunt.loadNpmTasks('grunt-contrib-cssmin');
        grunt.loadNpmTasks('grunt-contrib-uglify');
        grunt.registerTask('default', ['sass', 'cssmin', 'uglify']);
};

On the other hand, if the same process is to be done with Gulp, the gulp.js will look like this:

var gulp = require('gulp');
var sass = require('gulp-sass');
var cleanCSS = require('gulp-clean-css');
var uglify = require('gulp-uglify');

gulp.task('sass', function () {
    return gulp.src('assets/scss/**/*.scss')
        .pipe(sass().on('error', sass.logError))
        .pipe(gulp.dest('dist-gulp/css'));
});

gulp.task('css', ['sass'], function () {
    return gulp.src([
            'dist-gulp/css/style.css',
            'assets/css/test.css'
        ])
        .pipe(cleanCSS())
        .pipe(gulp.dest('dist-gulp/css'));
});
gulp.task('default', ['css']);

Gulp and Grunt are both easier to set up when compared to Webpack.

In order to use Webpack, you have to do the following:

  • Install Nodejs and Npm
  • In your terminal, create a Webpack folder using mkdir folder-name
  • Intialise the Nodejs project using npm init -y
  • Create the following files touch index.html webpack.config.js index.js
  • Install Webpack and Webpack dev server using npm i --save-dev webpack@latest webpack-dev-server@latest
  • Install Webpack globally npm i -g webpack@latest
  • Write Webpack’s configuration in the webpack.config.js file.

    const webpack = require('webpack');

    let config = { entry: './index.js', output: { filename: 'output.js' } } module.exports = config;

The set up above is the basic start off for Webpack. Webpack has various useful features and can do so much more. The plethora of possibilities uncovered with Webpack might justify its complexities. It takes more time to understand how Webpack works; it can also get cumbersome when managing several configurations for multiple environments.

Popularity

The metrics for measuring the popularity of each of these tools differ. Grunt has been in existence long before Gulp, and many developers have used it extensively. However, according to the State of JavaScript 2018 survey, Webpack ranks higher than Gulp and Grunt.

There is a growing interest in learning to use Webpack; this is justifiable seeing the wide range of possibilities made available through its use.

Also using Github stats, Webpack, Gulp and Grunt have above 41,000, 30,000 and 11,000 stars respectively.

Reliability

Gulp, Grunt and Webpack have a large dependence on plugins. All three tools have large communities where issues could be addressed and fixed. For Gulp and Grunt, there is a high dependence on the plugin author to maintain the plugins, and sometimes, there is little or no documentation to fall back on when an issue is being faced. The result is usually to wait for these authors to make updates or resolve to fix them yourself. However, most Webpack plugins are maintained by Webpack’s core team while the rest are managed by Webpack’s community; and this makes it more reliable.

Extensibility

Gulp, Grunt and Webpack have been improved upon over the past years. They all have more room for newer and even more efficient and standardised plugins.

Some Grunt users are beginning to adopt Gulp because it allows piping, and that explains why Grunt is said to soon have an update that also allows piping. Piping allows gulp users to attach the output of a task to another dependency, making the code shorter and to work faster.

Presently, Gulp seems more extensible than Grunt because when the project scales, it is not so difficult to manage the gulp file. Gulp uses plugins that each perform a single task as opposed to Grunt where one plugin can perform multiple tasks.

Webpack can be extended even beyond its core functionality with the aid of plugins and loaders, the only issue being the complications that may arise while configuring it. However, since Webpack bundles all the modules that have dependencies, it is not so painstaking to work on even large Webpack projects.

At the time of writing, Grunt has 6,459 plugins in its plugin registry, while Gulp has 3,672 plugins listed on its own plugin registry. With so many plugins for both, you are likely to find a plugin to do whatever you need. Webpack has its own set of official plugins listed here, and a list of other third-party plugins that could be found at awesome-webpack.

Conclusion

Webpack is similar to a combination of Gulp/Grunt and Browserify. Webpack is somewhat necessary for projects that have intentions of scaling. That is why it is often used with React or Angular.

Grunt and Gulp could be used when the project is moderate, or fairly large. If you are really comfortable writing JS functions, then Gulp is advisable, but, if you will rather write task configurations, then Grunt will suffice.

It is important to know that every one of the tools discussed here is created to solve specific problems, and hence, the choice of tool should be based on preference as well as the nature of the pending problem to be solved.

Webpack vs Gulp vs Grunt: What are the differences?

Gulp and Grunt are JavaScript task runners, while Webpack is a bundler. Gulp and Grunt are more direct competitors to one another than either is to Webpack, though the three tools can serve many of the same functions.

Webpack has been seeing more use in place of Gulp and Grunt; it appears in more overall stacks than either of the two task runners, and is mentioned in nearly twice the number of job posts. It’s also far more popular on GitHub.

Decisions about Grunt, gulp, and Webpack
Aleksandr Filatov
Aleksandr Filatov
Contract Software Engineer - Microsoft · | 0 upvotes · 122 views
Why migrated?

I could define the next points why we have to migrate:

  • Decrease build time of our application. (It was the main cause).
  • Also jspm install takes much more time than npm install.
  • Many config files for SystemJS and JSPM. For Webpack you can use just one main config file, and you can use some separate config files for specific builds using inheritance and merge them.
See more

We mostly use rollup to publish package onto NPM. For most all other use cases, we use the Meteor build tool (probably 99% of the time) for publishing packages. If you're using Node on FHIR you probably won't need to know rollup, unless you are somehow working on helping us publish front end user interface components using FHIR. That being said, we have been migrating away from Atmosphere package manager towards NPM. As we continue to migrate away, we may publish other NPM packages using rollup.

See more

What is Grunt?

The less work you have to do when performing repetitive tasks like minification, compilation, unit testing, linting, etc, the easier your job becomes. After you've configured it, a task runner can do most of that mundane work for you—and your team—with basically zero effort.

What is gulp?

Build system automating tasks: minification and copying of all JavaScript files, static images. More capable of watching files to automatically rerun the task when a file changes.

What is Webpack?

A bundler for javascript and friends. Packs many modules into a few bundled assets. Code Splitting allows to load parts for the application on demand. Through "loaders" modules can be CommonJs, AMD, ES6 modules, CSS, Images, JSON, Coffeescript, LESS, ... and your custom stuff.
Why do developers choose Grunt?
Why do developers choose gulp?
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      Why do developers choose Webpack vs Gulp vs Grunt?

      • Users of gulp cite build speed, readability and its focus on code over configuration as pros.
      • Users of Grunt appreciate its focus on configuration, its customer support, and its community.
      • Webpack is loved as the “most powerful” JavaScript bundler and users cite its easy configuration and ability to handle all types of assets as pros.
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      What companies use Webpack?

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      What tools integrate with Grunt?
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      What are some alternatives to Grunt, gulp, and Webpack?
      npm
      npm is the command-line interface to the npm ecosystem. It is battle-tested, surprisingly flexible, and used by hundreds of thousands of JavaScript developers every day.
      Yarn
      Yarn caches every package it downloads so it never needs to again. It also parallelizes operations to maximize resource utilization so install times are faster than ever.
      Gradle
      Gradle is a build tool with a focus on build automation and support for multi-language development. If you are building, testing, publishing, and deploying software on any platform, Gradle offers a flexible model that can support the entire development lifecycle from compiling and packaging code to publishing web sites.
      Apache Maven
      Maven allows a project to build using its project object model (POM) and a set of plugins that are shared by all projects using Maven, providing a uniform build system. Once you familiarize yourself with how one Maven project builds you automatically know how all Maven projects build saving you immense amounts of time when trying to navigate many projects.
      Bower
      Bower is a package manager for the web. It offers a generic, unopinionated solution to the problem of front-end package management, while exposing the package dependency model via an API that can be consumed by a more opinionated build stack. There are no system wide dependencies, no dependencies are shared between different apps, and the dependency tree is flat.
      See all alternatives
      Interest over time
      Reviews of Grunt, gulp, and Webpack
      Review ofGruntGrunt

      Grunt is all based on configuration. Some of the configuration is well documented, and some pre-built Gruntfiles can be dropped in and work like a charm. But if you are ever in the position where you have to make any changes to your large and complicated Gruntfile, set aside a few days to work on it. The deeper you get into it, the less intuitive you will find it, and the more strange behaviors you will find from plugins with some 'automagical' undocumented configuration or behavior. If you want a build process that you can understand, and that six months from now you will still understand, you are better off using Gulp.

      Avatar of gdi2290
      Co-Founder and CTO at Tipe
      Review ofgulpgulp

      Gulp is a new build system which shows a lot of promise. The use of streams and code-over-configuration makes for a simpler and more intuitive build. There isn't much boilerplate code so you're able to roll your own asset pipeline. Even if you don't know node.js streams, gulp is pretty readable and easier to understand.

      PS: It's worth saying if you know Grunt then you can learn Gulp in a day.

      Avatar of longgge
      pm at 36kr
      Review ofgulpgulp

      love it!l like gulp‘s logo!

      How developers use Grunt, gulp, and Webpack
      Avatar of Cloudcraft
      Cloudcraft uses gulpgulp

      Gulp is used as the build system for Cloudcraft.co with a lot of custom targets: vendoring dependencies, transpiling ES2015 to Ecmascript5 (with Babel), incremental compilation of multiple watched modules, minification, creation of app distribution packages etc. Having previously used Grunt, I've come to greatly prefer Gulp due to the ability to easily write my own tasks using plain JS without necessarily relying on plugins for everything.

      Avatar of Volkan Özçelik
      Volkan Özçelik uses WebpackWebpack

      Webpack is the best bundler. Period.

      Yes, it has a(n arguably) messy documentation, and a steep learning curve; but once you get the hang of it, there is nothing you cannot do with it.

      Use it and you don’t have to use any other bundler at all.

      It has a vivid ecosystem, and great plugin support.

      Avatar of Scrayos UG (haftungsbeschränkt)
      Scrayos UG (haftungsbeschränkt) uses gulpgulp

      gulp is used to package our plugins for the WSC (Woltlab Suite Core) in a fast, convenient and code-driven way. We enjoy the comfort it offers with stuff like the gzip-plugin or tar-packing.

      Avatar of Refractal
      Refractal uses gulpgulp

      For all our frontend site builds, Grunt allows us to do one-click builds for SASS, Coffeescript and other tools, with minifying and general restructuring built right in.

      Avatar of IVS
      IVS uses gulpgulp

      gulp is a fancy alternative to grunt (that we don't use anymore). Just use async/await instead of "stream" everything (which is a nonsens). We don't use gulp.

      Avatar of Alec Cunningham
      Alec Cunningham uses WebpackWebpack

      My preferred build tool; allows me to bundle my JSX, JS, CSS files for easy access and I can pass the bundle through my node server for server side rendering.

      Avatar of Tinker Travel
      Tinker Travel uses gulpgulp

      If a project has a more complex build, gulp allows us to build a flexible build pipeline and automatically rebuild on files changes. Speeds up JS development.

      Avatar of Kent Steiner
      Kent Steiner uses WebpackWebpack

      Flexible building and compiling of source for browser consumption, mainly for JS, but experimenting a little with CSS (although I prefer StylusJS for CSS).

      Avatar of Andrew Gatenby
      Andrew Gatenby uses WebpackWebpack

      We use this to optimise the delivery of the client-side for our revised Admin System, so it's able to be delivered to browsers as efficiently as possible.

      Avatar of IVS
      IVS uses GruntGrunt

      Using ES7 async/await make the whole tooling chain "problem" disappear. No more code - no grunt tasks, no problems. We don't use grunt anymore.

      Avatar of Cameron Drake
      Cameron Drake uses WebpackWebpack

      Webpack compiles files to bundles with source maps. Using Webpack you can use the latest features (ES6) and have it compiled to compliant js.

      Avatar of Chris Saylor
      Chris Saylor uses GruntGrunt

      We use it in development for the main application and is responsible for generating the Electron binary artifacts for the client application.

      Avatar of Cian Ó Cuinneagáin
      Cian Ó Cuinneagáin uses GruntGrunt

      Concat all javascript files, less files plus other work. Then moves all output files to build directory(declared in the build.config file).

      Avatar of Aspire
      Aspire uses GruntGrunt

      Build our client-side app: process and minify LESS, AngularJS, HTML partials, etc.

      Avatar of Giftstarter
      Giftstarter uses GruntGrunt

      We use Grunt to automate some stuff, mostly related to tasks for the the Web App.

      How much does Grunt cost?
      How much does gulp cost?
      How much does Webpack cost?
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