Grunt vs gulp vs Webpack

Grunt
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gulp
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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.

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.

Want advice about which of these to choose?Ask the StackShare community!

Why do developers choose Grunt?
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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.
      What companies use Grunt?
      What companies use gulp?
      What companies use Webpack?
      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.
      Brunch
      Brunch is an assembler for HTML5 applications. It's agnostic to frameworks, libraries, programming, stylesheet & templating languages and backend technology.
      See all alternatives
      What tools integrate with Grunt?
      What tools integrate with gulp?
      What tools integrate with Webpack?
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            Decisions about Grunt, gulp, and Webpack
            Webpack
            gulp
            jQuery
            JavaScript

            I use JavaScript these days and for few years I didn't have to use jQuery at all. I used to use it back in the days when IE8 and similar was a thing. But due to better browser support of native functions for DOM manipulation I could move to vanilla JavaScript. Most of the time, that's all I need to work with modals/accordions and similar. But I'm not saying that jQuery is bad. It was, and still is a great tool. Some of it's features are available in all browsers nowadays so it is not so important as it used to be. But jQuery has still advantage for example in it's selector engine, some DOM selections which are easy in jQuery are a bit more difficult in vanilla JS (you have to create some helper functions or use some 3rd party library to help you with that), but to be honest I needed this on very few occasions. So it really depends on your project (supported browses, plain JS or some bundling - gulp, Webpack, whether you plan to use modules etc.). Hope this helps.

            See more
            Gustavo Muñoz
            Gustavo Muñoz
            Web UI Developer at Globant · | 4 upvotes · 2.7K views
            Parcel
            gulp
            Grunt
            Webpack
            #WebPackDevServer
            #Merge

            Using Webpack is one of the best decision ever. I have used to Grunt and gulp previously, but the experience is not the same, and despite I know there are other bundlers like Parcel, Webpack gives me the perfect balance between automatization and configuration. The ecosystem of tools and loaders is amazing, and with WebPack #merge, you can modularize your build and define standard pieces to assemble different build configurations. I don't like processes where you cannot see their guts, and you have to trust in magic a little bit too much for my taste. But also I don't want to reinvent the wheel and lose too much time configuring my build processes. And of course, I love #WebPackDevServer and hot reloading.

            See more
            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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