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gulp vs npm: What are the differences?

gulp: The streaming build system. 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; npm: The package manager for JavaScript. 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.

gulp and npm are primarily classified as "JS Build Tools / JS Task Runners" and "Front End Package Manager" tools respectively.

"Build speed", "Readable" and "Code-over-configuration" are the key factors why developers consider gulp; whereas "Best package management system for javascript", "Open-source" and "Great community" are the primary reasons why npm is favored.

gulp and npm are both open source tools. It seems that gulp with 31.3K GitHub stars and 4.41K forks on GitHub has more adoption than npm with 17.2K GitHub stars and 3.17K GitHub forks.

According to the StackShare community, npm has a broader approval, being mentioned in 2644 company stacks & 2670 developers stacks; compared to gulp, which is listed in 1163 company stacks and 706 developer stacks.

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 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.
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    What are some alternatives to gulp and npm?
    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.
    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.
    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.
    CodeKit
    Process Less, Sass, Stylus, Jade, Haml, Slim, CoffeeScript, Javascript, and Compass files automatically each time you save. Easily set options for each language.
    Parcel
    Parcel is a web application bundler, differentiated by its developer experience. It offers blazing fast performance utilizing multicore processing, and requires zero configuration.
    See all alternatives
    Decisions about gulp and npm
    Tim Abbott
    Tim Abbott
    Founder at Zulip · | 3 upvotes · 9.4K views
    atZulipZulip
    Node.js
    Node.js
    npm
    npm
    Yarn
    Yarn

    I have mixed feelings on the Yarn/npm/Node.js ecosystem. We use it for Zulip, because you basically have to in order to have a modern JavaScript toolchain. And I like that Yarn lets us pin dependency versions out of the box for predictability in our production releases; we have to do significant work for the Python version of this feature.

    But one also deals with broken third-party dependencies uploaded to npm way too often (even ignoring the malicious packages issues that have gotten a lot of press of late). And one mostly has to use nvm in order to pin a specific version of node itself in a maintainable way, and nvm is a mess.

    See more
    Russel Werner
    Russel Werner
    Lead Engineer at StackShare · | 5 upvotes · 7K views
    atStackShareStackShare
    npm
    npm
    Yarn
    Yarn

    We use Yarn because at the time we decided to adopt it, npm had some missing features and issues. We like the speed and determinism provided by Yarn. We could probably use npm at this point, but we have no real reason to switch from Yarn. If you have a convincing argument to switch from npm to Yarn please leave a comment on this decision!

    See more
    Johnny Bell
    Johnny Bell
    Senior Software Engineer at StackShare · | 17 upvotes · 109.8K views
    ESLint
    ESLint
    Prettier
    Prettier
    Babel
    Babel
    npm
    npm
    Yarn
    Yarn
    Node.js
    Node.js
    Webpack
    Webpack
    #ES6
    #ES5

    So when starting a new project you generally have your go to tools to get your site up and running locally, and some scripts to build out a production version of your site. Create React App is great for that, however for my projects I feel as though there is to much bloat in Create React App and if I use it, then I'm tied to React, which I love but if I want to switch it up to Vue or something I want that flexibility.

    So to start everything up and running I clone my personal Webpack boilerplate - This is still in Webpack 3, and does need some updating but gets the job done for now. So given the name of the repo you may have guessed that yes I am using Webpack as my bundler I use Webpack because it is so powerful, and even though it has a steep learning curve once you get it, its amazing.

    The next thing I do is make sure my machine has Node.js configured and the right version installed then run Yarn. I decided to use Yarn because when I was building out this project npm had some shortcomings such as no .lock file. I could probably move from Yarn to npm but I don't really see any point really.

    I use Babel to transpile all of my #ES6 to #ES5 so the browser can read it, I love Babel and to be honest haven't looked up any other transpilers because Babel is amazing.

    Finally when developing I have Prettier setup to make sure all my code is clean and uniform across all my JS files, and ESLint to make sure I catch any errors or code that could be optimized.

    I'm really happy with this stack for my local env setup, and I'll probably stick with it for a while.

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    Mark Nelissen
    Mark Nelissen
    CTO at Gemsotec bvba · | 4 upvotes · 2.9K views
    Yarn
    Yarn
    TypeScript
    TypeScript
    React
    React
    npm
    npm

    I use npm because I also mainly use React and TypeScript. Since several typings (from DefinitelyTyped) depend on the React typings, Yarn tends to mess up which leads to duplicate libraries present (different versions of the same type definition), which hinders the Typescript compiler. Npm always resolves to a single version per transitive dependency. At least that's my experience with both.

    See more
    Webpack
    Webpack
    gulp
    gulp
    jQuery
    jQuery
    JavaScript
    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 · 17.6K views
    Parcel
    Parcel
    gulp
    gulp
    Grunt
    Grunt
    Webpack
    Webpack
    #Merge
    #WebPackDevServer

    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
    Jason Barry
    Jason Barry
    Cofounder at FeaturePeek · | 4 upvotes · 11.1K views
    atFeaturePeekFeaturePeek
    npm
    npm
    Yarn
    Yarn
    Babel
    Babel
    Sublime Text
    Sublime Text
    JavaScript
    JavaScript
    React
    React
    TypeScript
    TypeScript
    Flow (JS)
    Flow (JS)
    #Frontend

    I think our #Frontend stack is pretty standard – but we have taken some deviations from a typical modern stack:

    • Flow (JS) instead of TypeScript. Flow was an easy choice 2+ years ago, as both flow and React were (and still are) maintained by Facebook. Today, it seems that the JavaScript community has settled on TypeScript as the winner. For new projects, I'd choose TS, but I don't see the point in migrating an existing project from flowtype to TS, when the end result will be roughly the same. Sure, memory usage is a bit high, and every now and then I have to kill some zombie processes, but our text editors (Sublime Text), CI scripts, and Babel are already set up to take advantage of the type safety that flow offers. When/if the React team writes React itself in TS, then I'll take a closer look – until then, flow works for us.

    • Yarn instead of npm. When yarn debuted, we never looked back. Now npm has pretty much caught up with speed and lockfiles, but yarn gives me confidence that my dependency installs are deterministic. Really interested in the plug-n-play (PnP) feature that removes the need for a node_modules folder, but haven't implemented this yet.

    See more
    Yarn
    Yarn
    npm
    npm
    Node.js
    Node.js

    From a StackShare Community member: “I’m a freelance web developer (I mostly use Node.js) and for future projects I’m debating between npm or Yarn as my default package manager. I’m a minimalist so I hate installing software if I don’t need to- in this case that would be Yarn. For those who made the switch from npm to Yarn, what benefits have you noticed? For those who stuck with npm, are you happy you with it?"

    See more
    Interest over time
    Reviews of gulp and npm
    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 gulp and npm
    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 lispur
    lispur uses npmnpm

    Utilize npm private module to package shared library for different React / React Native clients. Shareable code goes here. Basically deliver Redux Store with Firebase integration and business logic in a library. Each React app utilizes this while delivering a device/target specific UI.

    Avatar of Refractal
    Refractal uses npmnpm

    If you're using Node or Gulp, you can't help but use NPM in some form or another. Fortunately that's never a bad thing with the massive package repository and glowing ecosystem making it a breeze to work with.

    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 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 Oomba
    Oomba uses npmnpm

    We manages all of our packages, including Angular JS through npm. It is a very quick way of downloading / installing packages into your project.

    Avatar of Thibault Maekelbergh
    Thibault Maekelbergh uses npmnpm

    Module is published as bpost on the npm registry. Tasks for the module are also defined as npm run tasks with commit hooks for git

    Avatar of Andrew Gatenby
    Andrew Gatenby uses npmnpm

    It's the front-end version of Composer, so is pretty essential to pull in packages that can be tracked and kept up to date.

    How much does gulp cost?
    How much does npm cost?
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