Technologies | September 7, 2023

Gulp vs Webpack. What is better: Using Webpack or Gulp.js?

Webpack vs Gulp? Understanding differences these tools and similarities will undoubtedly help us make the right decision. Read on to make job easier and increase level of productivity.

Gulp vs Webpack. What is better: Using Webpack or Gulp.js?

Gulp vs Webpack? Both of these tools play an important role in the world of programming. Often the choice between them seems complicated at first glance. However, understanding their differences and similarities will undoubtedly help us make the right decision – especially those who are new to the world of programming. Whether we’re considering using Gulp (task runner), Webpack (module bundler), or a combination of both, knowing more about their functionalities will definitely make our job easier and increase our level of productivity. If you’re looking for the right tools for your next project, read on.

Gulp vs Webpack

SCSS vs CSS – the basics

Before comparing the tools (Webpack and Gulp), let’s remind ourselves of what CSS and SCSS technologies are – apart from being indispensable in the world of programming, of course.

CSS and SCSS are technologies we use daily to assign specific appearances to elements (color, size) and position these elements on the page. However, it’s essential to consider certain differences before deciding to use any of them.

CSS is the standard stylesheet language, firmly rooted in the front-end world. Compared to SCSS, its syntax appears simpler and much more intuitive. Younger developers definitely tend to choose CSS, especially in the early stages of their learning. CSS rules aim to define styles for specific elements, such as paragraphs, divs, or other HTML elements.

/* CSS syntax */

h1 { color: blue; font-size: 24px; }

SCSS is simply a CSS preprocessor, it extends the syntax with additional functions and allows for the use of advanced techniques, including:

  • nesting rules – CSS selectors can be nested within other selectors, reflecting the structure of HTML selectors.
  • using variables (which enable storing reusable values throughout your stylesheet),
  • mathematical operators (allowing for operations like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division within your styles), making your code easier to write, more modular, and more elegant.
/* SCSS syntax with nesting and variables */

$primary-color: blue;

h1 {

color: $primary-color;

font-size: 24px;

}

Key differences between SCSS and CSS:

  1. Syntax: SCSS offers a more expanded syntax, which makes writing and maintaining code more straightforward. Nesting rules allow for more readable and logical code.
  2. Variables: SCSS enables the definition of variables, allowing for easy changes to style values in one place, and promoting consistency across a project.
  3. Preprocessor: SCSS is one of many CSS preprocessors, meaning SCSS code needs to be compiled into regular CSS before deployment on a web page.

The choice between SCSS and CSS depends on the complexity of the project and the team’s skillset. For straightforward projects that don’t require advanced styling techniques, CSS might be a suitable choice. However, for more complex projects where modularity and easy edits are crucial, SCSS can provide greater flexibility and convenience when it comes to managing styles.

Read also: Front-End development outsourcing

Installing Webpack

The features of Webpack primarily allow for managing dependencies and creating organized files. Installing the tool is ridiculously easy. Let’s start by checking if we have the Node Package Manager (NPM) installed, which is, in my opinion, the quickest and most efficient way to install Webpack. Next, we open the command line and type in the command:

npm install webpack –g

Then, from the command line, we navigate to the directory with our project and type the command:

npm init

We can notice that a package.json file has been created in the target directory. All that’s left is to install Webpack in our project:

npm install --save-dev webpack

And now we can enjoy this powerful tool!

Further configuration steps depend on the individual needs of the project – I will describe an example of a brief configuration in the points below. However, detailed guidelines regarding Webpack’s capabilities can be found in the official documentation available on the website: Webpack Documentation.

Installing Gulp

On the other hand, we use Gulp for automating certain tasks, such as compilation, minification of files, images, or refreshing the browser. Installing Gulp is just as easy as installing Webpack. Let’s ensure that we have NPM installed. Then, we start with the command:

npm install -g gulp

We navigate to our project directory, creating a package.json file by using the command:

npm init

And all that’s left for us is to add Gulp to our project:

npm install --save-dev gulp

How do we configure Webpack? After installation, we can start creating the gulpfile.js file, which will be responsible for task configuration for our tool. Later in the article, I will also provide a brief configuration for Gulp.

To explore all the capabilities of Gulp, the Gulp is available.

Webpack Configuration

As I mentioned earlier, I will present a brief configuration of Webpack in our project. It’s such an advanced tool that I can’t describe all its capabilities here.

Let’s start by adding a webpack.config.js file, which contains the entire Webpack configuration.

Next, let’s place the basic configuration there:

module.exports = {

entry: './src/main.js',

output: {

path: __dirname + '/dist',

filename: 'bundle.js'

},

mode: 'production'

};

We defined where Webpack should fetch the source files (entry). The output property specifies where they should be placed after processing. The mode option determines whether we want to optimize the code, for example, for production. Webpack provides us with a broad package of plugins and loaders, allowing us to tailor it to our needs.

Gulp Configuration

Gulp is a task automation tool that we can customize in the gulpfile.js file. Within the configuration, we define tasks such as code minification, compilation, or refreshing the browser after every change in the code.

const gulp = require('gulp');

const uglify = require('gulp-uglify');

gulp.task('compress', function() {

return gulp.src('src/js/*.js')

.pipe(uglify())

.pipe(gulp.dest('dist/js'));

});

This is a sample configuration, the aim of which is to compress JavaScript files.

First, we create a new task called ‘compress’. Then, with return gulp.src(‘src/js/*.js’), we specify the source files to be processed (in our case, these are all files with the .js extension, from the src/js directory).

The next step is to pass the source files to the plugin using pipe(uglify()), which compresses our code, removing, for example, unnecessary spaces and comments so that the file is as small as possible.

Finally, we indicate the directory where the processed files should be saved.

Gulp vs Webpack tool handling – comparison

If we were to compare Webpack and Gulp, it’s hard to pinpoint a single correct choice – it all depends on the project we’re currently working on.

Webpack is primarily a bundler that compiles project assets into clear outputs. We can easily extend it thanks to plugins, which allows us to achieve a wide range of applications, such as:

  • Transpilation – in the case of JavaScript, for example, adapting the ES6 version to older browsers,
  • Code minification – the process of removing unnecessary characters from code to reduce its size, thereby improving load times),
  • Dependency management.

Check all Gulp plugins available: Using plugin.

On the other hand, Gulp is a task automation tool that will definitely improve our workflow. In my opinion, it is very easy to learn. In a short time, we can create tasks for compiling SASS files or automatic browser refresh. The configuration is much more readable and flexible.

Webpack handles dependencies superbly, while Gulp stands out when we want to fully automate our work.

In a nutshell:

  • Webpack is a module bundler. Like Gulp, Webpack also allows you to run many functions related to tasks.
  • Gulp is a task automation tool to enhance your workflow.

Gulp or Webpack?

The choice between these two technologies depends on the specific needs and architecture of our project. It is also a matter of personal preferences and experience. If complex bundling and dependency management are crucial to your development process, Webpack might be the right way to go. On the other hand, if you need a simple and clear way to automate typical developer tasks, Gulp is an excellent solution. This article is really an introduction to these tools. At each stage, it is useful to use documentation and take advantage of the knowledge of experienced colleagues and Technical Leaders in a project.

Remember, nothing prevents us from combining both tools. By using Gulp and Webpack simultaneously, we can benefit from the advantages of each. This can not only improve the quality of our project but also reduce the time needed for development.

How about using Webpack instead of Gulp?

When combined with NPM scripts, Webpack can successfully replace Gulp. In my experience, however, it is better to combine tools rather than limit yourself to just one, which I strongly encourage you to do. As I mentioned, Webpack and Gulp are both build tools that you can use for similar tasks. However, their approaches and strengths differ. Ultimately, the choice between using

Webpack alone or combining it with Gulp depends on the requirements of your project and your preference as a programmer.

Gulp vs Webpack comparison – summary

I hope I have been able to clarify the benefits of using Webpack and Gulp. When it comes to the question of ‘Webpack or Gulp’, it’s hard to find one perfect solution, especially in the case of beginner front-end developers. Above all, we need to focus on our skills, experience, and project needs. There is no universal solution. Often, we have a predetermined work ecosystem. It’s worth experimenting with both technologies, combining them, testing, and creating an optimized, efficient work environment.


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Maciej has always been interested in tech innovations. He's been working in the area of frontend since 2015. Maciej is an enthusiast of the entire JavaScript ecosystem, especially Angular. On a daily basis, he develops large systems.

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