Easy Javascript plugin development using gulpjs

October 20, 2014

I’ll be showing how to setup a build environment suitable for developing a sophisticated JavaScript plugin

Build System: Gulp.js

We don’t want to end up writing all the code in one huge JavaScript file, so using gulp.js actually gives us  lots of features:

  • Modularizing our code in multiple files and concating/minifying it at run time
  • Gives us the ability to write our code using higher level languages like CoffeeScriptSass , etc.. and will compile them at run time
  • A local  web server to to host our plugin and the styling code ( sometime that’s needed if you have different development and deployment workflows )
  • Enable sourcemaps while developing
  • Use watchers to recompile files on change & also for browser reload

Our Directory will look like this


/src Directory contains all the plugin code (can be javascript/coffeescript)

/styles Directory contains all the styling code (can be sass/less/css)

/dist Directory contains all the compiled plugin files (plugin.js, plugin-styles.css, images, etc..)

package.json contains all the npm modules that our app depends on (the dependencies are not javascript dependencies for our plugin but our gulp plugins that we will use in our build)

gulpfile.js Here is where all the build magic happens


To get started in our plugin root folder we need to run

npm init

it will asks us multiple questions and in the end will generate a package.json

Then we need to install the following plugins because we will be using them in our gulp file gulp-concatgulp-webservergulp-sourcemaps and gulp-sass

install them by typing the following in your command line

npm install gulp gulp-concat gulp-webserver gulp-sourcemaps gulp-sass --save-dev

you need to also install gulp globally if you didn’t npm install -g gulp

Our Gulp file

// /plugin/gulpfile.js
var gulp = require('gulp'),
  webserver = require('gulp-webserver'),
  concat = require('gulp-concat'),
  sourcemaps = require('gulp-sourcemaps'),
  sass = require('gulp-sass')

gulp.task('sass', function () {
  return gulp.src('styles/*.scss').pipe(sass()).pipe(gulp.dest('dist'))

gulp.task('scripts', function () {
  return gulp
    .src(['src/app.js', 'src/!(main)*.js', 'src/main.js'])

gulp.task('watch', function () {
  gulp.watch(['src/*.js'], ['scripts'])
  gulp.watch(['styles/*.scss'], ['sass'])

gulp.task('server', ['scripts', 'sass', 'watch'], function () {
  gulp.src('dist').pipe(webserver({ port: 9001 }))

Our gulp file is pretty basic it does the following

  • Convert all the sass files to css and create them in the dist directory
  • Concat all the javascript files into one file and create it in the dist directory Note: In the result concatenated file we are specifying the first & last files to include app.js, main.js
  • Watch the files & recompile on change
  • Create a webserver that will have the dist directory as its root

all we have to do to run & watch file changes is to run this command in the command line

gulp server

server is the task name defined in our gulpfile.js and as you can see in our code that task depends on all other tasks (meaning it will run everything) and it will also fire up a server on port 9001 and the server’s root will be /dist

You can read more about gulp here, It is extremely easy to use. With a little searching you can get tons of good examples of how to practically do anything with it

Written by Nadeem Khedr citizen of the world, you can find me on Twitter & Github