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What Is Gulp and How to Use It?

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21/10/2021 |

5 min read

Dominika Reszke

What is Gulp and why do software developers ever use it? Advertised as „a toolkit to automate & enhance your workflow”, it is supposed to „automate slow, repetitive workflows and compose them into efficient build pipelines”.

And, according to its proponents, it certainly does. They say that gulp is time-saving, powerful, simple and easy to use, and that it offers comprehensive documentation. Thanks to taking advantage of it, routine, time-consuming tasks within the soft developers’ world are not that painful anymore.

But Gulp doesn’t only have avid supporters. Its opponents claim that this open-source JavaScript toolkit, is, in fact, dated and not exactly cutting-edge, and that the front-end web development world doesn’t really need it. They say that one of the Gulp’s most serious drawbacks is the fact that multiple tasks cannot be performed simultaneously. Another one is transitioning between older and newer versions and repositories.

Certainly, it’s good to know Gulp’s ins and outs to be able to assess it right. In this short guide, we’ll try to shed light on this streaming build system, initially released back in 2013.


Table of contents:

1. Gulp.js in a nutshell – all you need to know

2. Gulp’s best features & most common use cases

3. How Gulp can improve your software development

1. Gulp.js in a nutshell – all you need to know

But what is Gulp.js, in fact? It is one of the well-known task runners, listed along with Grunt and npm scripts. Moreover, it’s still present in many recent Front-end Developer Roadmaps, including the latest, for the year 2021. As a task runner, it is supposed to automate many development tasks and thus reduce repetition in a programmer’s activities.

Gulp is built on Node.js and npm. It is often appreciated for having a good and easy syntax. To make gulp work properly, there are two files (package.json and gulpfile.js) needed to perform any Gulp task. Those tasks are run from a CLI (command-line interface) shell.

There are over 4,200 single-purpose Gulp plugins available (as of September 2021), but Gulp tasks involving plugins have to be performed manually. Moreover, those plugins Gulp relies on so heavily need to be installed first, and it also takes time.

Sometimes programmers complain that the use of external plugins they need to install to perform specific operations can be a little tricky. It’s because it may turn out that a plugin they utilized in previous projects is not supported anymore by its author – another software developer.

Gulp’s ecosystem may not be that remarkable, then. However, extensive documentation and a large community are where Gulp’s users may find help and support when needed.

2. Gulp’s best features & most common use cases

But what is Gulp used for, in detail? What does Gulp do? This toolkit’s proponents emphasize its versatility, flexibility, and quickness in making software development more smooth and trouble-free. Indeed, the number of its possible use cases is quite impressive.

It is used for many functional and practical things like building frameworks and single-page web applications, executing and automating tasks and file operations, running test suites, optimizing source code, and compiling styles and scripts for CSS and JavaScript, e.g. Sass to CSS.

In general, Gulp’s use cases include tasks such as unit testing, linting, minification (with Gulp-imagemin), concatenation, cache busting. What’s important is that Gulp is proper for handling both synchronous and asynchronous tasks.

Utilizing JavaScript Gulp not only may give relief to software developers doing their front-end duties but also to end-users of applications they work on. One of the most evident immediate effects may simply be increased efficiency in web page loading.

3. How Gulp can improve your software development

There’s certainly a reason why Gulp’s supporters love it. How Gulp works can simply make a software developer’s life easier. Its fans say that it is time-saving, powerful, simple, and easy to start with, even for JavaScript beginners.

Since Gulp automates routine, repetitive tasks and speeds up the build process, they can save a lot of time. And, because those tasks are often boring or even exhausting, it may, to some extent, prevent developers from feeling burnt out and make them more satisfied with their jobs. What’s also important, is that the learning curve is shallow, and the entry barrier – low, in the case of Gulp. The integration as well as build processes – from writing code to deployment – are made easy. This way, streamlining software development gets triggered.

Despite being lightweight, Gulp can execute even complex tasks. While it does great in the majority of popular tasks, it may not be that good in the case of some more complicated builds. What’s more, it may require installing some specific plugins, and those used previously may turn out not to be compatible with Gulp’s newer versions.

And you, would you recommend utilizing Gulp in a day-to-day front-end developer’s job? What applications and use cases is it best suited for? Do you find it proper for today’s world challenges, or a little obsolete?

Rated: 5.0 / 1 opinions
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Dominika Reszke

IT Content Writer with 12 years of professional writing experience. Prefers facts and figures to any kind of fiction.

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