What CSS Preprocessors are, how they work, which one might you pick and why you might or might not want to choose. With the increasing number of preprocessors like Turbine, Sass, LESS, Switch CSS and Stylus to name a few, it is very difficult to decide which to pick for the project and which will offer the best CSS authoring.
The answer to this is in the name itself. CSS preprocessors take code written in the preprocessed language and then translate that code into the same old css we have been writing for years.
Because they are not css, they are not bound by the drawbacks of css. The preprocessed language can give you more functionality than css. You cannot ignore all the add-ons the preprocessor offers as those add-ons can allow you to write more flexible and maintainable css faster.
The ultimate benefit of preprocessors is reduced effort—not physical effort (typing less), but mental effort. This style sheet-enhancer allow you to offload some of the tiresome thinking and app switching that is integral to front-end development. If you have a commonly used colour value, you can keep it as a variable instead of seeking for it or placing it into memory. In addition, if you need to change that colour in a maintainable and predictable manner, Sass can do it for you as it has an absurd amount of colour operations that do just that, saving a trip to the closest color-picker.
Implementing preprocessor, you can focus directly on writing styles.
A preprocessor gives added advantage over CSS by providing additional syntax that provides the following advantages:
Ability to define mixins – Mixins allow the assembling of multiple code lines all together that you can use all through the style sheet. You can also configure them with the variables to make them more powerful.
Mathematical functions – In preprocessing, you can use math functions to perform calculations and these become more useful when linked with variables.
Nested syntax – The nested syntax in preprocessors allows a cleaner method of targeting DOM elements. It avoids the need to rewrite selectors multiple times, moreover decreasing the time it takes to make variations to style sheets.
Ability to define variables – Variables in preprocessors can store any value, which can later be reused. Like in nesting, developers can specify certain values in one location and if they need to change the value, it can be updated only once.
Operational functions (such as “lighten” and “darken”) – In addition to the use of mathematical functions, we also have access to operational functions. In advanced mathematics, there are functions such as `cos`, `sin` and `tan`.
Joining of multiple files – In large CSS projects it is very important to keep your code in defined sections. If there is a single CSS file, you can break the code by comments. Alternatively, you can break the code into multiple CSS files. As many files need to be released to your website visitors, so this can be a disadvantage; but LESS and SASS can solve this by allowing you to include files into another.
The main file created should be included in the webpage from this file where all other style modules are imported. This leaves the visitor to download a single file but styles are kept in a logical hierarchy.
Deciding whether a CSS preprocessor is a good idea is not generally the largest obstacle to entry. Users generally drop off when they are asked to set up watch expressions or to download packages via the command line. Fortunately, it is easy to keep away from these issues if the terminal just is not your thing.
The communities with each preprocessor tend to be pretty enthusiastic about their respective choice. All said, though, every preprocessor is strangely alike. If you want to find the one best suited for your project, observe each one of them closely.