A Step-by-Step Introduction to CSS Preprocessors with VS Code | Hacker Noon

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It is fun to build cool and good looking pages when you know CSS like the back of your hand. But when you have a few hundred lines of code, this is exactly when things begin to get complicated and messy. This is where CSS preprocessors come to play, helping you to manage and improve the maintainability of your code.

In this article, I am going to share with you some benefits you can have from using CSS preprocessors.

If you are a newbie in web development after struggling to learn CSS, it is a good idea to learn what a preprocessor is and why you should start learning it since you already feel comfortable with your level of CSS.

Here, you will meet the most popular CSS preprocessors. Let’s start by defining the word preprocessor. This definition is from the Wikipedia and the MDN Web docs page:

A computer program that modifies data to conform with the input requirements of another program.

Which CSS Preprocessor Should You Choose?

There are some minor differences between each of them but it is your call to make depending on your preferences. If your working with a coding partner, I would recommend you to choose the same he/she is using.

Here is a list of the four most popular CSS preprocessors:

How to Set Up a CSS Preprocessor on Your Local Environment

After deciding with your partner which preprocessor fits you the best, these are the steps you will have to follow to implement the preprocessor in your workflow.

  1. If you don’t have a code editor or an IDE installed, I recommend you use VS Code click on the link to download and install it.
  2. To install a Sass or a LESS transcompiler you will likely need Node.js and npm (node package manager) installed. If you don’t already have them click on the links to do so.
  3. With VS Code you don’t need to make it to the terminal, we are just going to use a VS Code extension if you curious to know more about extensions just click here. Now you know enough about extension let’s install the one we are going to use for compiling our Sass or LESS code into CSS is Live Sass compiler.What are the advantages of using a CSS preprocessor?

What are the Advantages of Using a CSS Preprocessor?

Let’s cover some advantages you will have from using a CSS preprocessor.

Eliminates code repetition :

With all the features brought to us, now we have more tools at our disposal just to write cleaner and shorter code, which is the main objective of a code author: to write less and do more. With all that in mind let’s have a look at a few concepts available to help us to keep our code DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself).

Solves browser compatibility issues :

After spending a considerable amount of time styling a web page using only one browser to debug, it is very unpleasant to find out that your page does not look the same in another browser. If you want to use a CSS property and you are not sure about the compatibility across browsers, just go to the caniuse website to check it out. But the most interesting thing on using a CSS preprocessor is that you have all the vendor prefixes added automatically, ensuring compatibility for different browsers.

Final Thoughts

Choosing a CSS preprocessor can be intimidating to learn but in the end, it will be cool to have one more tool in your toolbox. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed you chose to add CSS preprocessors to your arsenal.


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