CSS Extensions, Imports and Auto-Prefixing

In the last article we looked at the various Preprocessors for HTML. Now we'll look at the CSS side with popular solutions like SASS/SCSS, Less and Stylus. Finally, we'll add an Auto-Prefixer using PostCSS, to remove a cross-browser headache.

We're starting where we left off in the HTML Templating article. If you need to catch up:

git clone https://github.com/lawwantsin/webpack-course.git
cd webpack-course git
checkout css-prep
npm install

CSS Preprocessors/Extensions

Over the past decade, we've seen valiant attempts to move CSS further towards a Turing complete programming language and simplify design for developers.

Let's approach all 3 of these SASS, LESS and Stylus at same time, since they're done the same way. We start, as usual, in the terminal:

npm install node-sass sass-loader
touch main.sass

In your main.js, change css to sass.


Add another loader to webpack.dev.js rules:

{ test: /\.sass$/, use: [ { loader: "style-loader" }, { loader: "css-loader" },
{ loader: "sass-loader" } ] }

We need only add another loader to the end of what we do for .css files. We could replace sass-loader with less-loader or stylus-loader to the same effect. The naming convention for loaders in surprisingly predictable. So the following packages would also need to be installed.

npm install less less-loader npm install stylus stylus-loader

Imports and Variables

Partial files work as expected with an @import, as do variables, loops and the rest of the fun, all compiled by the loader, which in turn invokes node-sass or the node equivalent in less and stylus.

Let's use an import for illustration: In main.sass take the rules under profile and copy them into a new file

touch src/profile.sass

Then include that in your main.sass with:

@import ./profile

Whoa, way too easy. The import is combined into the original main and not through a separate request, like you'd expect and even variables can cross from main to profile if you place them above the @import.

$width: 300px
@import ./profile

In profile.sass:

img border-radius: 100%
width: $width
box-shadow: 0 0 20px black

Auto-Prefixing with PostCSS

A great goal of an optimal developer experience is to abstract browser compatibility away into a part of the CSS build process.

In webpack.dev.js change the sass rule:

{ test: /\.sass$/, use: [ { loader: "style-loader" }, { loader: "css-loader" },
{ loader: "postcss-loader" }, { loader: "sass-loader" } ] },

Create a new file and add the necessary libraries.

touch postcss.config.js
npm install postcss postcss-loader

So the postcss.config.js file should exports a pretty simple object.

module.exports = { plugins: [require('autoprefixer')] }

When we reload the dev server and the browser perhaps, we see that flexbox prefixes have been added.

Autoprefixer results in Browser

The default is to target all browsers with over 1% of the market share. Which is a lot of old browsers. This information is retrieved automatically from Can I Use, and kept up to date, so you don't have to worry about it as much.

In Sum

In this article we looked at a few options for extending CSS into a more Turing complete language. We also enhanced our developer experience with auto-prefixing for older browser compatibility.

Next Up

We'll get into CSS more in future articles. From optimizing and inlining in production to the new generation of JS based CSS solutions. Next we're going to look at integrating the Rails framework into your webpack setup.