5 Powerful LESS and Sass Compilers for Web Developers

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Technologies related to web development have evolved at a rapid pace in recent years. Traditionally, we write CSS the good old way which is not only time consuming but also gets unmanageable while developing very large projects. Preprocessing CSS is an ideal way to not only minimize the development time but also an excellent way to maintain, extend and scale a large CSS code base with ease. The two most popular CSS preprocessors used by web developers are LESS and Sass. Today, we're going to take a look at the applications (compilers) used primarily by front-end developers to compile their code right on the desktop. Almost all of these applications not only support these two popular CSS preprocessors but also includes compilers of other popular front-end frameworks and languages out-of-the-box.

Koala App LESS and Sass compiler
Koala - This is my favorite compiler for Sass and I'm using it on my Windows machine. Its clean and minimal interface lets you focus on the primary job of preprocessing your LESS or Sass code. Power users can also enable its debug info option to analyze the errors and shortcomings in the code. This flexible compiler is available for Mac and Linux too. The latter version is available in both 32-bit and 64-bit flavors. A single installer configures all the necessary options and lets you get started immediately. Following are some of the impressive features of this app.
  • Compiles multiple languages - Apart from LESS and Sass, this app also compiles files of CoffeeScript and the popular Compass framework. This makes it one of the preferred tools for the web developers.
  • Real time compilation - The application can be configured to monitor all the relevant files within your project for any modifications. Whenever you make any changes within these files, it automatically recompiles the code to generate the latest version of the target code.
  • Useful error notifications - While compiling the code, it automatically displays the notification popup with the error details, if any. This ensures you can catch the shortcomings at the preliminary stage to optimize and repair the code.
  • Light and user friendly - The application itself is blazing fast and very light. As I said before, the interface is minimal and soothing to the eyes.

Codekit for Mac using web developers
CodeKit - This is not just a compiler but an all-in-one tool for web developers using Mac. It can compile tons of front-end languages in both compressed and regular form. It also supports auto-refresh of browsers on all the popular desktop and mobile platforms making code testing, a breeze. It can also insert vendor prefixes automatically within your CSS code. The application has number of configuration options to customize the app behavior as per your requirements. Let's check out some its powerful and flexible features that make web development, a cakewalk.
  • Automatic file merging - This application can merge both regular JavaScript and CoffeeScript files to ensure the browser makes less HTTP requests while fetching the web pages.
  • In-built image optimization - It also includes an image compression module that helps to optimize your JPG and PNG images for using in the web projects.
  • Handles dependencies - One of the most powerful features of this application is installation and inclusion of dependent libraries. This ensures your project compiles successfully without any glitch.
  • Clean interface - This is one more application with a slick interface. With point and click operations, newbies can also get started with this app in no time.

Prepros Sass and LESS compiler application
Prepros App - This powerful application integrates several tools within one roof to make lives of front-end developers bit easy. It includes a powerful LESS and Sass compiler, device testing module and live browser refresh functionality to optimize and design your projects with ease. It's available for both Windows and Mac platform. A Google chrome extension ensures it can be used almost anywhere. Like other competitors, this app also has a minimal interface and works seamlessly. Check out these awesome features included in this flexible LESS/Sass compiler.
  • JavaScript merging - This app automatically combines all the JS files included in your project upon compilation. This ensures your production code is well optimized for the web.
  • FTP/SFTP support - There's no need to manually upload your compiled project files to the web server. It has a user friendly FTP support to directly upload the files from within the application.
  • Integrated HTTP server - It also includes a complete HTTP server to easily test your local project with ease without any conflict or restrictions.
  • Exportable config settings - You can also export your application's config settings in JSON format with other team members that can be easily used on other computers as well.

LiveReload Sass/LESS compilation plugin
LiveReload - This is yet another powerful compiler made for front-end developers. It's available both for Mac and Windows platform. I've tested it with a demo project and found it extremely easy-to-use and effective. It can monitor your project files for changes and can compile different types of front end languages including LESS and Sass. Since it is open source, advanced users can tweak it and make the necessary changes to suit their requirements. It can work seamlessly with all the popular modern web browsers. Following features are part of this handy application.
  • Bower extensions support - It natively supports inclusion of bower to easily install and deploy external libraries and dependencies.
  • Post compilation process - You can also configure tasks to be run after the compilation process is completed. This facilitates extra flexibility in managing and cleaning up the project files.
  • Browser extensions - If you're only going to work with desktop browsers, you can use the extensions available for all the popular browsers.
  • Compiles several languages - It is one of the few compilers that support good number of front-end languages commonly used by web developers.

Scout App for LESS and Sass compilation
Scout - If you're using Sass or Compass framework for your web project, then this compiler is made just for you. It can emit the compiled code in various forms depending on the environment and code style. For example, if you want nested code for the production site, it can generate the version for the same. Like other similar applications, it can easily monitor changes in your Sass files to trigger compilation of fresh copies of the code base. It also has a handy log window where users can inspect all the events and steps in chronological order. Let's check out features of this app.
  • Simple and easy-to-use - This app is very simple and works perfectly without any kinds of bells and whistles. New web coders can start using this application before migrating to a more complex one.
  • Easy configuration - Simply specify the input and output directories including the compilation options to get started in no time. Everything is done through the graphical interface making the setup very simple.
  • Cross-platform app - This excellent compiler works both on Mac and Windows. It comes in the form of a single installation binary making the installation process very user friendly.
  • Powerful logging - As mentioned earlier, this app also provides a log trail facilitating inspection of all the jobs and compilation steps performed by this tool.


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