Web development, especially when it comes to JavaScript, requires a great deal of precision, efforts and proper planning. In the absence of that, not only can projects take way too much time, but developing complex apps might seem nearly impossible.

This is because as web developers, we no longer work only with HTML code. Instead, the focus is shifting to complex apps that can be deployed for a wide variety of purposes -- data management, single page apps, PWAs, you name it!

So when it comes to JavaScript development in particular, we have a range of tools at our disposal to make life easier. Among such tools, two names in particular stand out -- gulp.js (generally referred to as gulp) and webpack.

In this article, we will be learning more about both gulp and webpack and also understanding how either of these can help us in our developmental workflow.

gulp.js

Simply put, gulp is a streaming build system that can help us automate several tasks. In other words, we can use gulp to take care of generic actions and tasks that are otherwise important and almost always performed, but repeatedly doing the same tends to take up a good deal of our time.

And when we talk about "tasks", we are referring to actions such as minification of CSS or JS code, compiling SASS or LESS files, converting SVG icons to fonts, watching files for changes and other actions, and so on.

Using gulp, we can automate such tasks. Naturally, this can go a long way towards saving our time. Gulp tasks are simple JS asynchronous functions that accept an error-first callbacks.

Learn more about gulp here.

webpack

webpack is a module bundler for JavaScript. This means it can take modules with dependencies and then generate static assets that are representatives of the said modules.

Considering the fact that webpack is a module bundler, it can, ideally, run side by side with a task runner such as gulp.js

However, in the modern world of JavaScript development, the lines between module bundlers and task runners have become more and more blurred. This is because webpack is highly extensible, and can be extended by means of custom plugins. As such, due to community developed plugins for webpack, we can now use webpack to perform actions that were initially beyond the scope of this tool -- such as task management.

As a result, webpack has now grown beyond its previous stature and is often used to replace tools such as gulp.js when used in assonance with its plugins.

Simply put, webpack takes multiple modules with dependencies. These can be in the form of PNG files, SASS and CSS scripts, other image and media file formats, etc. Then, webpack bundles them to give us coherent static assets that we can deploy within minutes.

Learn more about webpack here.

Using webpack or gulp.js?

While gulp.js and webpack are a different breed of tools, they both tend to serve a more or less similar purpose nowadays. As such, it is often common for many JavaScript developers to replace gulp.js with webpack and use the latter as their primary tool for enhanced productivity and better workflow management.

This, obviously, is more of a practice-based observation and actual mileage may vary from one coder to another. As a result, there is very little evidence to argue that gulp.js is the inferior tool as compared to webpack, or vice versa. In fact, webpack is a module binder, whereas gulp.js is a task runner -- this very definition implies that we can use both of the tools in assonance with each other with little to no conflict.

But owing to webpack's wide array of features, many developers use webpack as a replacement for gulp.js -- webpack provides solutions and settings for minification and sourcemapping, and can even be run as a middleware in some cases. In fact, other than unit testing and linting, there is very little that webpack cannot do. This is why relying on webpack can help us save the additional trouble of adding gulp.js to our projects.

However, it is noteworthy that gulp.js is fairly easier to configure and setup, as compared to webpack. This makes gulp.js a wiser and more obvious choice for many newbie developers. However, even though it is simpler to configure, gulp.js can also be adapted to suit bigger and more complex workflows as well, if and when needed.

Conclusion

Simply put, there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to picking one between Gulp or Webpack. With that said, both are a different category of tools and can very well be used in assonance with each other.

Depending on the nature of the project that we are working on as well as what our main requirements are, we can pick either of the two. For instance, if our focus is only coding, we might need a task runner and in such cases, gulp.js is a better pick for us. On the other hand, if all we need to do is configure and tweak, perhaps a module binder such as webpack is more apt for our needs.

Lastly, it is worth noting that our choices are not, in any way, limited to gulp.js or webpack alone. There are a wide variety of other tools available at the disposal of JavaScript developers, such as Browserify, Brunch, and more.

If you are a JavaScript developer, which tool or solution do you prefer to use and why? Share your views and thoughts in the comments below!