Migrate an existing build process to npm scripts

Last week I gave a short introduction to using npm as a build tool at GemCity JS.


There were a few questions about how to start using npm as a build tool on an existing project. The short answer is: start abstracting tasks behind npm scripts. This weekend I migrated this blog to my new favorite host and ended up replacing a grunt task with a npm task. Here's how it went down.

Pick a task

I was using two plugins, grunt-usemin and grunt-rev, to "fingerprint" or rev my asset files. It barely worked (only some files were properly rev'd and inserted) and it was awkward. Usemin requires specific HTML comments so that it knows what files to replace. I finally decided to write my own rev task.

The old

For reference here is my old Grunt config:

    src: ["public/js/browser.js", "public/css/base.css"]

    html: 'server/app.hbs'
    assetsDirs: 'public/'

    html: ['server/app-tmp.hbs']`

These tasks were run in this order during deployment: rev, useminPrepare, usemin.

The plan

I stared off by jotting down the flow and transformations required for revving my assets. I came up with this list:

  1. Compile assets (sass, babel)
  2. Rev them (this is just magic right?)
  3. Overwrite non-rev'd paths in app.hbs.

That list was terribly shortsighted. Here's how it actually turned out:

  1. Compile assets
  2. Generate rev filename for each asset
  3. Write new asset file with rev'd filename for each asset.
  4. Create (force if necessary) app.hbs from app-tmp.hbs (-tmp for template)
  5. Read app.hbs as a string.
  6. Replace non-rev'd paths with rev'd paths in app.hbs using String.replace().

Seem like this might be more code and trouble than it's worth? Not at all.

The new task

Since we're going to replace a grunt task with a npm script task, lets use ES6 goodness. I installed babel which lets me execute scripts using babel-node instead of node. I then created a new directory called tasks/ and named my new task file, tasks/rev.js. I also installed the super awesome rev-file package to handle the reving.

The code turns out to be fairly succicent:

import rev from "rev-file";
import path from "path";
import fs from "fs-extra";

const projectPath= path.dirname(__dirname);
const tmp = `${projectPath}/server/app-tmp.hbs`;
const app = `${projectPath}/server/app.hbs`;

fs.copySync(tmp, app, {'clobber': true});

const assets = [

assets.forEach((f) => {
  const revPath = rev.sync(f);
  fs.copySync(f, revPath);
  const appString = fs.readFileSync(app, 'utf8');
  fs.writeFileSync(app, appString.replace( path.basename(f), path.basename(revPath) ));

Wrap it up

Now I have a task. How do I integrate this into my existing Grunt process? npm scripts to the rescue. I created a new script entry in my package.json like this:

npm scripts can be called directly using npm run, npm run rev in this case. The final step is to modify my Gruntfile to run the rev command using the handy grunt shell plugin:

And that's all I had to do. Now I can continue to replace pieces of my build system with npm scripts without having to do a big re-write. Using npm as a build tool also illustrates the simplicity of some of these tasks. It's much easier to maintain a 20 line task than to keep multiple plugins up to date.

Have a comment? Send an email to my public inbox. Please follow proper mail etiquette.