Sunday, March 23, 2014

Review of the book: Getting Started with Grunt

Disclaimer: I've been offered a electronic copy of the book in exchange to this review. I have no contractual relationship with Packt Publishing nor the book author Jamie Pillora.


Since early 2000, I've been on the Java technology stack for implementing three-tier applications (Web or mobile clients, J2EE Web server, Relational databases). I considered the move from make to ant as a real improvement. My first public project on GitHub are still relying on ant.

Getting Started with Grunt: The JavaScript Task RunnerI was so happy with ant that I switched to maven only around 2010. To me, the main benefit of maven is its management of the dependencies: from the maven repository, I can depend simply on many Java libraries like Google App Engine, RestEasy and Mockito. I can also get resources for the Web client, like the Dojo Toolkit. Over the years, I wrote few plugins to cover the same features I used to get from ant.

Almost one, I heard about Grunt, the JavaScript build tool. I liked that many plugins were also provided (the officially supported plugins with a name prefixed by grunt-contrib-). Because I was happy with my maven environment, I then started to use Grunt only for Stylus and the grunt-contrib-watch.

Recently, I joined the game company Ubisoft to work on a project involving Node.js server-side. My switch to Grunt was immediate ;) I love the extensive set of plugins and the easiness of writing my own ones if needed. The pair npm / Grunt is rock solid: npm which manages the dependencies and Grunt runs the tasks.

When Packt Publishing contacted me for the review of the book Getting Started with Grunt, I saw an occasion to consolidate my knowledge on Grunt, to compare what I know with someone else experience. And reviewing a published book is way more difficult and lengthy than working on drafts, a work I did one for the book Google App Engine and GWT ;)

Book content

As revealed by the title, the book targets new users of Grunt, or people evaluating the technology. If I compare to my own experience, Grunt power users won't learn much by reading the book.

If the book does not explain how Grunt works, it however describes a lot of topics extensively:

  • The transpiling aspect: from CoffeeScript, from Stylus/Sass/Less;
  • The code processing: verification with JSLint and JSHint, minification with Uglify;
  • The code testing: with Mocha and PhantomJS;
  • The deployment: assembling many files in one, sending it over FTP, publishing on Amazon S3;
  • The customization: writing and publishing plugins.


This is book really targets new Grunt adopter. It helps understanding the basic tasks. It also describes how to setup a build environment for Web clients. I think exposing more grunt plugins, like grunt-exec to run non JavaScript tool, could have set the book as a reference book...

The author decided to focus on one type of application: a Web client based on Jade, the HTML template engine. I think describing tasks for the application logic on a Node.js server, like grunt-express or grunt-nodemon, would have interest a wider audience. Grunt is a really versatile tool.

I hope it helps,
A+, Dom

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