Introduction to Grunt

Grunt is a JavaScript task runner, a tool used to automatically perform frequent tasks such as minification, compilation, unit testing, and linting. It uses a command-line interface to run custom tasks defined in a file (known as a Gruntfile). Grunt was created by Ben Alman and is written in Node.js. It is distributed via npm. As of September 2016, there were more than 5,000 plugins available in the Grunt ecosystem.

Grunt was originally created by Ben Alman in 2012 as an efficient alternative to simplify writing and maintaining a suite of JavaScript build process tasks in one huge file. It was designed as a task-based command-line build tool for JavaScript projects.

Grunt is primarily used to automate tasks that need to be performed routinely. There are thousands of plugins that can be installed and used directly to perform some commonly used tasks. One of Grunt’s most desirable features is that it is highly customizable—i.e., it allows developers to add, extend, and modify custom tasks to fit their personal needs; each task has a set of configuration options that can be set by the user.

Grunt’s command-line interface (CLI) can be installed globally through npm. Executing the grunt command will load and run the version of Grunt locally installed in the current directory. Hence, we can maintain different versions of Grunt in different folders and execute each one as we wish.

To use Grunt in a project, two specific files need to be created in the root directory, namely package.json and a Gruntfile.

  • package.json – contains the metadata for the project including name, version, description, authors, licenses and its dependencies (Grunt plugins required by the project). All the dependencies are listed either in the dependencies or the devDependencies section.
  • Gruntfile – a valid JavaScript or Coffee-script file named “Gruntfile.js” or “” that contains code to configure tasks, load existing plugins and/or create custom tasks

Tasks are the modules that perform a specified job. They are defined in the Gruntfile.

Developers can load predefined tasks from existing Grunt plugins and/or write custom code to define their own tasks depending on their requirements. Once defined, these tasks can be run from the command line by simply executing grunt <taskname>. If the <taskname> defined in the Gruntfile is default then simply executing grunt will suffice.

The following are some of the advantages of using Grunt:

  • All task runners have the following properties: consistency, effectiveness, efficiency, repeatability, etc.
  • Access to many predefined plugins that can be used to work with JavaScript tasks and on static content.
  • Allows users to customize tasks using predefined plugins.
  • Prefers the configuration approach to coding.
  • Allows users to add their own plugins and publish them to npm.

The above is a brief about Grunt. Watch this space for more updates on the latest trends in technology.

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