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gulp vs npm: What are the differences?

Introduction

Gulp and npm are both popular tools used in web development for automating tasks and managing dependencies. Although they serve different purposes, they can be used together in a project. Here are the key differences between gulp and npm:

  1. Task Runner vs Package Manager: Gulp is a task runner that helps automate repetitive tasks such as minification, compilation, and optimization of assets. It uses a streaming build system and allows developers to create and manage complex task pipelines. On the other hand, npm is a package manager primarily used for managing dependencies and installing packages required by a project.

  2. Streaming vs Non-streaming: Gulp operates on streams, which means it can process files in real-time and propagate changes as they occur. This makes it efficient for handling large files or multiple files simultaneously. In contrast, npm does not have built-in stream processing capabilities and operates on a per-package basis.

  3. Code Over Configuration vs Configuration Over Code: Gulp follows a philosophy of "code over configuration," where developers write JavaScript functions to define and customize tasks. This approach offers more flexibility and control over the build process but requires more coding. On the other hand, npm follows a philosophy of "configuration over code," relying on a project's package.json file to define and configure scripts for various tasks.

  4. Plugins vs Packages: Gulp relies on a wide range of plugins to extend its functionality and support various tasks. These plugins are installed separately and can be individually configured to suit specific needs. npm, on the other hand, focuses on managing packages or libraries that are used as dependencies in a project. While some packages may have built-in scripts, npm itself does not have a plugin system similar to Gulp.

  5. Parallel Processing vs Sequential Processing: Gulp allows tasks to run concurrently, meaning multiple tasks can be executed simultaneously, leveraging the power of modern multi-core processors. This can significantly speed up the build process for projects with complex task pipelines. npm, on the other hand, executes scripts or tasks sequentially, one after another, which may result in slower processing for projects with numerous dependencies.

  6. Build-focused vs General-purpose: Gulp is primarily aimed at providing a streamlined build process by automating various development tasks. It provides a rich set of features specifically catering to build-related activities. npm, on the other hand, is a more general-purpose tool that focuses on package management and can be utilized for a wide range of tasks beyond just building.

In summary, Gulp is a streaming build system and task runner that allows for code customization and parallel processing, while npm is a package manager that focuses on managing dependencies and utilizes configuration over code approach.

Advice on gulp and npm
Needs advice
on
npmnpm
and
YarnYarn

From a StackShare Community member: “I’m a freelance web developer (I mostly use Node.js) and for future projects I’m debating between npm or Yarn as my default package manager. I’m a minimalist so I hate installing software if I don’t need to- in this case that would be Yarn. For those who made the switch from npm to Yarn, what benefits have you noticed? For those who stuck with npm, are you happy you with it?"

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Replies (14)
Julian Sanchez
Lead Developer at Chore Champion · | 11 upvotes · 243.4K views
Recommends
on
YarnYarn
at

We use Yarn because it allows us to more simply manage our node_modules. It also simplifies commands and increases speed when installing modules. Our teams module download time was cut in half after switching from NPM to Yarn. We now require all employees to use Yarn (to prevent errors with package-lock.json and yarn.lock).

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Recommends
on
npmnpm

I use npm since new version is pretty fast as well (Yarn may be still faster a bit but the difference isn't huge). No need for other dependency and mainly Yarn sometimes do not work. Sometimes when I want to install project dependencies I got error using Yarn but with npm everything is installed correctly.

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Mark Nelissen
Recommends
on
npmnpmnpmnpm

I use npm because I also mainly use React and TypeScript. Since several typings (from DefinitelyTyped) depend on the React typings, Yarn tends to mess up which leads to duplicate libraries present (different versions of the same type definition), which hinders the Typescript compiler. Npm always resolves to a single version per transitive dependency. At least that's my experience with both.

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Recommends
on
YarnYarn

p.s.

I am not sure about the performance of the latest version of npm, whether it is different from my understanding of it below. Because I use npm very rarely when I had the following knowledge.

------⏬

I use Yarn because, first, yarn is the first tool to lock the version. Second, although npm also supports the lock version, when you use npm to lock the version, and then use package-lock.json on other systems, package-lock.json Will be modified. You understand what I mean, when you deploy projects based on Git...

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Recommends
on
YarnYarn

As far as I know Yarn is a super module of NPM. But it still needs npm to run.

Yarn was developed by Facebook's guys to fix some npm issues and performance.

If you use the last version of npm most of this problem does not exist anymore.

You can choose the option which makes you more confortable. I like using yarn because I'm used to it.

In the end the packages will be the same. Just try both and choose the one you feel more confortable. :)

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Francois Leurent
Recommends
on
npmnpm
at

We tend to stick to npm, yarn is only a fancy alternative, not 10x better. Using a self -hosted private repository (via sinopia/npm-mirror) make package locking (mostly) pointless.

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Recommends
on
YarnYarn

I am a minimalist too. I once had issues with installing Nuxt.js using NPM so I had to install Yarn but I also found that the Dev experience was much better

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Denys Slipetskyy
Recommends
on
YarnYarn
at

I use Yarn because it process my dependencies way faster, predictable deps resolution order, upgrade-interactive is very handy + some Yarn specific features (workspaces, Plug’n’Play alternative installation strategy) ...

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Digital All
Recommends
on
npmnpm

I use npm because its packaged with node installation and handles npm tokens in CI/CD tools for private packages/libraries.

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tataata
Frontend designer and developer · | 3 upvotes · 228.8K views
Recommends
on
YarnYarn

Yarn made it painless for the team to sync on versions of packages that we use on the project <3

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Shuuji TAKAHASHI
Recommends
on
YarnYarn

I use Yarn because it outputs nice progress messages with cute emoji and installs packages quickly if the package is cached. Also, Yarn creates yarn.lock file which makes the developer use the consistent environment.

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Tor Hagemann
Principal Software Engineer at Socotra · | 3 upvotes · 129K views
Recommends
on
npmnpmYarnYarn

You should use whichever had the best DX (developer experience) for your team. If you are doing a massive front-end project, consider yarn if not only because it makes it a snap to go from zero to ready. What some people say about npm being more stable or easier for smaller projects is highly true as well. (not to mention, you sometimes have to install yarn) But, note that official NodeJS Docker images ship with both npm and yarn. If you want to use yarn, put package-lock=false and optionally save-exact=true in your project's .npmrc file. Compare whether you prefer the ergonomics of yarn global add over npm install -g or see fewer meaningless warnings for the specific set of dependencies you leverage.

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Izzur Zuhri
Recommends
on
npmnpm

I use npm because it has a lot of community support and the performance difference with alternative tool is not so significant for me.

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Recommends
on
npmnpm

I use npm because its the official package manager for Node. It's reliability, security and speed has increased over time so the battle is over!

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Decisions about gulp and npm
Oleksandr Fedotov
Senior Software Engineer at joyn · | 3 upvotes · 269.6K views

As we have to build the application for many different TV platforms we want to split the application logic from the device/platform specific code. Previously we had different repositories and it was very hard to keep the development process when changes were done in multiple repositories, as we had to synchronize code reviews as well as merging and then updating the dependencies of projects. This issues would be even more critical when building the project from scratch what we did at Joyn. Therefor to keep all code in one place, at the same time keeping in separated in different modules we decided to give a try to monorepo. First we tried out lerna which was fine at the beginning, but later along the way we had issues with adding new dependencies which came out of the blue and were not easy to fix. Next round of evolution was yarn workspaces, we are still using it and are pretty happy with dev experience it provides. And one more advantage we got when switched to yarn workspaces that we also switched from npm to yarn what improved the state of the lock file a lot, because with npm package-lock file was updated every time you run npm install, frequent updates of package-lock file were causing very often merge conflicts. So right now we not just having faster dependencies installation time but also no conflicts coming from lock file.

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Petr Bambušek
Head of Frontend at Mews · | 2 upvotes · 280.5K views
Chose
YarnYarn
over
npmnpm
at
()

This was no real choice - we switched the moment Yarn was available, and never looked back. Yarn is the only reasonable frontend package manager that's actually being developed. They even aim to heal the node_modules madness with v2! Npm is just copying its ideas on top of introducing massive bugs with every change.

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Pros of gulp
Pros of npm
  • 451
    Build speed
  • 277
    Readable
  • 244
    Code-over-configuration
  • 210
    Open source
  • 175
    Node streams
  • 107
    Intuitive
  • 83
    Lots of plugins
  • 66
    Works great with browserify
  • 45
    Easy to Learn
  • 17
    Laravel-elixir
  • 4
    build workflow
  • 3
    Simple & flexible
  • 3
    Great community
  • 2
    Stylus intergration
  • 2
    Clean Code
  • 2
    jade intergration
  • 0
    Well documented
  • 647
    Best package management system for javascript
  • 382
    Open-source
  • 327
    Great community
  • 148
    More packages than rubygems, pypi, or packagist
  • 112
    Nice people matter
  • 6
    As fast as yarn but really free of facebook
  • 6
    Audit feature
  • 4
    Good following
  • 1
    Super fast
  • 1
    Stability

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Cons of gulp
Cons of npm
    Be the first to leave a con
    • 5
      Problems with lockfiles
    • 5
      Bad at package versioning and being deterministic
    • 3
      Node-gyp takes forever
    • 1
      Super slow

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    What are some alternatives to gulp and npm?
    Grunt
    The less work you have to do when performing repetitive tasks like minification, compilation, unit testing, linting, etc, the easier your job becomes. After you've configured it, a task runner can do most of that mundane work for you—and your team—with basically zero effort.
    Webpack
    A bundler for javascript and friends. Packs many modules into a few bundled assets. Code Splitting allows to load parts for the application on demand. Through "loaders" modules can be CommonJs, AMD, ES6 modules, CSS, Images, JSON, Coffeescript, LESS, ... and your custom stuff.
    Yarn
    Yarn caches every package it downloads so it never needs to again. It also parallelizes operations to maximize resource utilization so install times are faster than ever.
    CodeKit
    Process Less, Sass, Stylus, Jade, Haml, Slim, CoffeeScript, Javascript, and Compass files automatically each time you save. Easily set options for each language.
    Parcel
    Parcel is a web application bundler, differentiated by its developer experience. It offers blazing fast performance utilizing multicore processing, and requires zero configuration.
    See all alternatives