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Frontend development has become more streamlined and quicker than ever before. Modern standards allow developers to create magnificent effects with just a few lines of code. But even beyond W3C specs are many online tools & webapps that make development a relatively painless procedure.
The following tools have been made by developers, for developers, with the intention of expediting the development process. They’re sturdy, prudent, and best of all completely free! Try adding these tools into your daily workflow to gain more traction while building complex web projects.
Here’s a great example of simple and practical rolled into one neat web application. CSS Beautifier will automatically rearrange CSS code with custom settings for spaces and tabs.
This is perfect for unifying your own stylesheets and for de-compressing minified CSS into a readable format.
E-mail newsletters are still going strong and prove to be a useful method of mass communication. Web designers have to pay careful attention to newsletters since they’re much more fickle compared to browser-based websites.
For example, some e-mail clients strip CSS styles from the heading of a newsletter. This means the safest way to build a newsletter is actually with inline styles. Obviously this would be annoying to code by hand, so MailChimp’s CSS Inliner Tool is a welcome addition to this article. Anyone who builds newsletters should keep the CSS Inliner bookmarked, stickied, and showered with love.
SASS is a CSS preprocessor meant for saving time during CSS development. While this seems like an odd tool for organizing code, it can actually prove tremendously useful to frontend developers.
SASS and the more recent SCSS are based on the same underlying engine. You can write SASS/SCSS code that holds variables and imports code snippets like a programming language. CSS3 prefixes can be auto-generated and there’s even a free SASS extension for Dreamweaver.
Developers that are familiar with LESS may know a bit about RECESS. This is a code tool made by Twitter for checking LESS/CSS code for syntax errors. It can also be used as a direct compiler for LESS code.
If you’re a fan of LESS it may be worth learning how to use RECESS. It can be installed through the command line and runs in a similar fashion. You’ll be able to check for code errors, reorganize spacing, and compile LESS code all with one program.
Neat freaks and code lovers will simply adore ProCSSor. It’s an optimization tool created by MaxCDN for automating the optimization of CSS code.
You can change how indents/spaces work, how to close curly braces, and how to organize selectors. And ProCSSor supports copied CSS code, uploaded stylesheets, or direct URLs to files already online.
For a desktop alternative to optimization take a look at CSS Comb. This can be installed via the command line and offers extensions for many development programs. The features are run via the terminal or command prompt, so it does have a small learning curve but offers a lot in return.
For those who would rather avoid writing shell scripts you can try CSS Comb’s online webapp to perform many of the same features.
Styleneat is a very cool CSS webapp for organization. You can either copy CSS code, upload a CSS file, or link to one on the web. Then you choose how to organize the code and even how to sort properties.
This little tool can’t do everything but it does offer a unique toolset for CSS devs.
Here’s a quick & dirty compression engine without any frills. You paste in some code, choose how you want it compressed, then let it run.
CSS Compressor is best used right after you’ve finished coding a project to make the stylesheet smaller before uploading onto a server.
Code minification is quite popular on the world wide web, and Minify is one of many apps to automate the process.
In programming terms, linting is the process of using a program to check for errors in source code. Traditionally this was applied to programming languages but nowadays it can also be used for web development, too.
CSS Lint is a free tool that checks for errors, compatibility issues, and even performance blocks in your code. It’s perfect for an objective review of your work to weed out those pesky syntax mistakes.
Code validation is slightly different than linting because it doesn’t exactly deal with syntax, but rather standards. W3C is the agency putting out official specifications that browser engines follow. CSS Portal’s validator is a useful tool if you want to ensure that your CSS code follows W3C specifications.
The CSS Portal design is easier to read than alternatives, but if you’re a stickler for official platforms then try W3C’s validator instead. They both offer similar options for validation but have different interfaces for sifting through the results.
Refresh SF is a free tool hosted on GitHub for minifying CSS and JS code. You can choose from many options for customizing the compression process to obtain your preferred output.
Pleeease is a Node.js web application with a fun CSS editor. It actually proves quite useful to developers with capabilities to auto-generate CSS3 prefixes and convert rems to pixels.
The app is built like a code IDE where your syntax is auto-converted based on specified options. It’s not the greatest IDE for writing code but it is very useful for optimization.
If you catch yourself writing duplicate properties and re-declaring selectors then you need to try UnCSS. It’s an open source tool built to optimize CSS code by removing extraneous properties and selectors.
This is another command line tool but if you’re interested to learn then it’s worth the effort. UnCSS’s GitHub page includes a full rundown of each command option and how it works.
An alternative to UnCSS is the CSSCSS tool built by Harvest. You’ll find this for free on GitHub and it’s also installed via command line. CSSCSS can handle pre-compiled assets like SASS/SCSS files and works great with Compass.
Both UnCSS and CSSCSS are perfect for removing duplicate codes from your stylesheet. Which one you choose ultimately boils down to personal preference.
Smush.it uses optimization techniques specific to image format to remove unnecessary bytes from image files. It is a “lossless” tool, which means it optimizes the images without changing their look or visual quality. After Smush.it runs on a web page it reports how many bytes would be saved by optimizing the page’s images and provides a downloadable zip file with the minimized image files.
ImageOptim optimizes images — so they take up less disk space and load faster — by finding best compression parameters and by removing unnecessary comments and color profiles. It handles PNG, JPEG and GIF animations.