Sass in Action

After working with Sass for the past few months, I wanted to post a few resources that have helped me.

Benefits of Preprocessors

To start with, why use a preprocessor? They help developers quickly and cleanly manage stylesheets. Two of the most popular CSS frameworks are Sass and LESS. I prefer Sass because it has Compass.

Compass is a Sass framework designed to make styling smooth and efficient. Similar to the Express framework adding functionality to Node.js and npm providing helpful packages, Compass features reusable modules and snippets for Sass.

One of the huge benefits of Sass is its ability to import other stylesheets without a performance hit. The @import rule lets one CSS file bring in the rules from another. Traditionally, the browser had to download these CSS files, which made importing less practical than just including all the rules in one file. What sets Sass apart when importing is that files are brought in when compiling to CSS, which means nothing extra is downloaded. In other words, more modular stylesheets.

Everyone has a different naming convention for their markup–find one that your group agrees on.

Differences in Sass and SCSS

A few notes on the difference between Sass and the SCSS syntax, which stands for Sassy CSS. SCSS is a superset of CSS, meaning that any valid CSS file is also a valid SCSS file. So the CSS file style.css can be changed to style.scss and you can make Sass changes without a hitch. I prefer the SCSS syntax to Sass.

Here are a few of the differences. Sass uses an indented syntax that uses newlines to separate properties. Sass proponents like the clean look of their markup without semicolons and curly braces, and SCSS users like the ability to have whitespace wherever, or to have the ability to write one long line.

Mixins differ as well. SCSS uses @mixin and @include and while Sass can use these directives in the same way, it can also replace = and + for the directives, respectively. Again this is seen as cleaner code, but at the sake of clarity.

Comments in Sass only require one marker, such as //, /*, and /*!, even if the comment is multi-line. In SCSS, // marks a single-line comment, and must appear on each new lines.

Both syntaxes have their pros and cons. Luckily the two syntaxes are convertable with the sass-convert command, and the @import directive allows you to use each syntax in the same project, as long as they are in different files.


To close this out, here are some ways to straighten out your CSS and get started with Sass. These are found in Sass and Compass in Action (Wynn Netherland, Nathan Weizenbaum, Chris Eppstein, Brandon Mathis, 2013), which also lists Compass traits for a fresh project.

  • Grid-background, global reset, typography from Google Font, Font Squirrel, and Makerbook
  • CSS3 Mixins: border-radius, text-shadow, box-shadow, gradients, spriting, vendor-prefixes
  • Dust-me-selector, which removes unused CSS
  • Serve and Middleman, which helps build static websites, built on Rails
  • Client-side performance: YSlow, Google PageSpeed, and WebPagetest