The evolution (and future) of JavaScript and front-end building tools

The evolution (and future) of JavaScript and front-end building tools

JavaScript has become a fundamental tool and technology of the internet today, with developer spending a considerable amount of time focusing on everything it has to offer today as well as everything that it can potentially offer in the future.

Robust, flexible, and adaptive, JavaScript is seemingly capable of anything and everything that developers and programmers can imagine. Relatively simple and straightforward enough to wrap your head around even as a new programmer, it also is complex and intricate enough to provide advanced and experienced programmers with all the tools and technology they need to create game-changing new solutions.

Because of JavaScript’s popularity, it has also become one of the most frequently developed tool bases on the internet today as well. Programmers are working on creating tools that help other programmers create with JavaScript, which sounds a little bit incestuous at first but it allows for rapid iteration of both the JavaScript foundation as well as the tools themselves used to create with.

Many of the most popular tools to create and JavaScript have gone through many different “facelifts,” with new solutions starting off as forks of these original projects and others being completely new concepts altogether. Some of the most influential tools for creating and JavaScript remain in the developmental world, and many of them have gone on to become the “gold standard” of JavaScript creation.

To better understand the future of JavaScript front-end building tools, it’s important to understand a bit of the past as well as where we are right now. Here is a quick overview of some of the most popular tools that have helped to lay the foundation of JavaScript as it is right now, the tools responsible for charting the course for JavaScript’s inevitable future going forward.

Code Kit

Launching on the scene in early 2012 as tools originally designed to help you get your frontend assets as ready for the internet as possible, this set of tools help to compile and “shrink” files, but also to compress images, linked files, and handle a variety of different tasks that would have otherwise been handled by a myriad of different tools or command line prompts.

The biggest difference between Code Kit and most of the other JavaScript front-end tools on the market at that particular point in time was that Code Kit utilized a Graphical User Interface (GUI). This simplified and streamlined the front-end development process considerably and allowed those without a lot of command line experience to take advantage of more robust JavaScript tools then they may have been able to previously.

Code Kit remains very alive and quite popular today, with its third version (3.0) released just recently.

Grunt and Bower

Also created in 2012, Grunt (and later Bower) hit the scene designed to simplify command line executions that needed to be used to handle JavaScript front-end assets – though without the beautiful graphic interface of Code Kit (at least originally, anyway).

Both tools were designed to simplify specific tasks, configure different processes, and automate as much of the front-end deployment system of JavaScript as was physically possible at the time. Not quite as flexible or as adaptable as Code Kit (then or now), they served very specific purposes and were a big part of any serious JavaScript developer toolbox.

While development with both of these tools is slowing down considerably, new solutions have popped up to take their place and help carry the legacy that these tools established.

Gulp and Browserify

Towards the end of 2013, Gulp was released and opened up a tremendous amount of freedom for the JavaScript world that was sorely lacking.

A combination GUI and command line solution that helped programmers build a script in JavaScript inside the tool without having to use outside assets, it was possible to create functions, variables, and use conditions anywhere – not only building beautiful looking scripts really opening up a level of freedom and control through JavaScript (and online) that just wasn’t possible previously.

Browserify allowed for NPM packages to be brought into the front-end, essentially rendering Bower obsolete while leveraging the assets and foundational tools that it had helped to create. The graphic user interface was also much cleaner and easier to manage, providing a one-stop-shop solution for both front-end and backend administration.

Gulp remains incredibly popular, though Browserify popularity has dropped off a little bit in recent years.

Webpack and NPM Scripts

Webpack is very much the new kid on the block, with modern JavaScript developers taking advantage of this tool more than probably any other solution on this list and really driving the innovation JavaScript forward a lot faster than it was driven in the past.

Taking advantage of NPM scripts is a bit of a “retro idea,” as much as an idea can be retro in the world of JavaScript, but combining these two stacks together is producing game-changing new solutions that people couldn’t have foreseen or anticipated in the past. The future of JavaScript development runs through these tools!


Leave a Comment