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Sass in WordPress: A Step-By-Step Guide

Updated 3 March 2023

In this blog article, we will learn about How to use Sass in WordPress for new users and beginners.

The reality is that Sass (and other CSS preprocessors) can be an extremely powerful ally for any designer or developer interested in writing less and doing more. Eventually, all these preprocessing languages get compiled into CSS.

SCSS provides a bunch of advanced features. You can minify code by using variables which is a huge advantage over traditional CSS. It includes all the features of CSS and even those which are not present in CSS.

Prerequisites

This tutorial assumes that you have a working knowledge of setting up a WordPress environment.

Getting Started

We all know that CSS is a very simple language, very easy to understand but it can be hectic if it’s becoming very long. For eg, If you need to tweak a certain color value for a certain element throughout the whole site, you have to find all CSS for that element from the whole CSS file, then you will replace the value for all CSS. So it can be a nightmare.

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So one of the best options to get rid of this hectic job is to use sass, a CSS Preprocessor which allows us to write functions to generate blocks of repeated style code. SASS helps us to write CSS faster and more efficiently. It also helps to increase readability. SASS lets you use features that don’t exist in CSS yet like variables, nesting, mixins, inheritance, etc.

If you are moving an old CSS project into SASS, you will break the huge stylesheet into organized modules. You will set up SASS partials, use variables, and set up a mixing which makes your job easier. Follow the process I mentioned below:

Using SASS compiler

There are a number of ways (application)you can compile your SASS to CSS in which some of which are paid apps and some of them are free. It depends on which you want to use. Some paid app includes

Others include using grunt, gulp. I prefer using gulp. Here is the link where you can find all the details about how to get start with a gulp.

What is Gulp?

gulp is a toolkit for automating painful or time-consuming tasks in your development workflow, so you can stop messing around and build something.

This perfectly describes what the Gulp really is. Install it in a few easy steps:

  • Install Node.js.
  • Install Gulp globally: npm install gulp-cli -g
  • Make a theme folder with : mkdir themeName and enter the folder with cd themeName.
  • Initialize your project with npm: npm init

Install Node.js

Gulp requires you to download and install first Node.js, which will also install NPM, which is its package manager, and it is used to install modules.

To verify that you have installed Node.js and NPM correctly, open the terminal and check their current version by entering the commands: node -v and npm -v.

Install Gulp globally

  • If you’ve previously installed gulp globally, run npm rm --global gulp before following these instructions.
  • Install the gulp command line utility, run: npm install –global gulp-cli.

Initialize Gulp In Project Directory

  • Create a theme folder in wp-content/theme
  • Use the npm init command For Initialization
  • npm init command will create a package.json file
  • After the Creation of package.json, you need to setup gulp dependencies

# Setup Gulp Dependencies

run the following npm command to install Gulp and all plug-ins as development dependencies:

npm install --save-dev autoprefixer browser-sync css-mqpacker cssnano gulp-concat gulp-deporder gulp-imagemin gulp-newer gulp-postcss gulp-sass gulp-strip-debug gulp-uglify gulp-noop postcss-assets

This will create a node_modules folder which contains the module code with dependencies. For Git users, add node_modules to your .gitignore file.

# Create Gulp Configuration File

Create a new gulpfile.js the configuration file in your project folder

edit the file gulpfile.js in your project source folder, replace its content, if any, with these contents:

// Gulp.js configuration
'use strict';

const

  // ** change these two to yours **
  wordpress_project_name = 'your-site',
  theme_name = 'your-site',
  browserSyncProxy = 'http://local.your-site.test/',

  // source and build folders, ** change this to yours **
  dir = {
    src         : 'src/',
    build       : `../../vagrant-local/www/${wordpress_project_name}/public_html/wp-content/themes/${theme_name}/`
  },

  // Gulp and plugins
  { src, dest, series, parallel, watch } = require('gulp'),
  noop          = require("gulp-noop"),
  newer         = require('gulp-newer'),
  imagemin      = require('gulp-imagemin'),
  sass          = require('gulp-sass'),
  postcss       = require('gulp-postcss'),
  deporder      = require('gulp-deporder'),
  concat        = require('gulp-concat'),
  stripdebug    = require('gulp-strip-debug'),
  uglify        = require('gulp-uglify'),
  browserSync   = require('browser-sync').create(),
  log           = require('fancy-log')
;

// For BrowserSync
const reload = (cb) => { browserSync.reload(); cb(); };

#Image Processing

Image files can often be compressed further using tools such as imagemin. Add the following code to gulpfile.js:

// image settings
const images = {
  src         : dir.src + 'images/**/*',
  build       : dir.build + 'images/'
};
// image processing
gulp.task('images', () => {
  return gulp.src(images.src)
    .pipe(newer(images.build))
    .pipe(imagemin())
    .pipe(gulp.dest(images.build));
});

Save then run gulp images

# Sass Compilation

WordPress cannot use Sass files directly; you must compile to a single style.css file. Add the following code to gulpfile.js

// CSS settings
var css = {
  src         : dir.src + 'scss/style.scss',
  watch       : dir.src + 'scss/**/*',
  build       : dir.build,
  sassOpts: {
    outputStyle     : 'nested',
    imagePath       : images.build,
    precision       : 3,
    errLogToConsole : true
  },
  processors: [
    require('postcss-assets')({
      loadPaths: ['images/'],
      basePath: dir.build,
      baseUrl: '/wp-content/themes/wptheme/'
    }),
    require('autoprefixer')({
      browsers: ['last 2 versions', '> 2%']
    }),
    require('css-mqpacker'),
    require('cssnano')
  ]
};
// CSS processing
gulp.task('css', ['images'], () => {
  return gulp.src(css.src)
    .pipe(sass(css.sassOpts))
    .pipe(postcss(css.processors))
    .pipe(gulp.dest(css.build))
    .pipe(browsersync ? browsersync.reload({ stream: true }) : gutil.noop());
});

Launch this new task with gulp css

# JavaSript Processing

Add the following code to gulpfile.js:

// JavaScript settings
const js = {
  src         : dir.src + 'js/**/*',
  build       : dir.build + 'js/',
  filename    : 'scripts.js'
};
// JavaScript processing
gulp.task('js', () => {

  return gulp.src(js.src)
    .pipe(deporder())
    .pipe(concat(js.filename))
    .pipe(stripdebug())
    .pipe(uglify())
    .pipe(gulp.dest(js.build))
    .pipe(browsersync ? browsersync.reload({ stream: true }) : gutil.noop());
});

Run this new task with gulp js

# Run Everything

Rather than calling each task separately, we can add the following code to gulpfile.js:

// run all tasks
gulp.task('build', ['css', 'js']);

You can now use gulp build to run the  jscss and images tasks in parallel. (Note images is a dependency of the css task, as we set it up early so we need not call it directly.)

# Enable File Watching And Browsersync

Your workflow can be radically improved by:

  1. Letting Gulp watch for file changes before launching the appropriate task.
  2. Automatically reloading CSS and JavaScript files when they change (without a page refresh).
  3. Automatically refreshing the page when a template file changes.

First, we need to define a browsersync task in gulpfile.js. This will create a proxy server to your web server running WordPress on localhost (change this domain or use an IP address as necessary):

// Browsersync options
const syncOpts = {
  proxy       : 'localhost',
  files       : dir.build + '**/*',
  open        : false,
  notify      : false,
  ghostMode   : false,
  ui: {
    port: 8001
  }
};
// browser-sync
gulp.task('browsersync', () => {
  if (browsersync === false) {
    browsersync = require('browser-sync').create();
    browsersync.init(syncOpts);
  }
});

Now add a watch the task to run Browsersync, watch for file changes and run the appropriate task:

// watch for file changes
gulp.task('watch', ['browsersync'], () => {

  // image changes
  gulp.watch(images.src, ['images']);

    // CSS changes
  gulp.watch(css.watch, ['css']);

  // JavaScript main changes
  gulp.watch(js.src, ['js']);
});

Finally, add a default Gulp task which runs an initial build and starts the watch task:

// default task
gulp.task('default', ['build', 'watch']);

Now run gulp from the command line. The console will display output which includes lines similar to:

[BS] Proxying: http://localhost
[BS] Access URLs:
 -------------------------------------
       Local: http://localhost:3000
    External: http://192.168.15.194/:3000
 -------------------------------------
          UI: http://localhost:8001
 UI External: http://192.168.15.194/:8001
 -------------------------------------
[BS] Watching files...

Your WordPress site will load as before but Gulp will watch for changes and apply the updates immediately. You’ll need never switch to your browser and click refresh again!

Let’s write some Sass

Now that we are all configured we are ready to write some Sass.

Prerequisites in Sass

  • Basic understanding of HTML & CSS
  • A code editor (VS Code recommended). If you don’t have it installed, download it here.
  • And a browser (Chrome or Firefox recommended)

What exactly is Sass?

Sass (Syntactically Awesome Style Sheets) is a CSS preprocessor that gives your CSS superpowers.

What additions does SASS bring to CSS?

These are the features Sass adds to CSS to make your work easier:

  • Variables
  • Nested rules
  • Partials
  • Modules
  • Mixins
  • Extends/inheritance
  • Operators

These are the additions through which Sass makes your work easier. We’ll discuss each feature in more detail below:

Variables in Sass

One of the most important features of Sass in WordPress is that it allows you to use variables. It lets you define a value and store it in a variable for later use in your style files. Although it is a simple tool, having it at your disposal greatly facilitates your workflow.

So, let’s say you want to use the same color or font or any other CSS value throughout your coding. Just store it in a variable and reuse it whenever you want. Remember that SASS uses the $ symbol for variables. Here’s an example of variable usage in Sass vs CSS:

// CSS
body {
  background: #ccc;
  color: #333;
}

// SCSS

$backgroud-color:#ccc;
$primary-color: #333;
 
body {
  background: $backgroud-color;
  color: $primary-color;
}

As you see, with Sass, you can define the $backgroud-color and $primary-color variables at the beginning and then use the variables throughout your code. For example, if you are doing a project where you must use brand colors in every other line of code, then using a variable will make your work easier as you will not have to type the value stored in it every time, Like in css.

Nested rules in Sass

Sass also comes in handy when you need to make your code more readable.With Sass, you can nest your CSS selectors in the same way as you can in HTML. Here’s an example of nesting used in SASS:

// CSS

nav ul {
  margin: 0;
  padding: 0;
  list-style: none;
}
nav li {
  display: inline-block;
}
nav a {
  display: block;
  padding: 6px 12px;
  text-decoration: none;
}

// SCSS

nav {
  ul {
    margin: 0;
    padding: 0;
    list-style: none;
  }
 
  li { display: inline-block; }
 
  a {
    display: block;
    padding: 6px 12px;
    text-decoration: none;
  }
}

As you can see, the ul, li, and a selector are nested inside the nav selector, which makes your CSS code more organized, cleaner, and easier to read.

Partials in Sass

You have the ability to create partial Sass files that have small snippets of CSS that you can later include in other Sass files.

you can use the partial Sass file by using the underscore _partial.css in the name of your file

This underscore tells Sass that the file is a part of a larger file and should not be turned into a separate CSS file. You can use the partial Sass files using the @import or @use rule. Here’s a more detailed explanation of how the @import rule works.

sass/
|
|– abstracts/
|   |– _variables.scss    # Sass Variables
|   |– _functions.scss    # Sass Functions
|   |– _mixins.scss       # Sass Mixins
|   |– _placeholders.scss # Sass Placeholders
|
|– base/
|   |– _reset.scss        # Reset/normalize
|   |– _typography.scss   # Typography rules
|   …                     # Etc.
|
|– components/
|   |– _buttons.scss      # Buttons
|   |– _carousel.scss     # Carousel
|   |– _cover.scss        # Cover
|   |– _dropdown.scss     # Dropdown
|   …                     # Etc.
|
|– layout/
|   |– _navigation.scss   # Navigation
|   |– _grid.scss         # Grid system
|   |– _header.scss       # Header
|   |– _footer.scss       # Footer
|   |– _sidebar.scss      # Sidebar
|   |– _forms.scss        # Forms
|   …                     # Etc.
|
|– pages/
|   |– _home.scss         # Home specific styles
|   |– _contact.scss      # Contact specific styles
|   …                     # Etc.
|
|– themes/
|   |– _theme.scss        # Default theme
|   |– _admin.scss        # Admin theme
|   …                     # Etc.
|
`– main.scss              # Main Sass file

Modules in Sass

Now when you split your Sass into separate parts with the @use rule, it will start loading the Sass file as a module. That is you can refer to its variables, functions and mixins in your sass files with the help of namespace which is based on the name of your file. The file you use will also include the generated CSS in your output file.

//Sass

// _base.scss
$background-color: #ddd;
$primary-color: #333;
  
body {
  background: $background-color;
  color: $primary-color;
}
  
// styles.scss
@use 'base';
  
.inverse {
  background-color: base.$primary-color;
  color: white;
}
  
  
// CSS
body {
  font: 100% Helvetica, sans-serif;
  color: #333;
}
  
.inverse {
  background-color: #333;
  color: white;
}

As you can see, this makes your workflow more organized as you can define variables in separate files and then import them into a different Sass file.

Mixins in Sass

Another useful feature in SaaS are mixins. There are a lot of aspects to CSS that make code writing a bit tedious. A mixin helps you avoid this by creating a set of CSS declarations that you can later reuse throughout your coding. There is also the ability to pass in certain values to make your mixin even more flexible. An example when the use of a mixin is appropriate is vendor prefixes. Let us take the example of change.

// Sass
@mixin transform($property) {
  -webkit-transform: $property;
  -ms-transform: $property;
  transform: $property;
}
.box { @include transform(rotate(30deg)); }
  
// CSS 
.box {
  -webkit-transform: rotate(30deg);
  -ms-transform: rotate(30deg);
  transform: rotate(30deg);
}

In order to create a mixin, you should use the @mixin directive and then name it. In this example our mixin is named transform. There is also the $property variable which is inside the parentheses to let us pass in a transform or basically anything else we want.

Once your mixin is created, you can use it as a CSS declaration which starts with @include and then is followed by the name of the mixin.

Extends/Inheritance in Sass

Finally, one of the most useful features of Sass is the @extend. This feature helps you share a group of CSS properties of one selector with another.

Operators in Sass

The last feature in our list is the operators. Sometimes it’s very helpful to do the math in your CSS, and that’s why this Sass feature adds a number of useful math operators, such as +,-,*,/ and %. In the example below you’ll find some simple math calculations to find the width for aside & article.

// SCSS SYNTAX
.container {
  width: 100%;
}
 
article[role="main"] {
  float: left;
  width: 600px / 960px * 100%;
}
 
aside[role="complementary"] {
  float: right;
  width: 300px / 960px * 100%;
}
  
// CSS OUTPUT
.container {
  width: 100%;
}
 
article[role="main"] {
  float: left;
  width: 62.5%;
}
 
aside[role="complementary"] {
  float: right;
  width: 31.25%;
}

In this example, we’ve made a simple fluid grid which is based on 960 px. With operations in Sass, we convert pixel values to percentages without too much of a hassle.

Conclusion

If you are still new to Sass I encourage you to give it a try. Check out the guide at http://sass-lang.com/ to get a crash course in understanding the language. If you can write CSS, you can write Saas.

Hopefully, this tutorial brings anyone using Sass a better understanding of how to combine it with WordPress and helps you build or edit your theme’s more efficiently than ever before.

. . .

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