Set Up Gulp & Sass

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1 Introduction

Styling in a Mendix app project is easy to do once you get the hang of it. For the majority of styling needs, you can use Mendix’s styling tool: Calypso. For more information, see How to Use Calypso.

However, using Gulp and Sass can be better for certain users. If you already use a Gulp service worker in your development workflow, you may wish to style you Mendix app using Gulp and Sass instead of Calypso.

This how-to will teach you how to do the following:

  • Prepare your app project
  • Set up your Sass files
  • Work with Sass

2 Prerequisites

Before starting this how-to, make sure you have completed the following prerequisites:

  1. Install Visual Studio Code (VSC).
  2. On the Gulp for Mendix theming GitHub project, click Releases:

  3. Download the Gulp.zip file:

  4. Install Node.js for task-running and automation through gulp. Install the latest LTS version from Node.js:

  5. Install version 1.7.15 of TortoiseSVN.

3 Preparing Your App Project

To prepare your app project, follow these steps:

  1. Open the app project directory (via Project > Show Project Directory in Explorer in Studio Pro).
  2. Unpack the Gulp.zip file into your main app project folder. You will then see a Gulpfile and package file that look like this:

    After you have unpacked the Gulp.zip into your app project folder, you can remove the zip file.

  3. Open Windows PowerShell as an administrator:

  4. Copy the address as text from your main project folder and paste it into Powershell (your project folder cannot contain spaces):

  5. Provide the directory for your app project folder in PowerShell: cd ‘directory for your app project folder’

  6. Adjust permissions by writing Set-ExecutionPolicy -ExecutionPolicy ByPass -Scope CurrentUser then pressing Enter .

  7. Write npm install or use npm install gulp-cli -g with your app running locally on Studio Pro:

    If you use npm install, you may receive an error. PowerShell will tell you to use npm run dev instead. If that does not work, use npm install run.

  8. Write gulp dev. Your screen should then look like this:

    At this point, you are ready to start working with Sass.

  9. You also need to add the following selected items into the ignore list of TortoiseSVN for each new app project (or else your app project will take too long to commit a change). You will only have to do this once when you set it up for your project:

    To do that, right-click each item and select TortoiseSVN > Add to ignore list:

    You will receive a confirmation when the items have been added to the ignore list. You can also double-check via TortoiseSVN:

    If you need to remove an item from the ignore list, right-click it and select TortoiseSVN > Remove from ignore list.

  10. Open your app project in Studio Pro, then click Run Locally and View.

4 Setting Up Your Sass Files

Final steps! Read below to open and work with Sass:

  1. Open the main app project folder and go to theme > styles > sass > custom.
  2. Double-click either the custom.scss or _custom-variables.scss file, which will open in VSC:

    If you open the custom file, you will see the following screen:

  3. Click Open Folder in the EXPLORER and then select the sass folder:

  4. Remove the Welcome, since you will not need this:

4.1 Keeping Your Sass in the Custom Folder

It is important to keep in mind that you are only working in the custom folder. You will not make any changes in the lib folder, but you can use that as a reference. You will only use the contents of the _variables.scss file to get the variables you need and copy them in your _custom-variables.scss file. The variables can differ from the default font sizes, colors, background colors, heights, and so on. In the _custom-variables.scss file, you can also make your own variables, for example $brand-blue: \#48B0F7;.

You can now work on the Sass structure and organize everything neatly by creating sub-folders and files in the custom folder. You can also look in the lib folder to get an idea of which folders and files you will most likely use in your app project.

When you create a new Sass file, follow this naming guideline: _{namefilehere}.scss. For example:

4.2 Importing New Sub-Folders & Files

Before you can see any changes in your app project with your new Sass, you need to import the folders and files first. If you open custom.scss, you will see this:

@import "custom-variables";

To import all the sub-folders and files you have created, write this:

\@import "custom-variables";
// base
\@import "base/login";

After you import everything, you are finally ready to Sass!

5 Working with Sass

Here is an example of custom Sass:

.pageheader-title {
color: red;
}

.pageheader-subtitle {
color: green;
}

To implement this in your app project, open the project in Mendix Studio Pro. You can find the defined class names in almost every element (for example, titles and subtitles). In this example, double-click the title Event App in Studio Pro, and you can see that the name has the standard class name for Studio Pro.

You can remove spacing-outer-bottom-medium, as that is a variable that contains defined styling code. If you do not remove this, you will probably have trouble later in the app project if you, for example, want to position your title somewhere else.

5.1 Seeing Your Changes

When you add, remove, or change something in Studio Pro, you need to save your changes and run the app project locally to see your styling changes in the browser.

For example, when you set a color for your title and subtitle, click Run Locally then View. When browser automatically opens, you will see the following URL:

http://localhost:8080/index.html?profile=Responsive

You then need to replace the 8080 with 3000 in order to sync the browser with your VSC changes. That means the URL should be this:

http://localhost:3000/index.html?profile=Responsive

You can test this by changing the color of .pageheader-subtitle from green to blue in the example above. If you have correctly synced with the browser, you can already see that the subtitle color changes into blue.

6 Summary

Practice the routine above a few times and you will master it in no time. In addition, keep the following summary in mind:

  • Make sure Powershell is working properly, or else your code will not be registered Studio Pro
  • Use the following to install gulp for each new project:
    • npm install
    • npm install gulp-cli -g
    • If the commands above do not work, you can also use npm run dev, though keep in mind you are not installing the gulp
  • Make sure the app project is running locally in Studio Pro (you will not be able to see your changes if the app is not running)
  • If you change or add something in Studio Pro, save it and run the app project again
  • Make sure you are working in the right folder (which in VSC is always sass > custom; you should not work in lib)
  • Do not make use of inline styling via Studio Pro
  • Be sure to change the portal of localhost:8080 into localhost:3000
  • Add the following items to the TortoiseSVN ignore list:
    • node_modules
    • Gulpfile
    • package

Have fun styling!

7 Troubleshooting

You may encounter certain issues when styling your app using Gulp and Sass. Here are some common problems, and the steps you can take to fix them:

7.1 Theme Folder Issues

When using UX-theming in Mendix 8, some issues might occur with an infinite loop or folders not being recognized.

This is probably because your theme folder has changes. The Mendix 8 theme structure uses distinct folders for web and native styling files. Make sure you set the following folders correctly in your Gulpfile:

// What is the name of the style folder in this theme folder?
var sourceStyleFolder = 'theme/styles/web';

// What is the name of the style folder in the deployment folder?
var deploymentStyleFolder = 'styles/web';

7.2 Apache Subversion Issues

Other issues might occur with SVN and possible rewriting of Gulpfile.js. To fix these issues, try the following solutions:

  • Remove node_modules, package.json, package-lock.json and Gulpfile.js, then replace them with a fresh copy downloaded from Mendix’s ux-theming repository
  • Ignore not only node_modules but also Gulpfile.js — this means you will have to add the Gulpfile to the project if you download it again or someone in your team is working on it
  • Make sure you are using the most recent LTS version of NodeJS

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