Choosing a CSS preprocessor

Default choice: SASS / Compass

If you are not using any preprocessors at the moment, we recommend you take a look at Compass, which is a framework on top of SASS.


Not a good choice when:

  • you're looking for (even more) advanced metaprogramming in your stylesheets
  • you're a syntax junkie like me

Getting started:

  • still looking for a great tutorial to mention here

More info on using SASS or Compass with LiveReload

Want something simple? Take LESS

LESS helps to simplify your stylesheets, but intentionally does not try to be a programming language. As a result, it is very simple, but it wouldn't be easy to build something like Compass around it — which is why there isn't any.


  • another popular choice; LESS is what most people have originally started with
  • there isn't much to learn; read the home page and you're now a certified less expert
  • stylish top to bottom — a signature creation of @cloudhead
  • there is an option of in-browser compilation — not like you'd need it with LiveReload, though, but worth mentioning

Not a good choice when:

  • you're looking for more high-level things than merely making your stylesheet easier to write — if you want someone else to handle browser incompatibilities for you then, again, Compass should be your default choice
  • you're looking for some more advanced automation of your repetitive CSS work

More info on using LESS with LiveReload

Hacker at heart? Consider Stylus

Stylus is made by TJ Holowaychuk, also known as If you recognize him by the name, or simply love to be meta, try Stylus. It allows infinite possibilities of metaprogramming and has a very lean syntax.

Your only choice if:

  • you routinely kill for a better-looking syntax
  • the idea of prefixing variable names with funny characters gives you shrinks
  • you want to redefine standard CSS properties like font-size to transparently do something else
  • you'd like to invent your own CSS selectors and make them look just like any other CSS selector, and then provide a hideous implementation
  • you want to transparently recompute all your px-based sizes into %-based sizes in your CSS, without making it look any different (you'd have to code this yourself, though — took me several hours)

Not a good choice if:

  • you take practical and clear over smart any time
  • you want a choice of community-provided plugins — so far, Stylus community does not seem to be booming despite the huge flexibility of this language

Stylus has Nib, which aims to be a rough equivalent of Compass — minus those hundreds of plugins, plus a super-clean unobtrusive syntax. It could evolve to be the recommended choice for everyone, but so far, the community support is not there.

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