May 2015 - Broken Links Archive

The drawbacks of post-processing

In the last few days I‚Äôve been inves¬≠ti¬≠gat¬≠ing CSS post-pro¬≠cess¬≠ing, the idea behind which ‚Äď writ¬≠ing stylesheets using par¬≠tial¬≠ly imple¬≠ment¬≠ed or emerg¬≠ing stan¬≠dards, which are then tran¬≠spiled to make files which work in cur¬≠rent browsers ‚ÄĒ is more pleas¬≠ing to me than the abstrac¬≠tions of pre-proces¬≠sors like Sass. I‚Äôve been exper¬≠i¬≠ment¬≠ing with PostC¬≠SS (or rather, css¬≠next, which is to PostC¬≠SS as (broad¬≠ly) Bour¬≠bon is to Sass); how¬≠ev¬≠er, there are a cou¬≠ple of prob¬≠lems with post-pro¬≠cess¬≠ing, at least in the way that PostC¬≠SS approach¬≠es it, which makes me ques¬≠tion its utitility.

NB I must state clear­ly that these obser­va­tions are based on a very shal­low under­stand­ing from my ini­tial inves­ti­ga­tions of how PostC­SS works, and per­haps they would be clar­i­fied and resolved if I tried to use it on a full project. Update: See also the com­ments below this arti­cle, which clear up some of my misconceptions.

The first is that post-pro­cess­ing uses syn­tax from pro­posed stan­dards which have yet to be rat­i­fied. For exam­ple, the vari­ables syn­tax is based on Cus­tom Prop­er­ties which, athough imple­ment­ed in Fire­fox, are yet to have any firm com­mit­ment from oth­er brows­er ven­dors; the syn­tax could still be changed, or indeed dropped entire­ly. That would mean PostC­SS would have to either retain an out­dat­ed syn­tax for back­wards com­pat­i­bil­i­ty, or change it com­plete­ly to match future deci­sions, mak­ing main­tain­abil­i­ty of old projects hard­er for developers.

The sec¬≠ond prob¬≠lem is that the fea¬≠tures of Sass which are most use¬≠ful (and wide¬≠ly used) are those which great¬≠ly extend the core CSS syn¬≠tax ‚Äď notably, nest¬≠ing and mix¬≠ins. While there are PostC¬≠SS plu¬≠g¬≠ins that add exten¬≠sions to match pre-pro¬≠cess¬≠ing fea¬≠tures, using them means that your source stylesheet is no longer ‚Äėprop¬≠er‚Äô CSS ‚ÄĒ which is the main attrac¬≠tion of a post-proces¬≠sor to me. If your source stylesheet is large¬≠ly invalid, you might as well use a pre-processor.

Per­haps, as Lyza Dan­ger Gard­ner con­clud­ed, using post-proces­sors means giv­ing up cer­tain features:

Tak­ing a path paved with lean, mod­u­lar post-pro­cess­ing plu­g­ins involves sac­ri­fices. No more nest­ing. Instead of an end­less hori­zon of mix­in pos­si­bil­i­ties, you may be bound to CSS spec real­i­ties, like calc or CSS variables.

I still like the idea of post-pro¬≠cess¬≠ing, but per¬≠haps I need a longer peri¬≠od of accli¬≠ma¬≠ti¬≠sa¬≠tion before it ful¬≠ly makes sense to me.

 


Aside

I‚Äôve updat¬≠ed my Speak¬≠ing page to include more con¬≠fer¬≠ences, more videos, and a lit¬≠tle on my speak¬≠ing require¬≠ments and pref¬≠er¬≠ences. I‚Äôm plan¬≠ning to cut down on the num¬≠ber of talks I give in 2014 (twelve is too many), but am always open to inter¬≠est¬≠ing offers and oppor¬≠tu¬≠ni¬≠ties, so please get in touch if you‚Äôre organ¬≠is¬≠ing an event.

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