SASS pre-compilation

Submitted on 22 August 2015

Vaadin 7 comes complete with theming which in turn uses CSS. Though a back-end developer, I think I know CSS pretty well. Still, working with CSS, with Vaadin or not, is pretty boring and involves a lot of copy-paste. There are two technologies that aim to improve upon this: LESS and SASS and Vaadin integrates the later.

Here’s how it works: when the UI is configured with a theme, Vaadin will look for the styles.css file in the relevant theme folder. If not found, it will search for an alternate styles.scss. In this case, it will compile the SCSS using its internal compiler and make it available as a regular CSS. This behavior is exactly the same as with JSP in application servers. This is extremely valuable during development as it prevents compile/deploy cycles and thus saves a lot of valuable time. However, it comes with two problems:

  • The first hit to the themed UI will incur the compile cost
  • If there’s an issue with the compilation, it will break the application for all pages using the theme

As for JSP, it’s advised to pre-compile SCSS for application packages that will be deployed to production environments. Vaadin provides the compiler class as a sort of public API, so it’s quite easy. Basically, you just set the SCSS input and the CSS output and you’re done.

If you use Maven, this is achieved by inserting the following snippet in your POM: