The Top 4 Preprocessors

Written by Tech84 on May 5, 2016

CSS preprocessors transform simplified shorthand styles into robust CSS, enhancing the coding process and saving you time. Easy to use, the result is a more aesthetically pleasing website. While there are tons of CSS preprocessors out there, they are not all created equally. User preference and task type, can make all the difference in the world. We’ve put together an overview of the four leading preprocessors to help you make an informed decision.


Meta-language Sass offers an extensive array of abilities and features. It works seamlessly with every version of CSS, so you can use any CSS library. The Sass community is an active one that spurs on the development of improvements and bug fixes – a major asset in preprocessors.

With Sass there are multiple ways to save on the time you spend writing styles. You can use Sass in conjunction with the Compass, Susy, Bourbon, and many other frameworks, which can cut down on the amount of code you need to write. You can also nest selectors in order to create clean code more efficiently. Sass also allows users to easily declare custom functions, allowing for cleaner code that is modular.

The downside is that Sass has a lot of unnecessary characters in its syntax. It also only compiles in Ruby or libSass.


Less is an easy to use choice in preprocessors for those looking for advanced features that don’t require learning a new syntax. With Less, you can prototype quickly and see results fast because processing can be done client side. Yet it is stable enough for production environments because it can also be compiled on servers.

A great tool for both mathematical functions and loops or custom functions, Less possesses well-organized and detailed documentation. This CSS preprocessor has everything you need with modern mixins and features, including variable, color functions, and nesting. In addition, the Less community is helpful and active, and there are a variety of GUI apps that practically do the coding for you.

For web developers, Less is an easy choice, because it is written in JavaScript, a language most developers know. It is also very designer-friendly, especially when compared to other preprocessors.

The negative side of Less is that its conditionals have limited support and there are no custom functions. It also has some confusing aspects because it uses the @ symbol to declare variables, even though the symbol is already used in CSS for imports, leading to confusion by those attempting to decipher the code.


Post-processor Jade is a great fit for working with complex HTML code. The shorter, clean syntax is convenient and allows you to type faster. It is high-performance and easy to use with helpers and filters users appreciate. Powerful Jade is ideal for those attempting to decrease processing requirements or save space.

For those familiar with JavaScript, you can embed code directly into the Jade template. It is also a good fit for projects created in Node.js. However, it is not known to be designer-friendly, making it a less popular choice amongst designers.


Stylus is a meta-language that is cleaner and has more flexible syntax that the competition. You can choose to use semicolons, colons and braces or write code without them. Stylus supports features from other preprocessors, such as Less and Sass, increasing its versatility. Reusable styles are common with Stylus.

Stylus is a good option for mathematical functions and loops or custom functions. Because it runs on Node.js, it is easy to integrate in projects when using npm. Stylus has an impressive array of mixins and is compatible with a variety of mixins libraries. Error reporting from Stylus is thorough and clear, that includes important details such as line numbers and stack traces.

While Stylus is less popular than some of the other preprocessors in our list, it is also younger than the others. That means that the community is less active than the communities supporting Sass and Less.

With so many options in CSS preprocessors, it only makes sense to try out a few before you choose the right one for you. While you may have fallen into using one because it was recommended to you, or was already in use at your workplace, test out a couple of others to see how they feel for you. You might just find one that saves you time and delivers better results.


Kerri Gois is a freelance writer and marketing coordinator for An avid reader and social media addict who also enjoys learning how to code, but is a novice at best. She’s extremely passionate about the Internet and Technology and lives in sunny San Diego with her puggle, Bernard. Follow her on Twitter @kerrigois

 Posted in Tech,

1 Response » to “The Top 4 Preprocessors”

  1. Marty Rogers says:

    Thanks for the share. I think CSS preprocessor is the best that we have here.

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