Using Gulp and Browserify in Node Web App

02 January, 2016

After you developing your project, and before releasing it to the public, you may want to do some optimization for your project for best performance. Before I was using the requirejs to do the module loading, but since the AMD way is little bit old, and thanks to the Node's commonjs way, we start to use browserify(OK, webpack is newer, but according to the project we have, we will use browserify first) to do the job. Here I will talk about using browserify with gulp together to build our assets quickly both in dev and prod environment.

Install Modules

npm install -g gulp
and related modules to you project's package.json's devDependencies section.

  "browserify": "^12.0.1",
  "glob": "^6.0.1",
  "gulp": "~3.9.0",
  "gulp-concat": "^2.5.2",
  "gulp-rename": "~1.2.2",
  "gulp-uglify": "^1.2.0",
  "gulp-util": "^3.0.3",
  "vinyl-buffer": "^1.0.0",
  "vinyl-paths": "^1.0.0",
  "vinyl-source-stream": "^1.1.0"

Create the gulp task

Now we can write a simple js task to bundle your js files with browserify.

var gulp = require('gulp');
var b = require('browserify');
gulp.task('js', function(){
    entries: './js/app.js',
    debug: true

That's a simple task to bundle your js into a single file, the debug property indicates that the bundled file will have it's sourcemap to navigate to the exact line when some error occured or when you want to do some debug. But what about if I want to bundle couple of entries at once, like I have couple of Angular controllers in separate files, and want to bundle them into a single one, well you can use glob module to get all the entries and pass it to the entries property as an array. And how about if I want to separate the libs into another file, which will rebundle your own js files much faster? You can use the external method to do that, and require these libs in your another bundle. OK, lets put all these together:

gulp.task('js', function(){
  glob('./js/*.js', function(err, files){
      entries: files,
      debug: false,
      cache: {}, //use when uglify js 
      packageCache: {},
    .external(['angular', 'jquery'])//ignore the libs in your bundle
    .plugin('bundle-collapser/plugin') //replace module file path with index in your bundled js to further reduce file size and not expose your file path
    .pipe(source('bundle.js')) //bundle js name
    .pipe(buffer()) //(vinyl-buffer)convert to gulp stream to uglify
    .pipe(uglify()) //now we can uglify it
    .pipe(rev()) //(gulp-rev) to revision the file name with hash attached, e.g bundle-238dsdad1.js to have best use of cache.
    .pipe(rev.manifest()) // options for gulp-rev manifest file
    .pipe(gulp.dest('./build')) //write the dest file
gulp.task('js.lib', function(){
  b().require(['angular', 'jquery'])

Now we have a fully featured task to bundle our js files for production:

  • use multiple entries
  • externalize the libs into separate bundle.
  • use plugin to even reduce the file size
  • use gulp-rev to revision the bundled js for best cache policy
  • use uglify to minify the js

Watch your files

For dev env, you can also watch your js files to rebundle automatically. Install watchify module, npm isntall watchify --save

gulp.task('watch', function(){
    entries: 'app.js'
  .plugin(watchify, {
   ignoreWatch: ['**/node_modules/**']
  .on('update', function(){
    //your own handler when your file updated
  .on('log', function(msg){
    gulpUtil.log(mes); //log something

Now you can focus on your project without worrying about running the task manually, so cool :).

Other Tips

  • When working with jquery and bootstrap in browserify, don't forget to write:
    window.$ = window.jQuery = require('jquery'),
    otherwise your bootstrap.js will throw error with no jQuery found
  • using browserify-shim when you have none CommonJS style libs
  • When we use libs installed by others package manager(like Bower), we need to define these libs manually if we dont want style like this in every file,
    instead we just want require('angular'), config that in your package.json's browser property, see also this


Here we learned how to use gulp and browserify to simply bundle your js files.See you next time:)