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A grunt build task for Windows 8 applications built on the WinningJS framework
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A Grunt Build Task for WinningJS Applications

Building Windows 8 applications with HTML5 and JavaScript is not a great experience, by default. The "WinJS" framework has no notion of a module system, and hasn't caught up with the latest and greatest in rapid web development. But it's 2013: nobody wants to code JavaScript using globals and "namespaces," or hand-write their CSS, or even write out verbose HTML.

The WinningJS framework is meant to help fix the WinJS development experience. And the WinningJS-build package in particular is meant to modernize the development stack. It is a simple Grunt build task which gives:

How to Use

To use this build task, include "winningjs-build" in your package.json and install it. Also, add an index.jade file to your project, using the template variables scripts and styles, like so:

        title My Awesome Windows 8 App

        //- WinJS references
        link(href="//Microsoft.WinJS.1.0/css/ui-dark.css", rel="stylesheet")

        each script in scripts

        each style in styles
            link(href="#{style}", rel="stylesheet")


With these in place, you can use the build task inside your root grunt.js file, for example like so:


    "WinningJS-build": {
        src: "index.jade",
        dest: "out/index.html",
        browserify: {
            entry: "lib/start.js",
            dest: "out/browserified",
            aliases: {
                "jquery": "jquery-browserify"
            middleware: [require("simple-jadeify")]
        stylus: {
            src: ["styles/**/*.styl", "components/**/*.styl"],
            dest: "out/css"

In total, this build task will:

  • Browserify all modules recursively required by the WinningJS-build.browserify.entry module. The results will be written, one file at a time (for better debugability), to the WinningJS-build.browserify.dest location.
    • Browserify aliases are also supported, through the WinningJS-build.browserify.aliases setting.
    • Any browserify middleware is applied; for example, the Simple Jadeify middleware shown in the example above compiles Jade templates into modules that export the template function.
  • Compile all Stylus files specified in the WinningJS-build.stylus.src setting, writing the results to the WinningJS-build.stylus.dest location.
  • Compile a Jade index file template (as shown above) into a HTML page, with all of the Browserified modules referenced as <script> tags and all of the compiled Stylus files referenced as <link> tags. The template file and resulting HTML file locations are configurable as WinningJS-build.src and WinningJS-build.dest, respectively.

How to Use with Visual Studio

Although more work will eventually be done in this area, to automate this process, for now you can manually integrate Grunt and WinningJS-build into your Visual Studio project. This causes the above build steps to be run when using Visual Studio's Build task.

Open your .jsproj file for editing (e.g. in Notepad). Assuming you have a grunt.js gruntfile similar to the one above, where all the output is put into an out directory and your source files are in index.jade, styles, lib, components, etc., you should edit the main <ItemGroup> section to look something like the following:

<None Include="grunt.js" />
<None Include="package.json" />
<None Include="index.jade" />
<None Include="styles\**\*.*" />
<None Include="lib\**\*.*" />
<None Include="components\**\*.*" />
<None Include="node_modules\**\*.*" />
<Content Include="out\**\*.*" />

This tells Visual Studio (or MSBuild, more accurately) to not include any of your source files in the deployed application, but instead to include the contents of the out directory.

Once this is in place, add the following entries:

<Target Name="BeforeBuild" Inputs="@(None)" Outputs="out\index.html">
    <Exec Command="grunt.cmd" />
<Target Name="BeforeClean">
    <RemoveDir Directories="out" />

This tells Visual Studio that whenever any of the source files have a later modified date than out\index.html, it should re-run the grunt.cmd task. Furthermore, it will clean the out directory if the build is cleaned, either manually or as part of a rebuild.

A final step you need to implement, in order to make the automatic change-detection work, is to add the line


inside the <PropertyGroup Label="Globals"> section.

Sample App

WinningJS-build is used by the WinningJS-todo sample application, which is a great place to see it in action. In particular, you can see fully-configured gruntfiles and .jsproj files.

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