A grunt-based project archetype tool for fat-client HTML/JS/CSS apps.
Pull request Compare This branch is 586 commits behind linemanjs:master.
Fetching latest commit…
Cannot retrieve the latest commit at this time.
Failed to load latest commit information.



Lineman is a tool for bootstrapping fat-client webapp projects. It requires node.js & npm and wouldn't be possible without grunt.

Do I need Lineman?

If you're starting a new project that will be deployed as static web assets, Lineman might be a great fit for you.

Some things it helps with:

  • Immediately compile CoffeeScript, Less, and client-side templates as you edit source files
  • Provide a development server for fast feedback
  • Concatenate & minify all your CSS & JavaScript for production
  • Run specs on demand with lineman spec using Testem
  • Run specs with output suitable for your CI server using lineman spec-ci

Just think of it as a handful of conventions and tasks that can help you get up-and-running more quickly than deciding on path names and configuring all the requisite grunt tasks yourself.

Getting started

First, you'll need node.js. You'll also needPhantomJS to run tests.

[Once you have those, here's a screencast on how to get started.]

Next, you'll need to install Grunt & Lineman globally:

$ npm install -g grunt lineman

To create a new project, run the lineman binary with the new command and tell it where you'd like the project to go:

$ lineman new my-project

This will create a new directory named "my-project" and copy in Lineman's archetypal project.

Your new project will, by default, have Lineman and grunt-contrib as development dependencies.

Finally, you'll probably want to crack open your project' package.json file. That is, of course, unless you plan to give John Doe all the credit.

Working with Lineman


To see all of the options available to you in the terminal use the -h or --help option:

$ lineman --help

From the project directory, you can start a server at localhost:8000:

$ lineman run

Internally, Grunt's watch task will monitor for file changes and Lineman will make sure that any requisite compilation & concatenation occur, based on the type and location of the file change.

With any luck, visiting the server in your browser will yield something as beautiful as this:

Development Screenshot

The Hello World code shows off JST compilation, CoffeeScript, and Less. When you edit a source file, your changes are usually reflected by the time you can refresh your browser.


Lineman provides a way to run your specs constantly as you work on your code with the lineman spec command:

$ lineman spec

[Note: lineman spec requires lineman run to be running in a different process to monitor file changes..

The spec command will launch the fantastic test framework Testem supports Safari, Chrome, Firefox, Opera, PhantomJS and (IE9, IE8, IE7 if on Windows). By default we have configured Testem to launch Chrome for tests during development.

You can override this by modifying the launch_in_dev property within config/spec.json

We have found that running tests in Chrome during development is ideal as it enables the insertion of debugger; statements into javascript which allows debugging in the browser.

Continuous Integration Specs

You can also run specs with output generated for your CI environment in TAP 13 format:

$ lineman spec-ci

This configuration executes specs headlessly using only PhantomJS. You can override this by modifying the launch_in_ci property within config/spec.json


When you're ready to send your application off to a remote server, just run the lineman build task.

$ lineman build

The above runs a task that produces a production-ready web application in the project's dist/ directory.


To clean the two build directories (dist and generated), just run the clean task:

$ lineman clean

Project directory structure

Lineman generates a very particular directory structure. It looks like this:

├── app
│   ├── js                  # <-- JS & CoffeeScript
│   ├── img                 # <-- images (are merged into the 'img' folder inside of generated & dist)
│   └── templates           # <-- client-side templates
│       ├── homepage.us     # <-- a template used to produce the application's index.html
│       ├── other.us        # <-- other templates will be compiled to a window.JST object
│       └── thing.hb        # <-- underscore & handlebars are both already set up
│       └── _partial.hb     # <-- a handlebars partial, usable from within other handlebars templates
├── config
│   ├── application.js      # <-- Override application configuration
│   └── files.js            # <-- Override named file patterns
│   └── spec.json           # <-- Override spec run configurations
├── dist                    # <-- Generated, production-ready app assets
├── generated               # <-- Generated, pre-production app assets
├── grunt.js                # <-- gruntfile defines app's task config
├── package.json            # <-- Project's package.json
├── tasks                   # <-- Custom grunt tasks can be defined here
├── spec
│   ├── helpers             # <-- Spec helpers (loaded before other specs)
│   └── some-spec.coffee    # <-- All the Jasmine specs you can write (JS or Coffee)
└── vendor                  # <-- 3rd-party assets will be prepended or merged into the application
    ├── js                  # <-- 3rd-party Javascript
    │   └── underscore.js   # <-- Underscore, because underscore is fantastic.
    ├── img                 # <-- 3rd-party images (are merged into the 'img' folder inside of generated & dist)
    └── css                 # <-- 3rd-party CSS


the name

Lineman got its name from finding that the word "grunt" was first used to describe unskilled railroad workers. Grunts that made the cut were promoted to linemen.

the motivation

Most fat-client web applications are still written as second-class denizens within server-side project directories. This has inhibited the formation of a coherent community of people who write applications HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, because the server-side technology is dominant. Front-end work on a Rails project differs greatly from front-end work on a Java project, even though they're building the same thing!

All we wanted was a cozy & productive application development tool that didn't saddle our client-side code with a particular server-side technology. Intentionally dividing backend and front-end projects applies a healthy pressure to decouple the two.

It doesn't hurt that with Lineman, we're able to bootstrap new client-side apps faster than we ever have before.

the terms

Lineman was created by test double, a software studio in Columbus, Ohio. It's distributed under the MIT license.