less.js in symfony
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less.js in symfony.

sfLESSPlugin is a plugin for symfony applications. It's descendant of sfLessPhpPlugin, but with LESS2 compiler in mind.

It can do most of less.js can:

  • Automatically parse your application .less files through LESS and outputs CSS files;
  • Automatically include your application .less files into page source & enable browser-side LESS parsing.

LESS & less.js

LESS extends CSS with: variables, mixins, operations and nested rules. For more information, see http://lesscss.org.

less.js is LESS2. It's written on pure JavaScript & can be runned on both sides - in browser or in node.js.


Using symfony plugin:install

Use this to install sfLESSPlugin:

$ symfony plugin:install sfLESSPlugin

Using git clone

Use this to install as a plugin in a symfony app:

$ cd plugins && git clone git://github.com/everzet/sfLESSPlugin.git

Using git submodules

Use this if you prefer to use git submodules for plugins:

$ git submodule add git://github.com/everzet/sfLESSPlugin.git plugins/sfLESSPlugin
$ git submodule init
$ git submodule update

and enable plugin in your ProjectConfigurations class.



After installation, you need to create directory web/less. Any LESS file placed in this directory, including subdirectories, will automatically be parsed through LESS and saved as a corresponding CSS file in web/css. Example:

web/less/clients/screen.less => web/css/clients/screen.css

Style partials

If you prefix a file with an underscore, it is considered to be a partial, and will not be parsed unless included in another file. Example:

<file: web/less/clients/partials/_form.less>
@text_dark: #222;

<file: web/less/clients/screen.less>
@import "partials/_form";

input { color: @text_dark; }

The example above will result in a single CSS file in web/css/clients/screen.css.


sfLESSPlugin can use 2 workflows to manage your *.less files:

  1. Compile on browser side by less.js;
  2. Compile on server side by lessc.

prepare: Update layout

For both flows, you need to update your layout files (at least the ones using less stylesheets):

  • include the less css helper:

      <?php use_helper('LESS'); ?>
  • update the way stylesheets are included by changing <?php include_stylesheets() ?> for <?php include_less_stylesheets() ?>

1st way: Compile on browser side

This is default plugin behaviour. In this behaviour, all stylesheets ending with .less, added in:

  • your view.yml configs:

      stylesheets:      [header/main.less]
  • a template view file:

      <?php use_stylesheet('header/main.less') ?>

In this case, it will be automatically changed from something like:

<link href="/css/header/main.less" media="screen" rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" />

to link like:

<link href="/less/header/main.less" media="screen" rel="stylesheet/less" type="text/css" />

and will add link to less.js into javascripts list.

This will cause browser to parse your linked less files on the fly through less.js.

2nd way: Compile on server side

In details, sfLESSPlugin server side compiler does the following:

  • Recursively looks for LESS (.less) files in web/less
  • Ignores partials (prefixed with underscore: _partial.less) - these can be included with @import in your LESS files
  • Saves the resulting CSS files to web/css using the same directory structure as web/less

You have to install 2 packages:

  1. node.js - server side interp., based on Google V8 JS engine;
  2. less.js - LESS2. You can install this with Node Package Manager (npm install less).

After that, enable server behavior & disable browser behavior in app.yml:

  compile:              true
  use_js:               false

In this case, sfLESSPlugin will try to find all your less files inside web/less/*.less & compile them into web/css/*.css, so you can link your less styles as default css stylesheets:

stylesheets:            [main.css]

or (best way) with:

stylesheets:            [main.less]

so include_less_stylesheets helper will automatically change .less extension to .css, but you still will have ability to change compiler type (server side <-> browser side) on the fly with single change in app.yml


sfLESSPlugin server side compiler rechecks web/less/*.less at every routes init. To prevent this, add this in your apps/APP/config/app.yml:

    compile:            false

sfLESSPlugin server side compiler checks the dates of LESS & CSS files, and will by default compile again only if LESS file have been changed since last parsing .

When you use @import statements in your LESS files to include partials (styles with _ prefix), you should also turn on dependencies checking (because, less compiler will not rerun on partials change) in one of you app.yml:

    check_dates:        true
    check_dependencies: true

warning: Checking for the dependencies will affect performances and should not be turned on in production

The safest (but probably slowest) option is to enforce everytime compiling:

    check_dates:        false

Also, sfLESSPlugin server side compiler has Web Debug Panel, from which you can view all styles to compile & can open them for edit in prefered editor. For that you need to configure sf_file_link_format in settings.yml.

Last but not least, you can enable CSS compression (remove of whitespaces, tabs & newlines) in server side compiler with:

    use_compression:    true

In order to workaround a flaw in the less compiler you can use the following option:

    fix_duplicate:      true


sfLESSPlugin server side compiler provides a set of CLI tasks to help compiling your LESS styles.

To parse all LESS files and save the resulting CSS files to the destination path, run:

$ symfony less:compile

To delete all compiled CSS (only files, that been compiled from LESS files) files before parsing LESS, run:

$ symfony less:compile --clean

If you want to compress CSS files after compilation, run:

$ symfony less:compile --compress

Also, by default tasks don't use settings from app.yml such as "path". But you can specify application option to tell compiler from which app to get config:

$ symfony less:compile --application=frontend

If you want to compile specific file, not all, just use argument & file name without ".less". To compile style.less into style.css, just run:

$ symfony less:compile style


less.js is maintained by Alexis Sellier http://github.com/cloudhead


github latest

  • updated readme & some refactorings
  • dependency check improvements
  • [client side] less.js updated to version 1.0.33

v1.1.0 released on 2010-07-01

  • added an helper to include less stylesheets in layouts / templates
  • [client side] less javascript updated to version 1.0.30
  • [server side] added a visual feedback in the debug bar when some files have been compiled
  • [server side] added an optional dependency check