Plain Vanilla CSS for modern web design needs, Thank You! CSS management in large complex projects has become nightmare and that is why use of CSS preprocessors is on the growth. Sass is the most widely used CSS preprocessor, stable and boasts a large community of supporters.
I personally love Sass for its awesomeness and easily quote it as "one of the best things happened to CSS in the past decade".
With growth and acceptance of Sass, the number of tools that make Sass usage easy in one way or the other have also grown exponentially. These tools include Sass Playgrounds for beginners, ready to use Sass mixins libraries as well as tools for advanced users to create fully functional frameworks on top of Sass.
My journey started with Sass Playground Sassmeister where I first tried my hands to know what exactly Sass does. The next obvious step was to get Sass up and running on my system to be able to convert .scss to .css files, and that is when I downloaded and installed Scout application.
By now i was in love with Sass and to stay updated with latest news on Sass, tutorials and best practices, theSassWay.com was bookmarked.
There was no looking back from here, I got Compass Gem installed, then Bourbon mixins library and then Bourbon-Neat grid framework and the list of Sass tools that I use started to grow. Here is the list of the 10 best free Sass tools in the market that every SASS lover should know about -
1. Sassmeister - The Top Sass Playground
Sass Playground lets you try your hands on core Sass and 3rd party Sass mixins libraries without having to set up Sass on your system. You get to see the powers of Sass online without getting into Ruby installation.
If you are yet to get started with Sass and are stuck counting its advantages then a little bit of hands on practice on Sass playground is a big motivation boost and a sure shot way to get convinced about Sass superpowers.
Sassmeister is the specialized Sass playground and by far the most stable and up to date with latest Sass version. There are many ready to use Sass mixins libraries like Bourbon, and Sassmeister already has those libraries loaded for you. Bourbon is just an example, you get other top libraries like Compass, Breakpoint, Foundation etc. too on Sassmeister.
One big benefit of this tool is that you can generate CSS in different formats like expanded, compact, nested and compressed. Other features of Sassmeister Sass Playground include the options to select Sass compiler version and the UI theme of your choice.
2. Scout - Simple App to Convert .scss to .css
Sass and Compass run on Ruby, the programming language, and the biggest hassle for web designers is to get the system up and running with Ruby and Gems using command line operations.
Scout comes to the rescue and takes all the pain away. Scout comes with self contained Ruby environment and brings Sass and Compass to Windows and Mac in just 2 minutes. Scout ensures that web designers focus on Web design without getting into technical issues.
It is a cross platform open source application that runs both Sass and Compass out of the box. The reason I love Scout and recommend to everyone is its minimalist interface that just does what it is meant for - convert .scss to .css files.
There are many other paid and open source applications with better looking interface than Scout but most of those come with lot many other features that you really do not need.
Here is the 2 minutes video that provides instructions on how to setup Scout.
3. TheSassWay - Sass Information Source
Thesassway.com is the sure shot way to stay updated with the latest and greatest on your new found love - Sass. Thesassway.com covers the latest news on Sass and Compass, topics on Sass and Compass based CSS authoring - for beginners, intermediates as well as for advanced users.
You get to know about what is new in Sass and Compass, what new mixins libraries are in the market, how-to-guides on Bootstarp Sass, Wordpress Sass and everythting else that is Sass and Compass.
Thesassway.com is regularly updated by its contributors, it is open publishing platform and accepts articles from Sass community. To stay updated, you can follow thesassway.com on twitter, Facebook or subscribe to the rss feed.
4. Bourbon - Sass Mixins Library
Mixins give all the powers to Sass. A mixin is a group of Style rules and can be used throughout the project repeatedly. Furthermore, when you work on multiple projects, you do same things over and over again in all your projects and that is where mixin libraries help the most.
You can create standard mixins libraries to use in all projects and implement the DRY principle - the do not repeat yourself principle.
Looking for ready to use SASS mixins? Get Bourbon right away, it is light weight, ready to use and comprehensive SASS mixins library. One thing you can be sure about is that Bourbon is always updated with vendor prefixes for all modern browsers. Bourbon has many ready to use mixins for animations, backgrounds, borders, Flexbox, Box sizing, Font Face, Text Decoration, Transform and Transition to name a few. You also get many functions and Add-ons with the Bourbon mixins library.
5. Compass - Best CSS Authoring Framework
While Sass is the CSS3 extension, Compass can be called as the Sass extension. Compass is open source CSS authoring framework and is built on top of Sass. It has all the powers of Sass and comes with ready to use mixins, functions and other utilities.
Compass is also built in Ruby like Sass and you need to get Compass Ruby Gem installed on your system to use the framework.
There are many extensions built on top of Compass and that is what makes it much more powerful and feature rich. Two of the most useful Compass extensions are "Qutation Marks" and "Sassy Buttons". you can find more Sass and Compass extensions at Sache.in.
Compass is also called as Sass Framework for building Sass Frameworks.
6. Bourbon Neat - Grids Framework on Sass
Creating responsive websites remain the top priority of modern web design and CSS always lacked features to create responsive layouts with ease. To overcome CSS shortcomings, there are CSS frameworks around for years - Bootstrap and foundation being among the most populars.
With advent of Sass are born Sass based CSS grid frameworks and Bourbon Neat is one such framework. Bourbon Neat is the grid framework that uses the superpowers of Sass and the Bourbon mixins library.
There are other SASS based grid frameworks too but Bourbon Neat secures its place among the top 10 tools for simple reason that it is simple to use, generates clean and simple mark-up and can be used to create any kind of responsive layout of modern times.
7. Bootstrap Sass - Old Wine in New Bottle
We spoke about Bourbon Neat which is simple e and powerful grid framework based on Sass and Bourbon, but, the all time favourite CSS framework from Twitter, the Bootstrap, too makes it to the Top 10 Sass Tools.
Bootstrap is by far the most used and comprehensive CSS framework and now runs Sass. Bootstrap is not just the grid framework, it is a complete front end development framework for creating mobile first responsive websites.
Since Bootstrap Sass is a framework which is ready to use, you do not have to do anything with Sass in there until unless you plan to customize the source Sass as per your project needs. In that case, you can get the source .scss and include, exclude or customize it the way you want.
You can get more details about Bootstrap Sass at getbootstrap.com.
8. SUSY - The Big Daddy of Grids
Typical grid frameworks let you choose the grid systems and customize the grids as per your website needs. The grid systems of "Bootstrap", "Foundation" and "960 Grids" are all such grid frameworks.
Susy is a different ball game all together, it gives the power to create grids in your hands. There are no ready to use grids, you define grids as per the project needs and Susy does all the maths for you.
You can create grid libraries that can be used later in any web project. It is a powerhouse, a grid production engine in itself, a framework to create grid frameworks.
You can read more about Susy Grids Framework at susy.oddbird.net.
9. Breakpoints - Essential Mixins Library for Responsive Websites
We have all the mixins libraries and the grid frameworks out there to creat responsive websites. We did not talk about one of the key aspects of responsive web design, which is media queries and breakpoints.
Breakpoints-Sass is the mixins library that make use of media queries in Sass super simple. Whether you use Susy grid framework or any other framework, breakpoints mixins library can be utilized seamlessly.
10. Koala - GUI Based Sass Compiler
Koala is GUI based application for compiling Sass and other preprocessors like Less and CoffeScript, Koala is open source and free to use application. You can download and install Koala on Windows, Mac or Linux.
There are many Sass tools available in the market - paid as well as free to use. Depending on your expertise level and project needs, select the right tools and give your web design workflow a modern touch.
Sass rocks and is essential part of modern web design, the sooner you start with Sass the better you design.