From Zero to Hero using Yeoman

Building software is like cooking

I like to explain complicated Computer Science stuff, with simple analogies from daily life. So picture this, you are preparing yourself to cook something delicious; the first thing you need to do before even starting to chop or stir anything is .... of course buying the ingredients.

The same goes for software, you need to have the things you need in order to start coding in whichever programming language or framework you wish.

It is quite common wasting time building things from scratch, so common sense tell us we should build thing using some sort of template.

I have some experience using Ruby on Rails, and what fascinated me the most was the scaffolding power of the generators.With a simple command you could generate both the files and the underlying code needed to wire the components together.

Introducing Yeoman

So we have a CLI to generate things in Ruby on Rails, but what if I don't want to use Ruby on Rails? What if I want to have that same power to build static websites that use Javascript assets? What if I instead want to use [insert your favorite stack]? We programmers want freedom of choice and a tool that could make us choose whatever we want to use would make it paramountcy.

That is the spirit of the Yeoman project, to be able to get you started as quickly as possible and provide you with all the tools you need.

Advantages of Yeoman


Yeoman is not for every project, if you intend to test-drive some stack of technologies then it could fit nicely in your development.

On the other hand if you use a very customized framework and build tasks then you should evaluate the time it would take you to build your custom generator or modify and existing one, and if that time invested is really worth it (usually its a good idea to invest this time if it fits many projects).

On my experience I had to modify this generator to one with LESS instead of SASS, it took me about two days to fully adapt it.

Also many frameworks such as Ember, Backbone already have their CLI generators (EmberCLI and Brunch) and due to their specialized workflow they sometimes work better than Yeoman.

Another thing I have encountered is the vast array of options to choose from, there are some generators marked as official and usually they adhere to some standards and the so called Yeoman Workflow.

Its worth mentioning also that there is a recent alternative to yeoman's sub-generators with Plop a tool specialized to generate small parts of the project.

Final Thoughts

So Yeoman could be really helpful in some scenarios and it certainly is better than copying files and editing them manually.Of course this tool needs other tools to be relevant such as task runners, testing tools etc. And with the ever changing world of programming tools