web development vermont

Gulp as a Drush Task Runner

Author:  | May 31

Drupal is an ideal choice for scalable and resource-rich websites for a number of reasons: benefits in security, maintenance costs, accessibility, scalability, page optimization, and a content type and taxonomy system.

One significant aspect of Drupal’s page optimizations is its utilization of caching. Caching saves the server a lot of time by saving copies of the current site rather than doing all of the processing required to build each page for each request.

Drupal caches files aggressively in order to improve page load time. This is ideal for both user experience and SEO however, it can pose a problem when project files are being changed and tested as they are during development. In order for developers to see the most current version of the site, they must manually clear their cache. Fortunately, Drush provides an excellent set of tools for managing the site from the command line. To combat that issue we have come up with a quick gulp script that will keep your development workflow running smoothly.

We wanted a script that would be quick and easy to both install and configure on existing sites. What we came up with is a couple npm packages and a short gulpfile with minimal project-specific changes. Simply put, the gulpfile watches the theme files for any changes. If a file is changed drush cr is executed. After drush finishes clearing the cache, gulp will trigger a simple OS notification.

Let’s start with defining our dependencies in our package.json.  gulp-shell is the lynchpin in this situation. With it, we can execute bash commands in our gulp tasks! In this case I am using gulp-shell to clear the cache. But first, let’s take a step back. You will want to run npm install to ensure you have the proper packages.

	"name": "Sample Project",
	"version": "0.1.1",
	"description": "",
	"main": "gulpfile.js",
	"dependencies": {
		"gulp": "^3.9.1",
		"gulp-load-plugins": "^1.5.0",
		"gulp-notify": "^3.2.0",
		"gulp-shell": "^0.6.5"

Next, let’s import our desired modules. Gulp is a give in, but gulp-load-plugins is helpful when working with many other plugins (we aren’t in this case but might as well have an easy scalability option). This takes the gulp dependencies stored in your package.json and attaches them to an object, in our case $.

var gulp = require('gulp');
var $ = require('gulp-load-plugins')();

After that let’s define some minor configuration settings. This is the only section you should need to change between projects. It should be pretty self explanatory. themeDir  is the path to your theme directory. drushPath is the path to the drush-executable stored in your drush installation. In our case we use composer to install drush and it’s stored in the vendor directory.

var themeName = 'sample-theme';
var config = {
  themeDir: './themes/' + themeName,
  drushPath: '/vendor/drush/drush/drush'

After that we can define the ‘drushcr’ gulp task, and its process. gulp.src() takes all the files and directories of the project (current dir and child files / dirs) as a context and pipes it into .pipe(). Our first action is to execute drush cr using our config vars and gulp-shell . On succ,ess we can notify the developer that the task is complete.

gulp.task('drushcr', function() {
  return gulp.src('', {
      read: false
      './vendor/drush/drush/drush cr',
      title: "Caches cleared",
      message: "Drupal caches cleared.",
      onLast: true

Thanks to gulp-notify our notifications are even-themed to our OS and displayed in the top right corner of your screen by default: (Mac / Ubuntu)


Lastly, we setup the watch hooks using gulp.watch(filepattern, array('taskname')). With our config.themeDirwe can identify all the files that we need to react too when changed.

gulp.task('default', ['drushcr'], function() {
  gulp.watch(config.themeDir + "/sass/**/*.scss", ['drushcr']);
  gulp.watch(config.themeDir + "/js/**/*.js", ['drushcr']);
  gulp.watch(config.themeDir + "/templates/*.twig", ['drushcr']);
  gulp.watch(config.themeDir + "/**/*.yml", ['drushcr']);
  gulp.watch(config.themeDir + "/**/*.theme", ['drushcr']);

After that is all set up, if you have gulp globally installed, you will be able to run gulp from the root of your project and the process will execute drushcr and begin watching your files. (Run npm install -g gulp to install gulp globally)

This is an extremely simple example of what can be done with gulp and its many powerful plugins. We can easily create more tasks to help streamline workflows with sass files, js/css minification, or any other sort of preprocessing that you want to be done to the code before it is passed to the browser. In our case, we have a large number of projects with other workflows already in place, so our setup is as minimal as possible to avoid complications between projects.

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