Visual Studio Fun: Chirpy is Awesome!

Managing the CSS and JavaScript files of a website can be an extremely frustrating, but rewarding experience. I've been introducing tools at work to help manage this experience such as SASS, LESS, CoffeeScript, etc, with mixed results. By themselves, each of these tools do a great job, but how to I leverage their power together? Having fifteen JS and CSS includes in a site is still extremely inefficient. Chirpy is a tool that helps to bring all of this together in one plugin in Visual Studio...but I see a lot of people completely missing the most powerful feature of Chirpy: FileGroups.

This CSS and JS on my blog is admittedly inefficient. I'm here to write about code, not spend all my time coding so that I can write about code. However, it is a great example of how NOT to keep your JavaScript and CSS files organized: 10 individual CSS requests and 15 individual JavaScript requests. If all of the JavaScript files were being called at just before the end of the body tag and if all of the CSS files are part of the same media type they can be combined into a single file. I try to follow the YSlow conventions where possible.

Chirpy allows for this to be done in a Visual Studio project at build time. If you have already gone through the tutorial and are starting to work through adding your own chirp files into Visual Studio. You need to start maching files together with Chirpy using *.chirp.config files. I've included a quick screenshot that I am using on a project to illustrate how I've organized things. This is an ASP.NET MVC3 project. I have included folders for css and javscript inside ~/Content/. The Bundle.chirp.config file is pulling everything from there and generating five virtual files...and that is all of the content required for the entire site!

I have to mention that the ~/Scripts folder has been left alone as that is where the conventions dictate that JavaScript files should go. I break this convention and say that only Library JavaScript files that are provided by NuGet reside. In my projects, NuGet loads script files into ~/Scripts/, I load script files into ~/Content/js/. I also have to note that my less files are not *.chirp.less files. As we are using the FileGroup to bundle everything together, Chirpy will parse those files when it compiles the group! You can also mix-and-match CSS, LESS and SESS files to your hearts content.

So what does my Bundle.chirp.config look like?

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" ?>
<root xmlns="urn:ChirpyConfig" xmlns:xsi="" xsi:schemaLocation="urn:ChirpyConfig">
    <FileGroup Name="style.css">
        <File Path="css/fontface.less" />
        <File Path="css/reset.less" />
        <File Path="css/base.less" />
        <File Path="css/fonts.less" />
        <File Path="css/mixins.less" Minify="false" />
        <File Path="css/layout.less" Minify="false" />
        <File Path="css/homepage.less" Minify="false" />
        <File Path="css/registration.less" Minify="false" />
    <FileGroup Name="ie.css">
        <File Path="css/ie.less" />
    <FileGroup Name="script.js">
        <File Path="../Scripts/jquery-1.5.1.min.js" Minify="false" />
        <File Path="js/ui.js" Minify="false" />
    <FileGroup Name="ielt9.js">
        <File Path="js/html5.js" Minify="false" />
    <FileGroup Name="ie.js">
        <File Path="js/PIE.js" Minify="false" />
        <File Path="js/selectivizr-min.js" Minify="false" />

Now i have the 5 files that I am ready to include. Why 5 files? I need to support IE 7,8,9. The labels on the bundle give some hints to the logic, but looking at the HTML in the template should clear it all up.

Header HTML:

    <link rel="stylesheet" media="all" href="/Content/style.css" />
    <!--[if lt IE 9]>
        <script src="/content/ielt9.js"></script>
    <!--[if lte IE 9]>
        <link rel="stylesheet" media="all" href="/Content/ie.min.css" />

Footer HTML:

    <script src="/Content/script.js"></script>
    <!--[if lte IE 9]>
        <script type="/Content/ie.js"></script>

Now I have 13 files being reduced to 5. I'm confident that I will be adding more files as I complete the project—and I am even more confident that 5 files are all that I will be including in my HTML pages.