What is a CSS preprocessor? It extends the CSS language and provides extra functionality on top of CSS. SASS, less and stylus are the more well known preprocessors.

Why use preprocessors? The funtionality they provide make CSS easier to work with and increases readability. Some of the useful functionalities are listed below. I will be using the SASS language for examples!


With preprocessors, we are able to declare our own variables for consistency:

$my-font: Helvetica, sans-serif;
$light-grey: #d3d3d3;
$dark-grey: #666666;

body {
	font: $my-font;
	background-color: $dark-grey;

We can store colors, fonts, or even numbers for opacity etc. The example above compiles to:

body {
	font: Helvetica, sans-serif;
	background-color: #666666;


Nesting increases readibility:

#nav {
	ul {
		list-style-type: none;
	li {
		color: $dark-grey;

We know at a glance that ul and li are children of the #nav element. We can also use psuedo-selectors such as the & in nesting:

a {
	&:hover {}
	&:active {}

This compiles to:

a:hover {}
a:active {}

There are a whole bunch of other selectors mentioned in this css-tricks article, so check it out if you’re interested!


Mixins allow reusability of css declarations and it is very useful if we want to declare similar styles for multiple components or for cross-browser styling. An example taken from the SASS website:

@mixin border-radius($radius) {
  -webkit-border-radius: $radius;
     -moz-border-radius: $radius;
      -ms-border-radius: $radius;
          border-radius: $radius;

.box { @include border-radius(10px); }

We have created a mixin (think of it like a function) that declares the different border-radius for cross browser styling. It takes in the radius that we want to declare and outputs:

.box {
  -webkit-border-radius: 10px;
  -moz-border-radius: 10px;
  -ms-border-radius: 10px;
  border-radius: 10px;

Mixins are very flexible and great to use if you’ve code that is reusable!