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Saving CSS changes in DevTools without leaving the browser

Scott Jehl recently tweeted:

Browser devtools have made redesigning a site such a pleasure. I love writing and adjusting a CSS file right in the sources panel and seeing design changes happen as I type, and saving it back to the file. (…) Designing against live HTML allows happy accidents and discoveries to happen that I wouldn't think of in an unconstrained design mockup

I feel very late to the party here. I tend to tinker in the DevTools Element Styles panel rather than save changes. So, inspired by Scott, I’ve just tried this out on my personal website. Here’s what I did.

  1. started up my 11ty-based site locally which launches a localhost URL for viewing it in the browser;
  2. opened Chrome’s DevTools at Sources;
  3. checked the box “Enable local overrides” then followed the prompts to allow access to the folder containing my SCSS files;
  4. opened an SCSS file in the Sources tab for editing side-by-side with my site in the browser;
  5. made a change, hit Cmd-S to save and marvelled at the fact that this updated that file, as confirmed by a quick git status check.
  6. switched to the Elements panel, opened its Styles subpanel, made an element style change there too, then confirmed that this alternative approach also saves changes to a file.

This is a really interesting and efficient way of working in the browser and I can see me using it.

There are also a couple of challenges which I’ll probably want to consider. Right now when I make a change to a Sass file, the browser takes a while to reflect that change, which diminishes the benefit of this approach. My site is set up such that Eleventy watches for changes to the sass folder as a trigger for rebuilding the static site. This is because for optimal performance I’m purging the compiled and combined CSS and inlining that into the <head> of every file… which unfortunately means that when the CSS is changed, every file needs rebuilt. So I need to wait for Eleventy to do its build thing until the page I’m viewing shows my CSS change.

To allow my SCSS changes to be built and reflected faster I might consider no longer inlining CSS, or only inlining a small amount of critical stuff… or maybe (as best of all worlds) only do the inlining for production builds but not in development. Yeah, I like that latter idea. Food for thought!

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