Simplify your JavaScript with CoffeeScript

This article first appeared in issue 221 of .net magazine – the world's best-selling magazine for web designers and developers.

JavaScript isn’t very readable, and unreadable code is hard to maintain. Compared with Ruby or Python, there are brackets, braces and quotes everywhere. Often, there’s more syntax than software.

Enter CoffeeScript. It isn’t a framework, but instead compiles to runnable JavaScript. You write CoffeeScript, compile it, and out pops clean, tight JavaScript ready for the browser. You get optimised JavaScript, but work with clean, understandable, maintainable code.

CoffeeScript starts to make real sense once you’ve written some, so let’s get going. First, we’re going to install the CoffeeScript compiler, and have it convert our CoffeeScript files into JavaScript that we can load in our browser.

To get CoffeeScript installed on your development machine, you’ll need a *nix-like environment, a text editor, a terminal, and a browser to check the results. First we install node.js (a JavaScript runtime that CoffeeScript needs to do its magic). We then install node’s package manager (npm) and use that to install CoffeeScript itself. On OS X, the simplest way to do this is with homebrew. Make sure you have XCode installed, then follow the instructions to install homebrew, or just open a terminal session and type:

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