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Task-based web browsing: Grunt and the grunt-open plugin

· Web Dev Zone

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Lately I've been playing around with Grunt, which is a JavaScript-based task runner similar to Ant and Gradle. Generally, these tools are used to automate software builds, but they can be utilized in other ways.

While browsing through the large collection of Grunt plugins, I came across one called grunt-open. The grunt-open plugin lets you create a task that opens a URL in your web browser. It looks like it was created with the idea of opening a web page at the end of a chain of Grunt tasks to check the result of a software build. But I thought it might be useful in automating everyday web browsing tasks.

I like to start off my work day with a bit of Internet humor and I have certains sites I visit for that. Dilbert has a new strip every day, while JoyOfTech and XKCD get published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and the XKCD "What-If" article is published once a week, usually by Thursday. Rather than manually opening the appropriate bookmarks for the appropriate day of the week, I figured I'd program a task to take care of opening the appropriate sites.

I won't reinvent the wheel here trying to explain the basics of Grunt: the Grunt "Getting Started" guide does a good job of explaining how to install Grunt and generate the files needed (the package.json and the Gruntfile.js files). Here's what my Gruntfile looks like:

module.exports = function( grunt )
        open: {
            joyoftech: {
                path: 'http://www.geekculture.com/joyoftech/',
                app: 'Chrome'
            dilbert: {
                path: 'http://www.dilbert.com/',
                app: 'Chrome'
            xkcd: {
                path: 'http://www.xkcd.com/',
                app: 'Chrome'
            xkcdwhatif: {
                path: 'http://what-if.xkcd.com/',
                app: 'Chrome'

    grunt.loadNpmTasks( 'grunt-open' );

    grunt.registerTask( 'webhumor', 'Load the funnies!', function() {
        var today = new Date();
        var dayOfWeek = today.getDay();

        switch( dayOfWeek ) {
            case 1: //Monday
            case 3:
            case 5:
                grunt.task.run( [ 'open:joyoftech', 'open:dilbert', 'open:xkcd' ] );
            case 0:
            case 6:
            case 2:
                grunt.task.run( [ 'open:dilbert' ] );
            case 4:
                grunt.task.run( [ 'open:dilbert', 'open:xkcdwhatif' ] );

So in the directory where this Gruntfile.js lives, I just have to type "grunt webhumor' in the command, and Grunt will open the appropriate sites. Not a huge timesaver, but kinda cool.

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Published at DZone with permission of Brian Swartzfager, DZone MVB. See the original article here.

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