It's not every day I discover a task manager GUI utility that I haven't heard of. Apparently, today is such a day as I randomly came across SqueezerApp, a minimalist pre-processor.
Pictured: Main app window is sparse
In my previous reviews of GUI task managers for front-end development, I went so far as to write glossaries for them so novice readers could find the reviews more accessible. However, due to the narrow lens of this utility, I'm going to skip this. I highly suggest novices read my review of CodeKit 3 as it goes far far more in-depth than this review ventures into the world of task managers, preprocessors and code compiling. I do my damnest to make my reviews effable, convert esoteric front-end web developer speak into human speak rather than pointless pontification. I'll be using words/phrases like task manager, minification, and uglification, with the assumption that you are already familiar with them or you've skimmed through CodeKit 3 Review.
Capitalizing on the need, both CodeKit and Prepros have filled the niché of GUI task managers, (and quite well I might add). CodeKit 3 is powerful enough to be viable in a professional environment, and my review of CodeKit 2, I used CodeKit 2 off and on professionally for 9 months (mixed with Grunt). However, GUI task managers do not offer the flexibility of Grunt, Gulp or Webpack. GUI task managers are about ease of use as most users find GUIs far more intuitive than using a terminal and text configured files. The value that a GUI task manager is the simplicity and ease of use it brings.
Pictured: General settings only allow one single path to export compiled code/images to.
Squeezer's website is a bit low on info. There's no information as to what engines it's using to process files, versions of compressors and so forth. It's a mystery box and poking inside the app reveals little. The website is almost a non-entity, and it's developer, Yanis Zafirópulos lists himself as "Dr. Kameleon", adding to the mystery.(If there's ever a red flag, it's someone who calls themselves a doctor without a full Ph.D.). Also, Chameleon? I could infer plenty more. To be clear, I'm joking... I doubt that there's any ulterior motive to less transpicuous.
Part of the reason I'm learning just now about the application is that there are several "Squeeze" named OS X applications, like the high-end video compressor, Sorenson Squeeze (formerly Squeezer), PDF Squeezer, and a few other utilities making for a tough SEO battle. Finding the official website takes more google-fu than one would expect.
Squeezer supports the following:
- HTML: Minification
- CSS: LESS, Stylus, Scss/Sass and CSS compiling/minification
- Images: PNG, JPEG (compression), SVG (minification)
Unlike CodeKit or Prepros, Squeezer isn't made for monitoring your entire project. Typically, with CodeKit or Prepros, the setup project looks something like this:
- Drag project folder into application window and wait for a second for the application to scan your project
- Via the GUI's folder structure, click on the parent Sass/Less file, JS file and set the output locations. Configure JS concatenation.
- In the project settings, enable/disable features like Linting
- As long as CodeKit or Prepros is open, it will compile your code. The application will remember your settings and create settings a file in your project folder that can be distributed with your project so others can quickly jump in with minimal configuration.
- Errors are logged in a central error log. The error log highlights problems in your code
Squeezer is significantly different. Squeezer only wants to know about your parent files. Dragging the entire project into Squeezer will create unexpected results, creating a bunch of partials of compiled code. I made this mistake when testing it and ended up with a CSS file matching every Sass file in my project, plus the properly compiled code when it hit the parent most CSS file. To make matters more confusing, if you enable file watching, Squeezer will not automatically trigger files unless the parent Sass file is manipulated. Even on single page sites, I like to divide up my Sass into separate .scss files. The shortcomings are immediately apparent, as I'm used to Gulp / Grunt / Webpack / CodeKit / Prepros which watch all your Sass and/or CSS and/or JS and recompile your CSS / JS whenever any of said files are manipulated. This isn't simply a preferred methodology, is the most sensible as you never have to remember to trigger your CSS or JS builds. Everything happens automatically.
So this leaves Squeezer in a strange space. It's a minimalist utility, but it also is more work to use. If you're simply looking to process Sass files in a project just once with the aid of a GUI, I still find CodeKit and Prepros easier.
Pictured: There's a few mystery options such as "advanced optimizations" and "remove all special comments except the first one."
Squeezer doesn't offer a proxy server either to inject your CSS changes, or trigger reloads when your JS/HTML (or other assets like Python/PHP) changes. Quite simply Squeezer is the most minimal task manager.
Who is it for?
If you only need to compile one type of code, then perhaps this is the GUI utility you've dreamed off. Just drag in the parent file, and it'll recompile on saves or perform a single compile. The problem is, I don't know anyone who works like this.
Lastly, it's worth mentioning that Squeezer is the cheapest of the GUI utilities.
Pictured: JS options are thin
Several things jumped out at me while writing this review:
- The one day trial for a development utility feels mildly insulting. I wanted to test the software and found myself against the gun to test it. I'm unwilling to pay $15 for something that I'm unable to even test drive properly. In fact, I may have missed settings and may have some inaccurate information in this review.
- Squeezer is not as easy to setup as CodeKit or Prepros nor does it have an easy way to specify multiple paths for individual file types.
- Little documentation, no real support to speak of and a few "mystery" options that'd require me looking at the code to see what they do. I didn't have time to test all options. My review contains more information about Squeezer than its documentation.
- Even at almost half the price of its competition and functionality, it's not a viable utility outside of the most bare-bones projects.
- Image optimization actually managed to INCREASE file sizes of many PNGs and JPGs run through ImageOptim and proceeds to overwrite them with the larger files. If image optimization is increasing the file size, then it shouldn't bother to apply changes.
- Squeezer logs inaccurate minification stats for Sass as it compares the parent file vis the entire compiled CSS, rather than unminified compiled CSS vs the newly minified CSS.
- There's no error console, and files that shouldn't have compiled still compiled.
Pictured: Squeezer did a great job with vector images but ended with questionable results with PNGs
I hate to trash on an indie developer I but just cannot recommend Squeezer when CodeKit and Prepros exist, even at double the price. I do think there is room for an even more simple task manager than CodeKit or Prepros but I found Squeezer too simplistic to mimic a workflow even for a very straightforward static website. It may fit others workflow and it has a free trial but even that has its shortcomings of being laughably short, making it difficult to evaluate if there are workable patterns for Squeezer. Add in the lack of documentation or clarity on the compiler versions, no proxy serving/live-reload and stupid logic on image compression, and Squeezer is a bit of a dud. It functions as advertised but without much grace. Squeezer feels like a beta more than a refined application.
Pictured: The Misc options mostly should exist under other tabs like "Just compile".
Squeezer isn't a total bust, it performs the tasks it purports to do but without any finesse. It really wouldn't take much to make this utility a viable solution. It's a good start and perhaps it could be a useful task manager if just a few things changed. The biggest changes I'd ask for out the gate are:
- Allow multiple export paths, at the very least by file type. Compiled JS goes into JS folder, compiled CSS goes to CSS folder, images go to the images folder, etc.
- Extend the CSS/JS watch to include imported files or allow the entire directory to be moved into the project window.
- Clean up the options; it's baffling that there are "just compile" options in the Misc tab instead of under the file types they pertain to.
- Add in an error log. I didn't see an. The file size savings is misleading if Sass files or JS files contain imports. The app either should compare the compiled file against all the sources or not at all.
- Add at the very least live-reload support (CSS Injection would be nice)
Adding those five features would make this usable and inexpensive alternative.
Version Reviewed: 2.0