Tidying up SASS with a one-liner

At the Daily Cal, we maintain a ton of CSS code for our website’s WordPress theme. But instead of using a single enormous stylesheet, we check in SASS files to version control which are recompiled on deployment (or for development testing). In one directory, we have a bunch of scss-type files like so:


The files that begin with an underscore are SASS Partials, meaning that they don’t get built themselves, but are imported by other files. In this case, style.scss imports everything in the directory and spits out a style.css that complies with WordPress’s theme standards.

(Without style.css, WordPress won’t recognize a theme, since all the metadata for the theme is contained within that stylesheet. Either way, the file needs to be built since without it, there’d be no styling.)

I was working on the code base yesterday and came up with this one-liner to do a bit of code-cleanup. I’ll explain it further in steps:

$ for i in $(find . -name "_*.scss" -type f); do sass-convert --in-place $i; done

The primary part of this line lies inside the $(...). The dollarsign-parentheses combo tells bash (or any other POSIX-complaint shell) to execute its contents before proceeding. You may also be familiar with the back-tick notation `...` of executing commands.

$ find . -name "_*.scss" -type f

Find is a part of GNU findutils along with xargs and locate that searches for files. It takes [options] [path] [expression]. In this case, I wanted to match all the scss partial files in the current directory, which happen to match the wildcard expression _*.scss (note the preceding underscore). A single dot . refers to the current working directory (see pwd). You may be familiar with its variant, the double dot .., which matches the parent directory.

(Fun fact: Hidden files, like the configuration files in your home directory, usually begin with a period because both single dot and double dot begin with a period. The presence of a period at the start of their names was used to exclude them from directory listings without imagining that hidden files would later make use of this quirk.)

for i in ...

The above loops through a list of space-separated elements (like 1 2 3 4), puts each in $i, and executes the suite of instructions specified between the keyword do and done. I chose the letter $i arbitrarily, but it’s one that’s typically used as a loop placeholder.

SASS comes with a command sass-convert that will convert between different CSS-variants (sass, scss, css) with the added bonus of syntax-checking and code-tidying. You can convert CSS to SASS with something like:

$ sass-convert --from css --to sass foo.css bar.sass

If you make extensive use of nested selectors, sass-convert will combine those for you. This utility can also be used to convert formats to themselves with the --in-place option. Putting it all together, we get this one-liner that loops through all the _*.scss file in the current directory and converts them in-place:

$ for i in $(find . -name "_*.scss" -type f); do sass-convert --in-place $i; done

This operation doesn’t change the output whatsoever. Even CSS multiline comments are left in place! (SASS removes single-line // comments by default, since they aren’t valid CSS syntax.)

And that’s it! One 6000-line patch later, and all the SCSS looks gorgeous. The indentation hierarchy is uniform and everything is super-readable.