29 December 2023

How to Automate Tasks in Visual Studio Code

By Ronald Smith

If you’re looking to speed up your coding process, using a build tool like Grunt or Gulp can be a game-changer. These tools automate repetitive tasks, saving you valuable time and energy. And if you’re a Visual Studio Code user, you’re in luck – this code editor takes automation to the next level, making your workflow more efficient and productive.

Visual Studio Code is powered by Node.js, which means you can run tasks without ever leaving the editor window. In this post, I’ll walk you through the steps to automate your tasks and supercharge your coding experience.

What You’ll Need

Before we get started, there are a few things you’ll need to have installed on your computer. Don’t worry – checking if you already have them is simple! Just follow these steps:

How to Automate Tasks in Visual Studio Code

Assuming that all the necessary files and directories are properly organized in your project, including the config file like gulpfile.js or Gruntfile.js (if you’re using Grunt), and that the project dependencies listed in package.json have been installed, let’s dive into the project structure.

Here are the directories and files we’ve created specifically for this demonstration in the article. Keep in mind that your project will likely have a different structure, with potentially more or fewer files.



├── css

│ ├── sass

├── gulpfile.js

├── index.html

├── js

│ ├── src

├── node_modules

└── package.json


In our project, we’ve chosen to use Gulp as our build tool. To perform various tasks, we’ve registered a number of Tasks in the gulpfile.js, which include all the necessary configurations and instructions.

First, let’s rephrase the code snippet with a simpler language:


// Import required modules

var gulp = require(‘gulp’);

var uglify = require(‘gulp-uglify’);

var sass = require(‘gulp-sass’);

// Specify source file locations

var jsSrc = ‘./js/src/**/*.js’;

var sassSrc = ‘./css/sass/**/*.scss’;

// Task to compile and minify JavaScript files

gulp.task(‘scripts’, function() {

return gulp.src(jsSrc)




// Task to compile and compress SCSS files

gulp.task(‘styles’, function() {

return gulp.src(sassSrc)


outputStyle: ‘compressed’




// Watch for changes in SCSS and JavaScript files

gulp.task(‘automate’, function() {

gulp.watch([sassSrc, jsSrc], [‘scripts’, ‘styles’]);


// Default task to run all specified tasks

gulp.task(‘default’, [‘scripts’, ‘styles’, ‘automate’]);


Next, let’s rewrite the explanation text in a conversational tone, suitable for a 5th-grade reading level:


Hey there! So, here’s the deal: we’ve got these four tasks that we want to get done using Gulp. Let me break it down for you:

1. First off, we have the ‘scripts’ task. This task takes care of our JavaScript files. It compiles them and then minifies the output using a cool plugin called Gulp UglifyJS. All this fancy stuff just means that it makes our JavaScript code more efficient and smaller.

2. Next up is the ‘styles’ task. This one is all about our SCSS files. It compiles them into regular CSS files, and then it compresses the output. Basically, it makes our stylesheets smaller in size.

3. Now, the ‘automate’ task is what keeps things running smoothly. It watches for any changes we make to our SCSS and JavaScript files. Whenever it detects a change, it automatically runs the ‘scripts’ and ‘styles’ tasks so that we always have the latest compiled and compressed files.

4. Last but not least, we have the ‘default’ task. This task runs all the other tasks for us, so we don’t have to run them one by one. It’s like our personal assistant for Gulp!

That’s all there is to it. Simple, right? Now we’re all set to get things done with Gulp. Let’s go!


Lastly, let’s rephrase the list of tasks:


Here are the four tasks we’ve got lined up:

1. ‘scripts’: This task takes care of our JavaScript files. It compiles them and minifies the output using Gulp UglifyJS plugin. It makes our JavaScript code more efficient and smaller.

2. ‘styles’: This task deals with our SCSS files. It compiles them into regular CSS files and compresses the output. It makes our stylesheets smaller in size.

3. ‘automate’: This task keeps things running smoothly. It watches for changes in our SCSS and JavaScript files, automatically running the ‘scripts’ and ‘styles’ tasks to keep our compiled and compressed files up to date.

4. ‘default’: This task runs all the other tasks for us, so we don’t have to run them one by one. It’s like our personal assistant for Gulp!

That’s it! You’re all set to get things done with Gulp. Let’s go!


Now that we’ve set up the build tool for our project, we can move on to automating the tasks defined in the gulpfile.js. If you’re not familiar with the tools we mentioned, I recommend checking out some of our previous posts before proceeding. These will give you a good introduction to the subject.

To automate the styles and scripts task, we can use the “automate” task in Gulp. This task will watch for any changes and automatically run the necessary tasks. It’s a convenient way to save time and effort.

Another useful task is the “default” task. This task runs all the tasks we’ve mentioned so far at once. It’s a handy shortcut that saves you from running each task individually.

To run and automate these tasks, make sure you have Gulp installed and configured correctly. Then, you can simply run the appropriate command in your terminal. After that, Gulp will take care of the rest, automatically executing the specified tasks.

By automating these tasks, you’ll be able to streamline your workflow and increase efficiency. It’s a great way to save time and focus on more important aspects of your project. So, take advantage of the automation capabilities offered by Gulp and enjoy a smoother development process.

Running and automating “Tasks” in Visual Studio Code is not as complicated as it may seem. All you have to do is follow a few simple steps.

First, let’s open the Command Palette. You can do this by pressing Shift + Cmd + P on your keyboard or by going to the menu bar and selecting View > Command Palette.

Once the Command Palette is open, type in “Tasks.” This will bring up a few different options, but we’re interested in “Tasks: Run Task.” Go ahead and select that option.

And that’s it! You’ve successfully run a task in Visual Studio Code. Wasn’t that easy? Now you can automate your tasks and save time and effort.

How to Automate Tasks in Visual Studio Code

Visual Studio Code is pretty clever. It’s aware that we’re using Gulp, so it automatically recognizes the gulpfile.js file and displays the tasks we’ve defined inside.

How to Automate Tasks in Visual Studio Code

Now, let’s choose the default Task. This will compile the SCSS stylesheets and JavaScript files. It will also trigger the automate Task, which will allow the styles and scripts Task to run on its own from now on.

When you make changes to a file, whether it’s a stylesheet or a JavaScript file, it will automatically be compiled. Visual Studio Code will also provide reports for any successes or errors that occur during the build process.

How to Automate Tasks in Visual Studio Code

Full Integration

Even better, I can seamlessly merge my project with Visual Studio Code to make everything run smoother. And the best part? It’s super simple and fast to integrate our Tasks in Visual Studio Code.

All you have to do is open the Command Palette and choose “Configure Task Runner”. Visual Studio Code will display a menu with various build tools it supports. For this tutorial, let’s pick “Gulp” since that’s the tool we’re using in our current project.

How to Automate Tasks in Visual Studio Code

Hey there! So, guess what? Visual Studio Code just did something pretty cool for you. It went ahead and created a brand new file called tasks.json in your project directory under .vscode. Nothing fancy in there – it’s just some basic configuration for now.

Now, take a look at the snippet below. See how the tasks property is just an empty array? Not very helpful, right? Well, let’s change that. Let’s add some magic to it.

Check out this taskName property. It’s here that you get to specify the name of the task you want to run in your gulpfile.js. And see that isBuildCommand property? It defines the default command as the “Build” command. Why is that cool, you ask? Well, from now on, instead of messing around with the Command Palette, all you have to do is press Shift + Cmd + B and voila! Your task will be executed like a boss. How cool is that? Pretty cool, if you ask me!

How to Automate Tasks in Visual Studio Code

If you prefer, you can choose the “Run Build Task” option from the Tasks search result in the Command Palette.

Finishing Up

I believe Visual Studio Code has a promising future as a code editor. It’s fast and comes with some useful features right off the bat, including one we’ve discussed in this article.

We’ve learned how to run a Task using Gulp; you can also use Grunt if you prefer. We’ve seen how to integrate the task into Visual Studio Code and run it with a keyboard shortcut, which can help streamline our workflow.

Hopefully, you found this article helpful as a guide to running build tasks. And don’t forget to check out our previous articles for more tips on getting the most out of Visual Studio Code.

  • Visual Studio Code: 5 Awesome Features That Make It A Frontrunner
  • How to Customize Visual Studio Code
  • The first thing that strikes me about Visual Studio Code (VS Code) is how many powerful extensions are available for front-end developers. It’s truly mind-boggling! With just a couple of clicks, I can enhance my coding environment in so many ways. From live server previews to easy code snippets, these extensions have got me covered.
  • If you’re like me and constantly seeking ways to increase your productivity, then key binding management in VS Code is definitely worth exploring. By customizing my own shortcuts and commands, I can streamline my workflow, making repetitive tasks a breeze. It’s like having my own personal assistant right at my fingertips!
  • One of the things I truly admire about Visual Studio Code is the influence of Microsoft’s inclusive design principles. It’s amazing to see a tool that is built with accessibility and inclusivity in mind. From high contrast themes to screen reader support, VS Code allows everyone to participate in the coding experience. It’s a shining example of how design can make a positive impact on people’s lives.