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Learn the SCSS (Sass) Basics in 5 Minutes

If you’re reading this that probably means you are familiar with CSS and have heard of SCSS or Sass but haven’t yet taken a dive.

Well good news. Sass is going to make your life much better. You will finally be able to DRY (Do not Repeat Yourself) your code out in CSS.

Basically, CSS is missing some great features that would help turn it into an easier to use and read. Sass adds Variables, Nesting, Partials, Mixins, Extend/Inheritance, and Operators. Some of these are things that programming languages tend to have. If you don’t know what some of them are, that’s okay. We’re going to define each of these and show you how they can be used.

A Sass can be compiled into a CSS files making it writing many files easy.

If you are using create react app you are in luck because the processing part is already taken care of for you. If not you can use Grunt or Gulp to process your Sass/SCSS files into CSS. If you are not yet in an environment that will do this I suggest setting that up first. This article is to talk about the features of Sass and how to use them.

What’s the difference between Sass and SCSS. Well, both of them can be compiled into CSS. The real difference is in syntax. SCSS uses mostly the same syntax of CSS while Sass takes away curly braces and semi-colons. In both you can use the additional features that Sass provides.

The following shows the syntactic differences.

SCSS SYNTAX$font-stack:    Helvetica, sans-serif;
$primary-color: #333;

body {
font: 100% $font-stack;
color: $primary-color;
SASS SYNTAX$font-stack: Helvetica, sans-serif
$primary-color: #333

font: 100% $font-stack
color: $primary-color


If you use any coding language you know what a variable is. So I won’t go too in depth with this. Essentially Sass finally allows you to define variables so that if you decide to change say a color you don’t have to change it 1000 times. You can just change your primary color variable in one place and you’re good to go

$primary-color: #333; body {
background-color: $primary-color;
.text {
color: $primary-color;


In CSS you cannot nest. Let’s take a look at these two selectors. There is nothing terribly wrong with this. But we are repeating code.

nav ul {
margin: 0;
padding: 0;
list-style: none;
nav li {
display: inline-block;

We can nest in Sass like so. This looks much cleaner.

nav {
ul {
margin: 0;
padding: 0;
list-style: none;

li { display: inline-block; }


Partials are Sass or Scss files that have an underscore in the front of the filename. For example. “_test.scss”. What does this do? It denote’s that this particular file should not be turned into CSS when the time comes. These files will contain snippets of CSS that can then be imported by other SCSS files.

This is a great way to modularize your CSS and keep things easier to maintain. For example you may want to store variables that will be used in multiple files. This is the way to do it.


Mixins are interesting because they add a coding language-like feature. You will immediately recognize what I mean upon seeing the code:

@mixin transform($property) {
-webkit-transform: $property;
-ms-transform: $property;
transform: $property;
.box { @include transform(rotate(30deg)); }

Instead of typing out “rotate(30deg)” 3 times. You can create what essentially feels like a function and sort of acts like one. You pass in the property to the transform() mixin.

To use this piece of code, you must use the “@include” keyword.

More info if you click here.

Extend/Inheritance & Operators

I will talk about these in Part 2 as they are a bit more involved. These are some of the most useful features in SCSS so please follow and I will be posting this blog next week!

Please follow me on Twitter @thedrewprint and find me on LinkedIn at Andrew Richards. Thanks for reading!



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