Unfold task hooks: minification example

Up until now we've mostly discussed the inner workings of Unfold and which default tasks come out-of-the-box. This works for standard applications, but most of the time you'll want more.

For the biggest part you can simply rely on Unfold itself: it will get your application from source control, build it, setup IIS, etc. But let's say your site has a bunch of CSS and JavaScript files that you want to minimize when you're deploying to production. I know there are libraries out there that do the work for you, but in this case you just want to minimize your files beforehand using YUI Compressor.

A word on hooks

Unfold comes with support for task hooks. This concept allows you to attach tasks you create onto the default task flow. In our previous post we explained the several tasks that compose the deployment operation: setup, updatecode, build, release, setupapppool, ...

If you want to extend the operations that happen during a given task, then what you have to do is pretty simple

  1. define a psake task that contains these extra operations
  2. indicate that you want to execute the task before or after another task. This is done using the Set-BeforeTask and Set-AfterTask functions.

Back to the minification

Now that you know how to extend the deployment, you can start adding minification to it.

  1. We'll create a psake task called minify that will perform the minification
  2. We're going to attach it to the release task. As described in the previous post the release task moves your compiled application into a separate folder that we later use for pointing IIS at. Minifying the js and css that's inside is a natural extension to it.

So let's start. Add this to your deploy.ps1 file:

# 1. create the task
task minify {
    # minification goes here

# 2. attach it execute after the release task
Set-AfterTask release minify

There is also a Set-BeforeTask which performs the opposite operation: it mark a task to be executed before another task kicks off.

Performing the minification

UPDATE 2012/10/20 YUI Compressor will be deprecated, the following blog post describes how to use yuglify instead of YUI Compressor.

To perform the minification we're using YUI Compressor. To use it, simply download the latest version from their GitHub downloads page for example. Extract it and add the final jar file somewhere to your source repository for example under tools\yui\yuicompressor-2.4.2.jar. By doing so, we're sure that it is available when we're performing the minification because we always release based on what's in source control.

Now that the tooling is in place, we can write the minify task. Here goes:

task minify {
    # Invoke-Script, so this gets executed on the target
    Invoke-Script {
        # Define a function, that can minify a folder that's under web
        function Minify($folder) {
            Write-Host "Minifying folder $folder" -Fore Green

            # get all files inside the web folder and minify them
            Foreach($file in (Get-ChildItem "$($config.releasepath)\web\$folder")) {
                Write-Host "Minifying $file"
                # Wrap inside psake exec function so the build 
                # fails if this operation fails
                Exec {
                    # the code folder will contain the current code checkout, and 
                    # that's where the jar will be. We use it to compress the
                    # found file
                    java -jar ".\code\tools\yui\yuicompressor-2.4.2.jar" `
                         --charset utf8 `
                         -o "$($file.FullName)" `

        # Now call the function for each folder we want to minimize
        Minify "js"
        Minify "css"

Only applying it on production

As the task is defined now, it will always perform the minification, but as we said before, we only want this on production. That way we can still easily debug problems on our dev environment for example. What we're going to do is simple: we'll change the configuration. Move to the configuration part of the deploy.ps1 file and add the following

# Normally we don't minimize
Set-Config minimize $false

# On production however, we enable it
Set-Environment production {
    ... other configuration settings ...

    Set-Config minimize $true

Now that these settings are available we can extend the minify task just a little bit more. If the $config.minimize setting is set to $false, we simply abort the task.

task minify {
    If(-not $config.minimize) {

    Invoke-Script {
     ... rest of task

And there you go, the minification is only applied on production.


After this task has executed, all css and javascript files within your web folder will be minimized. Just what we need. By hooking the minify task up with the release task we can extend the standard flow and tailor it to perform completely custom deployment operations. We've also explained how you can define custom configuration options and use them inside your tasks.

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