The JavaScript specification is evolving at a rapid speed, historically some of the browsers have been rather notoriously bad at keeping up with the specifications, to be fair others have been more at the cutting edge, but waiting for the runtimes to catch up before

So generally we as developers have been stuck in the era of developing without proper tooling, and we’ve had to settle for the common denominator between the major runtimes at that time.

In the past couple of years however, we’ve seen a rise in source to source compilers (also known as transpilers) to address this issue, but we have mostly been using approach this to invent new languages such as CoffeeScript, TypeScript rather than focusing our efforts on the emerging standards.

Introducing Babel

Babel (formerly known as 6to5) is a source to source compiler (also known as a transcompiler, or transpiler) that aims to compile the latest, and next versions of the JavaScript language down to code that can run on the runtimes of today, meaning we can just write with modern syntax today without having to worry about runtime support, and as time passes we’ll get native runtime support for these features across the board and we can simply stop transpiling that specific feature once it’s universally supported.

Babel is available through npm, and can be installed with

npm install -g babel

Compiling our code with Babel

Babel is distributed with a command line tool, which works great with make, otherwise there is also a very extensive collection of plugins available for almost every build system imaginable, most notably would be grunt, gulp, browserify transform and webpack loader.

Babel generates very clean code that almost could be mistaken for handwritten code, It’s pretty smart at not going things when it doesn’t have to, and it is very activly maintained.

Play around with the read, eval, print loop right now!