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The dynamic stylesheet language.
LESS extends CSS with dynamic behavior such as variables, mixins, operations and functions.

Web Essentials uses the node-less compiler and it always uses the latest version

Available on a separate extension

For the past couple of years, Web Essentials have been including features for compiling LESS, Sass and CoffeeScript. As of Web Essentials 2015 that is no longer the case. However, this feature is still available with a new stand alone Visual Studio 2015 extensions.

You can find more details about the why and how of this extension on this blog post or you can download it from here.


Preview window

LESS comes with a preview window located at the right side of the editor. It shows the compiled output every time you save the document.

LESS preview

Compiler settings

You can set all the compiler settings from Tools -> Options. They include:

  • Compile on save
  • Compile on build
  • Enable minification

NodeJS compilation

Web Essentials uses NodeJS to run the compiler. It's the fastest and most accurate compiler for LESS available.

Source Maps

Source Map generation is fully supported and will produce .map files. This feature can be enabled in the Options dialog.

Compile to custom folder

If you want the compiled output in a separate folder, then you can specify which one in the Options dialog.

Extract to variable

Web Essentials makes it easy to convert property values to LESS variables. Select the text you want extracted, right-click the selection and click "Extract to variable...".

Colors are special cased and a Smart Tag makes it easy to extract all instances of the same color in the document into a LESS variable.

Extract variable

Extract to Mixin

Select the properties you want to extract. Then right-click the selection and click "Extract to mixin...".


When a LESS file is compiled, it can now also be minified to produce a much smaller CSS file.