Airframe 2.x — Why We Open Source Our Tools

By Matt Ström, 20 October, 2016

In his Incomplete Manifesto For Growth, Bruce Mau suggests the following:

Make your own tools. Hybridize your tools in order to build unique things. Even simple tools that are your own can yield entirely new avenues of exploration. Remember, tools amplify our capacities, so even a small tool can make a big difference.

While the tools we use to build on the web are complex, there are a few things we’ve taken time to make for ourselves at Planetary. Today, we’re especially excited to share the latest release of one of our tools; it’s called Airframe.

Airframe is a foundation for modern web projects.

It takes care of a few things that are common to every project, no matter what architecture, environment, or scale:

  • A basic build chain based on Webpack
  • Dependency management with npm
  • A CSS reset and a set of CSS utilities
  • A few PostCSS plugins to enable future CSS syntax
  • Babel compiling to enable future Javascript syntax
  • A starter template system built in Pug

For more details, read the full documentation.

We’ve been using it daily, adapting it, adding to it and sometimes subtracting from it since the beginning of Planetary. Though the specific tools have changed over time (From less to sass to postcss, from grunt to gulp to npm, from browserify to webpack), the basic values stay the same:

  1. Be flexible. Make sure the tools can be used in many contexts.
  2. Be fast. Make it easy for developers to quickly start a project.
  3. Embrace standards. Make the tool useful for as many developers as possible.
  4. Stay fresh. Keep the tool sharp and strive to improve it constantly.

This release marks the clearest statement of these principals to date: while there’s less in the tin than ever before, we’ve really doubled down on the most functional parts to deliver on our values. In addition, we’ve documented all its features to make it even more accessible.

Make it your own.

We share Airframe mostly out of simple curiosity: what does this tool look like in other people’s hands? What new ways will developers use it? We can learn a lot from seeing Airframe used by whoever finds a use for it.

As much as we hope Airframe receives contributions from the community, we also look forward to finding many forks and clones out in the wild.

And finally, even if you don’t use Airframe, we’d love to hear your feedback.


— The Planetary team: Andrew, Josh, Matt, Sam, Valdis, & Vince