Comparison of Build Tools

Codecademy Team
Which build tool is right for your project — Webpack, Parcel, esbuild, or Vite?

The internet’s growing landscape of available build tools raises many questions: How do different build tools compare with one another? What important features differentiate one build tool from another? What are the ideal use cases for each one? Is there a superior build tool?

In this article, we’ll be comparing four popular build tools in the following order:

  1. Webpack
  2. Parcel
  3. esbuild
  4. Vite

For each one, we’ll be analyzing the main features and ideal use cases. Let’s get started!


Webpack is a popular bundler with a rich feature set that is able to be configured for a wide variety of Javascript Applications. We’ve gone through the details of Webpack in the Building Apps with Webpack lesson.

Main distinguishing features

Custom configuration

We can customize the various build settings of our Webpack application, including settings and properties for custom plugins, servers, caching, and modules. Webpack’s built-in custom configuration capabilities enable developers to build a wide range of complex applications, small and large, with few limitations.

Support for a variety of module types and languages

Webpack conveniently supports many module types, including ECMAScript, CommonJS, and AMD modules, whereas other build tools like Vite only support ES modules. Moreover, Webpack uses loaders to support a number of non-native (non-JavaScript) modular programming languages, such as CoffeeScript, TypeScript, Babel, LESS, and Sass. Loaders are responsible for transforming a module’s non-native files into familiar assets like JavaScript and CSS and “load” these files so that your application can use them. Webpack even allows you to write your own custom loader.


Parcel is a bundler designed to need no configuration, making it easy to install and use right away.

Main distinguishing feature

Zero configuration

Parcel stands out from other build tools mainly because of its ability to set up and run projects with very little configuration. Here are some features Parcel supports without the need for any configuration:

  • Code-splitting with no entry point configuration
  • Built-in bundling for HTML, CSS, and JavaScript
  • Live reloading via Hot Module Replacement (HMR)

In addition, Parcel is similar to Webpack in that it provides out-of-the-box support for many different kinds of frameworks, including Typescript, Vue.js, SCSS, and GraphQL.


esbuild is a JavaScript bundler that is designed to be fast. It supports loading some file types without additional installations.

Main distinguishing feature

Extremely fast bundling

esbuild is known for its fast bundling times, with the ability to bundle approximately 10 to 100 times faster than similar build tools. Many build tools like Webpack, Parcel, and Vite speed up bundling by using caches. esbuild can execute bundling at impressive speeds without using caches, meaning fewer configurations and a more efficient development process.


Vite is a build tool that uses Rollup for bundling and provides a development server that supports ES module imports and exports.

Main distinguishing feature

Dev server

Vite differentiates itself from its competitors with its efficient and fully-embedded dev server. Vite uses esbuild behind-the-scenes to pre-bundle dependencies in the browser to reduce dev server start times and ensure module compatibility by converting CommonJS and UMD modules into native ESM. As a result, the dev server is optimized and significantly improves Hot Module Reloading (HMR) update speed and page loading performance.

So, which build tool should I use for my project?


Webpack is ideal for more complex projects that use a variety of non-JavaScript assets or require a good amount of custom configuration. If your application uses a lot of stylesheets, fonts, and images, and requires special configuration for entry points and servers, then Webpack is the way to go!


Parcel is ideal for projects that require some support for a variety of dependencies and frameworks without the need for advanced configurations since Parcel’s strength lies in its ability to build projects with little work on the developer’s end. Parcel is great for quickly building small prototypes that run with minimal configuration.


esbuild’s extremely fast bundling makes it easy to quickly build projects that don’t require extra configuration, dependencies, and plugins. esbuild is also optimal for simpler applications because of its lack of support for many common out-of-the-box features such as plugins, front-end languages, and HMR.


Vite is ideal for projects that utilize the dev server and different frameworks without needing too much additional configuration. Moreover, Vite scales well for any size application, whether it is a single webpage or a complex web application with many components. Since Vite only updates modules on-demand, live reloading times will remain optimized no matter the application size. However, keep in mind that Vite only supports ES modules.

Now you have a better understanding of the different build tools out there and an idea of which build tool to use for your own project. Happy coding!