Implementing Bootstrap 3.X from Scratch

Generally, I start a website project with an existing template that I then adapt and modify to suit the project’s needs. This weekend, I decided to start a new project from scratch so that I could sharpen both my Bootstrap and DevOps skills.

Rather than begin with a blank screen, I took advantage of several ‘state-of-the-craft’ frameworks and tools to help me along more quickly:

This tutorial describes how to launch a new website project based on HTML5BoilerPlate and Bootstrap 3 with LESS. It will also touch on installing and using Node.js and Grunt.js – if these are already installed on your system, you can skip steps two and three.

Table of Contents:

  1. Starting Assumptions
  2. Install Node.js
  3. Install the Grunt CLI
  4. Set Up the Project Folder
  5. Install Bootstrap
  6. Test the Bootstrap Build Process
  7. Add .htaccess to the Fonts Folder
  8. Include the CSS & JS Files
  9. Add Content & Test
  10. Conclusion

1: Starting Assumptions

Before starting, be sure the following is true:

  • You are comfortable workingHTML, CSS, and JS
  • You are familiar with command-line basics *
  • Your system uses an Apache server

* Command-line instructions are shown for Linux Ubuntu 16.04. You may need to make adjustments if you are using a different OS, or if you prefer to use an IDE or GUI-based text-editor (i.e SublimeText).


2: Install Node.js

First thing is to make sure node.js is installed. Node.js includes a package manager that will be used to install both Grunt and Bootstrap, namely npm.

At the command line, navigate to the head of the root directory, then enter the following commands: *

curl -sL | sudo -E bash -
sudo apt-get install -y nodejs

This will install the current stable version of node.js.

* Note these commands will work for Ubuntu 14.04 and 16.04. If you are on a different base, check out the node.js website for the correct commands.

3: Install the Grunt CLI

First, make sure your version of npm is up-to-date. At the command line, navigate to the head of the system’s root directory and run:

sudo npm update -g npm

Next, install Grunt’s command line interface globally. From the same location as above, enter the following command:

sudo npm install -g grunt-cli

This will put the grunt command in the system path, allowing it to be run from any directory.

If you run into any trouble with this or just want to know more, check out Grunt’s ‘getting started’ guide.

4: Set Up the Project Folder

Rather than starting from zero, we’ll use HTML5 Boiler Plate as a starting point.

Go to H5BP’s GitHub page, and download and unzip the source file package. Open the extracted folder and navigate into the dist subfolder. Copy the contents of this subfolder and paste them into the root folder for your project.

Your project folder should now look something like this:

Open and review the .htaccess file. This file contains code designed to maximize your site’s performance. Depending on your project’s hosting setup, some or all of what this file contains may not be needed.

If you’re not comfortable making changes, or if you don’t have permission to edit the server files, leave the .htaccess file as-is. It will make the server work just a bit harder, but not so much that you’ll notice under most circumstances.

5: Install Bootstrap

This is where the power of node.js shows it face. Navigate to the project’s root directory and type:

npm install bootstrap@3

This will create a directory named node_modules and then install Bootstrap in a subdirectory named /bootstrap.

Now navigate into the /bootstrap folder and type:

npm install

This tells npm to open the package.json file that was installed as part of Bootstrap, and automatically install and update any dependencies that are listed.

6. Test the Bootstrap Build Process

At this stage, the Bootstrap code has been installed. We should now be able to make sure the Bootstrap build processes are working properly.

This is where Grunt starts to show its power. Out of the box, Bootstrap makes the following grunt commands available:

  • grunt dist (Just compile CSS and JavaScript)

… Regenerates the /dist/ directory with compiled and minified CSS and JavaScript files. As a Bootstrap user, this is normally the command you want.

  • grunt watch (Watch)

… Watches the Less source files and automatically recompiles them to CSS whenever you save a change.

  • grunt test (Run tests)

… Runs JSHint and runs the QUnit tests headlessly in PhantomJS.

  • grunt docs (Build & test the docs assets)

… Builds and tests CSS, JavaScript, and other assets which are used when running the documentation locally via bundle exec jekyll serve.

  • grunt (Build absolutely everything and run tests)

… Compiles and minifies CSS and JavaScript, builds the documentation website, runs the HTML5 validator against the docs, regenerates the Customizer assets, and more. Usually only necessary if you’re hacking on Bootstrap itself.

Not all of these commands will work out-of-the-gate – some will require extra packages, etc., to be installed. However, grunt dist and grunt watch – the two most important commands – work just fine.

The grunt dist command takes care of compiling, compressing, and updating the CSS and JS files. The grunt watch command automatically triggers grunt dist whenever it detects changes to the CSS and JS files.

To execute these commands, go to the command line and navigate to ../node_modules/bootstrap, and enter the following:

grunt dist

If all has gone well so far, grunt will run the basic build processes involved in compiling and minifying the project’s LESS, CSS, and JS files.

7: Add .htaccess to the Fonts Folder

Create a new file in your code editor, and add the following lines:

<FilesMatch "\.(ttf|otf|eot|woff|woff2|svg)$">
  <IfModule mod_headers.c>
    Header set Access-Control-Allow-Origin "*"

Save the newly created file directly inside the fonts folder naming it .htaccess.

FYI, the .htaccess file stays within the fonts folder, ensuring web fonts work will in all browsers across all hosting and CDN services the project uses.

8: Include the CSS & JS Files

Open the project’s index.html file, and make the following change in the <head> section:

<link rel="stylesheet" href="css/normalize.css">
<link rel="stylesheet" href="css/main.css">
<link rel="stylesheet" href="node_modules/bootstrap/dist/css/bootstrap.css">
<link rel="stylesheet" href="node_modules/bootstrap/dist/css/bootstrap-theme.css">

This will instruct the index page to load the new Bootstrap CSS files instead of the defaults that come with H5BP.

Now go to the bottom of index.html to just before the Google Analytics script block, and make the following changes:

<script src="js/plugins.js"></script>
<script src="js/main.js"></script>
<!-- ADD THIS -->
<script src="node_modules/bootstrap/dist/js/bootstrap.min.js"></script>

Save the file, but don’t close it just yet. We’ll be adding more to this page in the next step.

9: Add Content & Test

While we’re far from done, the basic setup can now be tested to make sure everything was properly installed and included. In the body section of index.html, add this simple markup:

Push index.html to the server and open the page in a browser. If all has gone well, you should now see a styled page with a top menu bar, like so:

Shrink the browser to the size of a smartphone. You should now see a button that exposes a drop-down version of the main menu when clicked, like so:

If something has gone wrong, you’ll likely see un-styled content. Go back and keep debugging until it works.

10: Conclusion

At this stage, you should now have a robust, fully-configured – albeit ‘vanilla’ – Bootstrap project ready for development to begin.

Next Steps:

Although everything should be working just fine with this setup, there are still many things that can be done to improve the project’s infrastructure before jumping right into development.

For example:

  • Modify gruntfile.js to save the compressed and minified CSS and JS files to the locations and filenames initially specified in the original H5BP template, allowing for more efficient script and file loading in production
  • Modify the LESS infrastructure to extend (rather than modify) Bootstrap’s original files, allowing for easier upgrades and more efficient development


Avoid using Initializer to do the install – great idea, but the included versions of the various packages are out of date.

Integrating the SparkPost API With CakePHP 3.4

After setting up a contact form for a project recently, I decided to step up performance by integrating the latest version of the SparkPost API (V2).

By using the API, the project will handle mail a lot more efficiently. Plus, the API opens up a world of new possibilities for the project’s email communications as a whole.

SparkPost is a highly respected provider of transactional email services, and has a well-documented developer-friendly API. They also have a very generous ‘free’ plan that lets you send up to 100,000 emails per month – great for startups and small businesses that don’t do a lot of transactional emailing.

In this tutorial, I will build on work done earlier which covers how to implement Modelless Forms With Ajax & JSON in CakePHP 3.4. In the earlier tutorial, the project sent mail either via SMTP relay or the PHP mail() function, or to a debug log.

Table of Contents

  1. Starting Assumptions
  2. Get a SparkPost API Key
  3. Update the Project Config File
  4. Install the SparkPost PHP Library
  5. Create a Custom Transport
  6. Update the Mailer
  7. Implement and Test
  8. Conclusion


1: Starting Assumptions

Before starting, be sure you have at least read through and understand the previous tutorial. Although implementing the SparkPost API doesn’t depend on the work done there, this tutorial will build on that work extensively.

2: Get a SparkPost API Key

The very first thing is to set up a SparkPost account, validate a sending domain for the account, and generate a private API key.

SparkPost does a good job of explaining how this goes, so I won’t repeat the instructions here.

3: Update the Project Config File

Open /src/config/app.php for your project and add the following code near the bottom, just before the closing brace:

 * SparkPost API Key
'SparkPost' => ['Api' => ['key' => '<your key here.>']]

Make sure to insert your own key as indicated.

While here, scroll up to the Email Profiles section and optionally add a new profile. This generally isn’t necessary but there are use cases where a different profile is required. Here’s an example – just be sure to insert your own from and to addresses:

'Email' => [
    'default' => [
    'admin' => [
    'user' => [
    'contact' => [
        'from' => [''=>'My Contact Form'],
        'to' => '',

Whether or not you create a new profile, make sure to have at least one profile set up that includes a ‘from’ address for the domain that was validated earlier with SparkPost. Make sure also that a ‘to’ address is specified here.

Note the name of the profile you plan to use – this needs to be inserted into the Mailer shortly to provide valid from and to addresses.

4: Install the SparkPost PHP Library

Next, download and install the SparkPost PHP library that can be found at Instructions are provided there for installing this library to your project using Composer.

Make sure the appropriate dependencies are installed as well, particularly Guzzle.

5: Create a Custom Transport

At the command line, navigate to /src/Mailer. Enter the following code to create a directory to contain the new Custom Transport, then go into this new directory and create an empty Transport file called SparkPostTransport.php:

mkdir Transport
cd Transport
touch SparkPostTransport.php

Make sure permissions and ownership are set correctly for both the directory and the file.

Now open /src/Mailer/Tansport/SparkPostTransport.php, add the following code, and save:

 * This transport derives from an earlier project created by Syntax Era 
 * Development Studio. (
namespace App\Mailer\Transport;

use Cake\Core\Configure;
use Cake\Mailer\AbstractTransport;
use Cake\Mailer\Email;
use Cake\Network\Exception\BadRequestException;
use SparkPost\APIResponseException;
use SparkPost\SparkPost;
use GuzzleHttp\Client;
use Http\Adapter\Guzzle6\Client as GuzzleAdapter;

 * Spark Post Transport Class
 * Provides an interface between the CakePHP Email functionality and the SparkPost API v.2.
 * @package SparkPost\Mailer\Transport
class SparkPostTransport extends AbstractTransport
     * Send mail via SparkPost REST API
     * @param \Cake\Mailer\Email $email Email message
     * @return array
    public function send(Email $email)
        // instantiate a client adapter
        $key = Configure::read('SparkPost.Api.key');
        $httpClient = new GuzzleAdapter(new Client());

        // instantiate a SparkPost transmission entity
        $sparky = new SparkPost($httpClient, ['key'=>$key]);
        $sparky->setOptions(['async' => false]);

        // Convert the email object's data into the API's required format
        $from = (array) $email->from(); // needs to be a sending domain that is cleared with Sparkpost
        $sender = sprintf('%s <%s>', mb_encode_mimeheader(array_values($from)[0]), array_keys($from)[0]);
        $to = (array) $email->to(); // the email's delivery target(s)
        foreach ($to as $toEmail => $toName) 
            $recipients[] = ['address' => [ 'name' => mb_encode_mimeheader($toName), 'email' => $toEmail]];
        $replyTo = (array) $email->replyTo(); // the person who actually sent the message in the first place
        $reply = sprintf('%s <%s>', mb_encode_mimeheader(array_values($replyTo)[0]), array_keys($replyTo)[0]);

        // Assemble the transmission
        $message = [
            'content'=> [
                'from'=> $sender,
                'subject' => mb_decode_mimeheader($email->subject()),
                'html'=>empty($email->message('html')) ? $email->message('text') : $email->message('html'),
            'recipients'=> $recipients

        // Send message
        catch(APIResponseException $e) 
            throw new BadRequestException(sprintf('SparkPost API error %d (%d): %s (%s)',
                $e->getAPICode(), $e->getCode(), ucfirst($e->getAPIMessage()), $e->getAPIDescription()));

Most of the above is self-evident, otherwise the CakePHP book and API documentation will be helpful.

6: Update the Mailer

A Mailer class was created at /src/Mailer/ContactUsMailer.php as part of the work in the previous tutorial. Open this file and modify the code near the top, just below the ‘namespace’ statement, to look like this:

namespace App\Mailer;

use Cake\Core\Configure; // ADDED
use Cake\Mailer\Email; // ADDED
use Cake\Mailer\Mailer;
use Cake\Mailer\AbstractTransport; //ADDED
use App\Mailer\Transport; //ADDED

 * ContactUs mailer.

Now scroll down into the submission function, and modify the code to look like this:

// configure the email transport
Email::setConfigTransport('sparkpost', [
]); // ADDED
// configure the email
    ->setTransport('sparkpost') // ADDED
    ->setReplyTo($data['email'], $data['name']) 
    ->setSubject($data['name'].' just sent us a contact message')
    ->set(['content' => (array_key_exists('phone',$data) && $data['phone'] != "") ? '<p>Phone#: '.$data['phone'].'</p>'.$data['message'] : $data['message']])
    ->setTemplate('default') // .../src/Template/Email/[html|text]/default.ctp
    ->setLayout('default') // .../src/Template/Layout/Email/[html|text]/default.ctp

Make sure to insert the name of the email profile to be used. This is necessary to pick up the from and to addresses.

Now save the file.

7: Implement and Test

At this point, the coding is done and you should be ready to go. All that remains is to upload and test what you’ve done.

Again, I purposely avoided using a specific testing regime in this tutorial. This is because just about everyone has their own approach and toolset for testing. Simply adjust the instructions provided to suit your preferred methodology.


If you’ve been following both tutorials, you can now send your project’s contact form messages via the SparkPost API.

More importantly, whether or not you built out the contact form, you can now use this new custom email transport with all of your project’s email communications.