LESS comes with a binary (lessc) that lets you precompile your .less files. You use it as such:
$ lessc styles.less > styles.css
But I think most people just use the
lessc -w or
lessc --watch command to recompile the CSS stylesheet automatically whenever the LESS file is updated. You can also have lessc minify the CSS, e.g.
lessc -w -x.
Edit: Just to clarify, lessc comes with the server-side install (i.e. when you install less via the node.js package manager). But you can download it manually from GitHub.
lessc is located at
/bin/lessc. This is of course a *nix binary (should also work for Mac), but there is a Windows binary (lessc.exe) based on dotless, which is another Windows LESS compiler.
less-watch to automatically compile.
Alternatively, many developers these days use task runners like
grunt to handle build automation (compiling, minify, testing, etc.). Using
grunt-contrib-livereload, you can really streamline your development workflow.
E.g. if you use
yo to scaffold your new web project, it comes preconfigured to watch your LESS/CSS/JS/HTML files for changes and recompile the necessary parts of your project when needed. Simply run
grunt serve, and you're ready to code without having to worry about manually compiling (LESS/SASS/CoffeeScript)/minifying/concatenating your code or refreshing your browser manually like a caveman...