Web Standards

Using CSS Cascade Layers to Manage Custom Styles in a Tailwind Project

Css Tricks - Wed, 08/24/2022 - 3:11am

If a utility class only does one thing, chances are you don’t want it to be overridden by any styles coming from elsewhere. One approach is to use !important to be 100% certain the style will be applied, regardless of specificity conflicts.

The Tailwind config file has an !important option that will automatically add !important to every utility class. There’s nothing wrong with using !important this way, but nowadays there are better ways to handle specificity. Using CSS Cascade Layers we can avoid the heavy-handed approach of using !important.

Cascade layers allow us to group styles into “layers”. The precedence of a layer always beats the specificity of a selector. Specificity only matters inside each layer. Establishing a sensible layer order helps avoid styling conflicts and specificity wars. That’s what makes CSS Cascade Layers a great tool for managing custom styles alongside styles from third-party frameworks, like Tailwind.

A Tailwind source .css file usually starts something like this:

@tailwind base; @tailwind components; @tailwind utilities; @tailwind variants;

Let’s take a look at the official Tailwind docs about directives:

Directives are custom Tailwind-specific at-rules you can use in your CSS that offer special functionality for Tailwind CSS projects. Use the @tailwind directive to insert Tailwind’s base, components, utilities and variants styles into your CSS.

In the output CSS file that gets built, Tailwind’s CSS reset — known as Preflight — is included first as part of the base styles. The rest of base consists of CSS variables needed for Tailwind to work. components is a place for you to add your own custom classes. Any utility classes you’ve used in your markup will appear next. Variants are styles for things like hover and focus states and responsive styles, which will appear last in the generated CSS file.

The Tailwind @layer directive

Confusingly, Tailwind has its own @layer syntax. This article is about the CSS standard, but let’s take a quick look at the Tailwind version (which gets compiled away and doesn’t end up in the output CSS). The Tailwind @layer directive is a way to inject your own extra styles into a specified part of the output CSS file.

For example, to append your own styles to the base styles, you would do the following:

@layer base { h1 { font-size: 30px; } }

The components layer is empty by default — it’s just a place to put your own classes. If you were doing things the Tailwind way, you’d probably use @apply (although the creator of Tailwind recently advised against it), but you can also write classes the regular way:

@layer components { .btn-blue { background-color: blue; color: white; } }

The CSS standard is much more powerful. Let’s get back to that…

Using the CSS standard @layer

Here’s how we can rewrite this to use the CSS standard @layer:

@layer tailwind-base, my-custom-styles, tailwind-utilities; @layer tailwind-base { @tailwind base; } @layer tailwind-utilities { @tailwind utilities; @tailwind variants; }

Unlike the Tailwind directive, these don’t get compiled away. They’re understood by the browser. In fact, DevTools in Edge, Chrome, Safari, and Firefox will even show you any layers you’ve defined.

You can have as many layers as you want — and name them whatever you want — but in this example, all my custom styles are in a single layer (my-custom-styles). The first line establishes the layer order:

@layer tailwind-base, my-custom-styles, tailwind-utilities;

This needs to be provided upfront. Be sure to include this line before any other code that uses @layer. The first layer in the list will be the least powerful, and the last layer in the list will be the most powerful. That means tailwind-base is the least powerful layer and any code in it will be overridden by all the subsequent layers. That also means tailwind-utilities will always trump any other styles — regardless of source order or specificity. (Utilities and variants could go in separate layers, but the maintainers of Tailwind will ensure variants always trump utilities, so long as you include the variants below the utilities directive.)

Anything that isn’t in a layer will override anything that is in a layer (with the one exception being styles that use !important). So, you could also opt to leave utilities and variants outside of any layer:

@layer tailwind-base, tailwind-components, my-custom-styles; @layer tailwind-base { @tailwind base; } @layer tailwind-components { @tailwind components; } @tailwind utilities; @tailwind variants;

What did this actually buy us? There are plenty of times when advanced CSS selectors come in pretty handy. Let’s create a version of :focus-within that only responds to keyboard focus rather than mouse clicks using the :has selector (which lands in Chrome 105). This will style a parent element when any of its children receive focus. Tailwind 3.1 introduced custom variants — e.g. <div class="[&:has(:focus-visible)]:outline-red-600"> — but sometimes it’s easier to just write CSS:

@layer tailwind-base, my-custom-styles; @layer tailwind-base { @tailwind base; } @tailwind utilities; @layer my-custom-styles { .radio-container { padding: 4px 24px; border: solid 2px rgb(230, 230, 230); } .radio-container:has(:focus-visible) { outline: solid 2px blue; } }

Let’s say in just one instance we want to override the outline-color from blue to something else. Let’s say the element we’re working with has both the Tailwind class .outline-red-600 and our own .radio-container:has(:focus-visible) class:

<div class="outline-red-600 radio-container"> ... </div>

Which outline-color will win?

Ordinarily, the higher specificity of .radio-container:has(:focus-visible) would mean the Tailwind class has no effect — even if it’s lower in the source order. But, unlike the Tailwind @layer directive that relies on source order, the CSS standard @layer overrules specificity.

As a result, we can use complex selectors in our own custom styles but still override them with Tailwind’s utility classes when we need to — without having to resort to heavy-handed !important usage to get what we want.

Using CSS Cascade Layers to Manage Custom Styles in a Tailwind Project originally published on CSS-Tricks, which is part of the DigitalOcean family. You should get the newsletter.

Removing jQuery from GOV.UK

Css Tricks - Tue, 08/23/2022 - 3:04am

The GOV.UK team recently published “How and why we removed jQuery from GOV.UK“. This was an insightful look at how an organization can assess its tooling and whether something is still the best tool for the job. This is not a nudge to strip libraries out of your current project right now! Many of us may still be supporting legacy projects and browser requirements that prevent this from being a viable option.

Some of the criticism appears to be that the library size argument is negligible on modern network speeds and caching.

GOV.UK posted an update to address this criticism with metrics – “The impact of removing jQuery on our web performance“.

This article also makes the case for improving maintenance. Instead of upgrading disparate outdated versions of code and having to address security updates in a piecemeal approach, removing the dependency reduces this footprint. This is the dream of having the luxury for addressing technical debt.

Previously, GitHub also documented how they incrementally decoupled jQuery from their front-end code. Improving maintenance and developer experience played a role into their decision.

What caught my eye in particular was the link to the documentation on how to remove jQuery. Understanding how to decouple and perform migration steps are maintenance tasks that will continue to come up for websites and it’s reassuring to have a guide from someone that had to do the same.

Further musing on this subject turned up the old chestnuts “You Might Not Need jQuery” (2014), “(Now More Than Ever) You Might Not Need jQuery” (2017), “Is jQuery still relevant? (1)” (2016), and “Is jQuery still relevant? (2)” (2017).

To Shared LinkPermalink on CSS-Tricks

Removing jQuery from GOV.UK originally published on CSS-Tricks, which is part of the DigitalOcean family. You should get the newsletter.

When Do You Use CSS Columns?

Css Tricks - Thu, 08/18/2022 - 3:24am

That ain’t rhetorical: I’m really interested in finding great use cases for CSS multi-column layouts.

The answer seems straightforward. Use columns when you want to split any content into columns, right? Here is generally the sort of example you’ll find in articles that show how CSS mutli-column layouts work, including our very own Almanac:

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Right on. But is this an actual use case? Mmmmmaybe. If the text is relatively brief, then perhaps it’s a nice touch. That’s how I sold it to myself when redesigning my website a few years ago. It’s not that way today, but this is what it looked like then:

But an entire long-form article split into columns? I love it in newspapers but am hesitant to scroll down a webpage to read one column, only to scroll back up to do it again.

I suppose we can use it to place two elements side-by-side, but flexbox is way more suited for that. Plus, a limitation prevents us from selecting the columns to size them individually. The columns have to be the same width.

One thing columns have going for them is that they are the only CSS layout method that fragments content. (That is, unless we’re counting CSS Regions… what happened to those, anyway?!) So, if you wanna split a paragraph up into columns, it’s already possible without additional wrappers.

When else might you need to split a continuous block of content into columns? I remember needing to do that when I had a big ol’ unordered list of items. I like the way lists can make content easy to scan, but long lists can make one side of the page look super heavy. Let’s say, for example, that we were listing out all the post tags for CSS-Tricks in alphabetical groups. A multi-column layout works beautifully for that:

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Go ahead and try resizing the viewport width. Three columns are defined but the number will change based on the amount of available space. Gotta love all that responsive goodness without the media query work!

I was working on a demo for the :left pseudo-class and reached for columns because it’s a great way to fragment things for printing demos. So, I guess there’s another use case. And while making a demo, I realized that a multi-column layout could be used to create a masonry grid of items, like an image gallery:

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But what else? Are we limited to short paragraphs, long lists, and free-flowing grids?

When Do You Use CSS Columns? originally published on CSS-Tricks, which is part of the DigitalOcean family. You should get the newsletter.

Why (and How) I Write Code With Pencil and Paper

Css Tricks - Wed, 08/17/2022 - 3:21am

If the thought of handwriting code seems silly, it might surprise you to know that it’s inevitable. If you’re unsure, think about the last job interview you did, and remember how there was no computer around in the interview room — just your interviewers, a blank sheet of paper, and a blue ball-point pen.

For the students among you, it’s even a bigger deal as your grades hang in by the lines of code you had strategically squeezed into the available space in your answer sheet.

And not just that, experienced programmers can point you to the bundle of A4 sheets they had removed from the office copy machine to scribble down a particularly complex algorithm they had been working on.

So whether you’re an exam student, potential job interviewee, or someone wanting to resolve their programming dead ends, I hope this article helps you out when you put your pen to the paper to code.

Although I will focus on the analog aspect of writing code, you can apply these steps to coding in any form or language. So consider this to be also like a generic coding guideline that works specifically for me but can also be very useful to you in your work.

Why write it down?

Before we start, it’s essential to understand that no one expects you to jot down production-ready code in a notebook. It’s not like you can drop that into a code editor and compile it without an error. If producing perfect code was the goal, you would be seated in front of a computer in the interview rooms and exam halls.

The purpose of handwriting code is to work through logic in advance. There’s s desire to “get in the browser” as soon as possible in design, but there is conventional wisdom in sketching designs by hand. A low-fidelity medium encourages quick experimentation and inexpensive mistakes.

The toil of trying to figure out how to affect surrounding items with one click (from my last article)

The same can be true of code, mainly when working out syntax and semantics. That said, getting the correct syntax and semantics is always a plus point, though not the sole focus of the whole handwriting exercise.

Let’s see where we can start when it comes to handwriting code.

Know your question

During my final year in college, I couldn’t do an internship or even attend campus interviews because of health reasons. As a result, my very first job interview was quite literal with high stakes.

When I look back now, the interview was pretty easy. But having never attended one before, I was anxious beyond reason. The first thing the interviewers asked about programming was if I could output an inverted triangle made of asterisks. As I said, it was easy — nothing a for loop can’t handle, right? But like I said, my anxiety was through the roof as well.

I took a deep breath, pressed my palm against the blank sheet of paper they had laid out for me, slid it as slow as possible towards me on the table (buying time, of course), clicked the pen, and then I did something right.

I first drew an inverted triangle made of asterisks. That’s how I found my feet on the ground to start answering their question.

I’ve seen otherwise brilliant developers get something wrong simply because they never fully grasp what it is they are solving.

The questions we work with are not like the questions physicists or mathematicians solve. They get a set of parameters and find the missing ones; our questions are also our results. We are already told what our results are — we have to figure out how to reach them. That’s why it’s imperative to know the question well because you’ll see the result.

Writing down or drawing out what you want to output is one of the best ways to start your coding. I understand that in our fast-paced industry, the expectation is that we have to jump right into the programming by running a “hello world” demo. And that’s great to familiarize yourself with an unfamiliar syntax and shake off your anxiousness about trying something new.

But when someone asks you a question and gives you a result to work up to, wouldn’t it just be better to put that down first? That question/result is not only your starting point but also your point of reference. At any step in your coding, you can look at it to ensure you’re working towards it and that you’re on the right track.

So whether in your answer sheets or in that blank A4 paper you’re about to write in, start by taking a second and writing down what it is you’re trying to output. You can put it in the margins or a corner if you don’t want it to be a part of your answer. Just make sure it’s somewhere where you can keep referencing it.

Outline your code

This step is like a double-edged sword. It can get you a roadmap to your program or waste your time. My job is to make sure it’s the former.

So, first and foremost, I like to say: outlining code is unnecessary if the scope of your problem or question is small. Again, this practice is neither prescriptive nor universal to all projects or situations. Imagine I’m your interviewer, and I ask you to write how to center an element in a web page using CSS in as many ways as possible. You won’t exactly be needing an outline for this. The code snippets are relatively small for each method.

But now, let’s say I assign you to write a web application that captures user signatures via a touchscreen interface and then saves the signature on the server. Not so straightforward, right? You’ve more than one thing to figure out. Perhaps, a little outline can help.

  1. UI for capturing signature — HTML Canvas? WebGL?
  2. Disable pointer events on the rest of the web page when the user is signing
  3. Convert and save the captured image to a PNG file — JS
  4. Then convert it to blob (maybe) and save it to the visitor’s log data table.

I’ve written a rough sequence of actions I think I might have to code. It could’ve been shorter or longer, depending on what I wanted from it.

I highly recommend outlining code for client projects. Write the outline along with your user requirements or on the back of wireframes you’ve printed out.

Your quick snapshot of bullet points gives you a map, a to-do list, and a checklist to verify against when you reach the end of the project — pretty much your whole project’s summary in a low-fidelity list. It can also become a template to start your next similar project.

But like I said before, this step is like a double-edged sword. You’ll have to keep this short for examinees and interviewees when there are time constraints.

If you don’t know where to start, write down just three essential functions you’ll have to code in your application, and if you have got the time, make it five.

But that’s about it. Spend as little time as possible on this, and don’t sweat over the details. The outline is not going to score you extra points. It’s there only to help you make sure you have everything covered. It captures your initial gut reaction and keeps you honest throughout the project’s life.

Longhand vs. shorthand A quick reference to disable text selection

Time to start coding. So, what do you write? “Bdrs” or “border-radius“; “div -> p” or “<div><p></div></p>“; “pl()” or “println()“; “q()” or “querySelector()“?

If someone else is grading your code, then there’s no choice. Leave out abbreviations, pseudo-codes, Emmet shortcuts, and any other form of shorthand writing. Otherwise, there’s no reason to assume that anyone reading this knows what your abbreviations mean.

It’s really up to you.

If you’ve gotten out of touch with writing by hand — and many of us have — it’s better not to go overboard with the longhand notations, as they get tedious. At the same time, there’s no such thing as being too frugal with your writing. Not if you want to be able to look back on it one day and understand what you’d written down.

I have an open file in my note-taking app and a lined notepad on my desk where I write down code snippets I want to save for later reference. They are unorganized, just a long stream of snippets. That’s why when I browse through older notes, I wouldn’t know what I meant to write if I had not written them down clearly.

I forget syntaxes all the time. For instance, I’ve been using the arrow notation for JavaScript functions since it was introduced (because it’s shorter), and I’m pretty sure if someone suddenly asks me to define a function using the function keyword, I might even misplace the parentheses or the function name, inciting a syntax error.

It’s not unusual for us to forget syntaxes we haven’t used in a while. That’s why it’s better to write your notes clearly when you know you need them for future reference.

The non-sequential flow of code

Unlike the last step, which doesn’t apply to those of you interviewees and test-takers, this one is catered especially to you.

Most programming languages are interpreted, compiled, and executed so that sometimes pre-written code in the source is executed later when called. We do it in JavaScript, for example, with function calling — functions can be defined initially, then executed later. Examinees and interviewees can use this to start working on the critical point of your answer first.

As I’ve said from the very beginning, the purpose of handwriting code is to work through or test the logic of whatever it is you program. It’s best when you focus on resolving that first.

Let’s take a classic textbook example — a program to find the nth Fibonacci number. If I were to write a simple outline for it, it would be something like this:

  1. Get the input.
  2. Calculate the Fibonacci number.
  3. Summarise the output.
  4. Print the output.

All the steps in that outline are essential; however, 1, 3, and 4 are more obligatory. They are necessary but not important enough to focus on right away.

It’s better to start writing down the code to calculate the Fibonacci number rather than to fetch the input. Wrap it in a function, then go ahead and write the code sequentially and write down a line to call that function where appropriate.

Spend your time writing code that focuses on the heart of the problem.

Real professionals can skip ahead. Let’s say I have a client project, and I have to work with some triangle geometry — got two sides, opposite angle, and gotta find the third side’s length. And I’ve decided to scribble on paper to get started rather than opening my IDE.

First, I would draw the triangle, of course (that’s something I’m very experienced with, as you can tell). I would write down some sample lengths and angles. Then I’d write the formula (compliments of online searching, for sure), and then I’d jump right to the code for the function.

There’s no point in me writing down the obligatory steps even though I’ll need them in production-ready code. But it would be different if I had to write that on an answer sheet in an exam. I can’t skip the other steps; however, I can still start with the code for the formula.

Pseudo-code

Chris has already written a handy article on pseudo-code that I highly recommend you give a solid read.

For all those professionals who feel like the whole handwriting code thing doesn’t seem like your cup of tea but still might be curious if it can help you, then pseudo-code might be the balance you’re looking for.

It’s similar to outlining the code, as I mentioned in one of the previous steps. However, it’s briefer and feels more like shorthand coding. It’s sometimes also referred to as “skeleton code.”

Here’s some quick pseudo-code for a CSS grid layout:

Grid 5 60px rows 6 100px columns

There isn’t much to write! So, even though putting a pencil to paper is excellent for this sort of thing, it’s just as effective, fast, and inexpensive to jot some pseudo code into whatever program you’re using.

Space and comments

I believe code is 90% keywords and 10% tabs. Withoutspacesthereadabilityofwordsdecreases. Indentations are necessary for handwritten code as well. However, please don’t use it for every level because the width of the paper will limit you. Use spaces judiciously, but use them.

Prized OG snippet, written with extra TLC

If you’re writing code for your use, I also believe that if you’ve followed everything I’ve mentioned so far and have already written down your output and an outline on the page, you may not even need to include comments. Comments tell you quickly what its following set of code does. If you have already written and read an outline for the code, then comments are redundant notes.

However, if your judgment says to put down one, then do it. Add it to the right side of the code (since you won’t be able to insert it between already written lines the way you could in, say, VS Code). Use forward slashes, brackets, or arrows to denote that they are comments.

For examinees who are unconfident with a certain syntax, write down comments. This way, at least, you’re letting the person grading your paper know your intention with that incorrectly formatted code. And use only the correct delimiters to denote comments — for example, that would be the forward slashes for JavaScript.

Analog vs. digital

As I mentioned earlier, everything I’m providing here can is generic coding advice. If you don’t want to try this with physical paper, any note-taking application also works.

But if you’re going to try the digital route, my recommendation is to try using something other than a straight note-taking app. Work with more visual digital tools — flow diagrams, mind maps, wireframes, etc. They can help you visualize your result, the outlines, and the code itself.

I am not much of a digital citizen (except for working on the web and recently converting to reading e-books), so I stick to physical notebooks.

My favorite tools for handwriting code

Any pencil and paper will do! But there are lots of options out there, and these are a few choice tools I use:

There is no “write” way to code

I hope, if nothing else, my little way of handwriting code with pencil and paper makes you evaluate the way you already plan and write code. I like knowing how other developers approach their work, and this is my way of giving you a peek into the way I do things.

Again, nothing here is scientific or an exact art. But if you want to give handwritten code planning a try, here’s everything we’ve covered in a nice ordered list:

  1. Start by writing down (with sample data, if needed) the output of your code.
  2. Write an outline for the code. Please keep it to three steps for small projects or ones that are less complex.
  3. Use longhand notations. Developers writing for themselves can use shorthand notations as long as the writing is legible and makes sense to you when you refer to it later.
  4. When under a time constraint, consider writing the code that tackles the heart of the problem first. Later, write down a call to that code at the right place in your sequential code.
  5. If you feel confident, try writing pseudo code addressing the main idea.
  6. Use proper indentations and spaces — and be mindful of the paper’s width.

That’s it! When you’re ready to try writing code by hand, I hope this article makes it easy for you to start. And if you’re sitting down for an exam or an interview, I hope this helps you focus on getting the questions right.

Why (and How) I Write Code With Pencil and Paper originally published on CSS-Tricks, which is part of the DigitalOcean family. You should get the newsletter.

CSS Grid and Custom Shapes, Part 1

Css Tricks - Mon, 08/15/2022 - 3:13am

In a previous article, I looked at CSS Grid’s ability to create complex layouts using its auto-placement powers. I took that one step further in another article that added a zooming hover effect to images in a grid layout. This time, I want to dive into another type of grid, one that works with shapes.

Like, what if the images aren’t perfectly square but instead are shaped like hexagons or rhombuses? Spoiler alert: we can do it. In fact, we’re going to combine CSS Grid techniques we’ve looked at and drop in some CSS clip-path and mask magic to create fancy grids of images for just about any shape you can imagine!

Let’s start with some markup

Most of the layouts we are going to look at may look easy to achieve at first glance, but the challenging part is to achieve them with the same HTML markup. We can use a lot of wrappers, divs, and whatnot, but the goal of this post is to use the same and smallest amount of HTML code and still get all the different grids we want. After all, what’s CSS but a way to separate styling and markup? Our styling should not depend on the markup, and vice versa.

This said, let’s start with this:

<div class="gallery"> <img src="..." alt="..."> <img src="..." alt="..."> <img src="..." alt="..."> <img src="..." alt="..."> <!-- as many times as we want --> </div>

A container with images is all that we need here. Nothing more!

CSS Grid of Hexagons

This is also sometimes referred to as a “honeycomb” grid.

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There are already plenty of other blog posts out there that show how to make this. Heck, I wrote one here on CSS-Tricks! That article is still good and goes way deep on making a responsive layout. But for this specific case, we are going to rely on a much simpler CSS approach.

First, let’s use clip-path on the images to create the hexagon shape and we place all of them in the same grid area so they overlap.

.gallery { --s: 150px; /* controls the size */ display: grid; } .gallery > img { grid-area: 1/1; width: var(--s); aspect-ratio: 1.15; object-fit: cover; clip-path: polygon(25% 0%, 75% 0%, 100% 50%, 75% 100%, 25% 100%, 0 50%); } clip-path: polygon(25% 0%, 75% 0%, 100% 50%, 75% 100%, 25% 100%, 0 50%)

Nothing fancy yet. All the images are hexagons and above each other. So it looks like all we have is a single hexagon-shaped image element, but there are really seven.

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The next step is to apply a translation to the images to correctly place them on the grid.

Notice that we still want one of the images to remain in the center. The rest are placed around it using CSS translate and good ol’ fashioned geometry. Here’s are the mock formulas I came up with for each image in the grid:

translate((height + gap)*sin(0deg), (height + gap)*cos(0)) translate((height + gap)*sin(60deg), (height + gap)*cos(60deg)) translate((height + gap)*sin(120deg), (height + gap)*cos(120deg)) translate((height + gap)*sin(180deg), (height + gap)*cos(180deg)) translate((height + gap)*sin(240deg), (height + gap)*cos(240deg)) translate((height + gap)*sin(300deg), (height + gap)*cos(300deg))

A few calculations and optimization later (let’s skip that boring part, right?) we get the following CSS:

.gallery { --s: 150px; /* control the size */ --g: 10px; /* control the gap */ display: grid; } .gallery > img { grid-area: 1/1; width: var(--s); aspect-ratio: 1.15; object-fit: cover; clip-path: polygon(25% 0%, 75% 0%, 100% 50% ,75% 100%, 25% 100%, 0 50%); transform: translate(var(--_x,0), var(--_y,0)); } .gallery > img:nth-child(1) { --_y: calc(-100% - var(--g)); } .gallery > img:nth-child(7) { --_y: calc( 100% + var(--g)); } .gallery > img:nth-child(3), .gallery > img:nth-child(5) { --_x: calc(-75% - .87*var(--g)); } .gallery > img:nth-child(4), .gallery > img:nth-child(6) { --_x: calc( 75% + .87*var(--g)); } .gallery > img:nth-child(3), .gallery > img:nth-child(4) { --_y: calc(-50% - .5*var(--g)); } .gallery > img:nth-child(5), .gallery > img:nth-child(6) { --_y: calc( 50% + .5*var(--g)); }

Maybe that’ll be easier when we get real trigonometry functions in CSS!

Each image is translated by the --_x and --_y variables that are based on those formulas. Only the second image (nth-child(2)) is undefined in any selector because it’s the one in the center. It can be any image if you decide to use a different order. Here’s the order I’m using:

With only a few lines of code, we get a cool grid of images. To this, I added a little hover effect to the images to make things fancier.

Guess what? We can get another hexagon grid by simply updating a few values.

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If you check the code and compare it with the previous one you will notice that I have simply swapped the values inside clip-path and I switched between --x and --y. That’s all!

CSS Grid of Rhombuses

Rhombus is such a fancy word for a square that’s rotated 45 degrees.

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Same HTML, remember? We first start by defining a 2×2 grid of images in CSS:

.gallery { --s: 150px; /* controls the size */ display: grid; gap: 10px; grid: auto-flow var(--s) / repeat(2, var(--s)); place-items: center; } .gallery > img { width: 100%; aspect-ratio: 1; object-fit: cover; }

The first thing that might catch your eye is the grid property. It’s pretty uncommonly used but is super helpful in that it’s a shorthand that lets you define a complete grid in one declaration. It’s not the most intuitive — and not to mention readable — property, but we are here to learn and discover new things, so let’s use it rather than writing out all of the individual grid properties.

grid: auto-flow var(--s) / repeat(2,var(--s)); /* is equivalent to this: */ grid-template-columns: repeat(2, var(--s)); grid-auto-rows: var(--s);

This defines two columns equal to the --s variable and sets the height of all the rows to --s as well. Since we have four images, we will automatically get a 2×2 grid.

Here’s another way we could have written it:

grid-template-columns: repeat(2, var(--s)); grid-template-rows: repeat(2, var(--s));

…which can be reduced with the grid shorthand:

grid: repeat(2,var(--s)) / repeat(2,var(--s));

After setting the grid, we rotate it and the images with CSS transforms and we get this:

CodePen Embed Fallback

Note how I rotate them both by 45deg, but in the opposite direction.

.gallery { /* etc. */ transform: rotate(45deg); } .gallery > img { /* etc. */ transform: rotate(-45deg); }

Rotating the images in the negative direction prevents them from getting rotated with the grid so they stay straight. Now, we apply a clip-path to clip a rhombus shape out of them.

clip-path: polygon(50% 0, 100% 50%, 50% 100%, 0 50%) CodePen Embed Fallback

We are almost done! We need to rectify the size of the image to make them fit together. Otherwise, they’re spaced far apart to the point where it doesn’t look like a grid of images.

The image is within the boundary of the green circle, which is the inscribed circle of the grid area where the image is placed. What we want is to make the image bigger to fit inside the red circle, which is the circumscribed circle of the grid area.

Don’t worry, I won’t introduce any more boring geometry. All you need to know is that the relationship between the radius of each circle is the square root of 2 (sqrt(2)). This is the value we need to increase the size of our images to fill the area. We will use 100%*sqrt(2) = 141% and be done!

.gallery { --s: 150px; /* control the size */ display: grid; grid: auto-flow var(--s) / repeat(2,var(--s)); gap: 10px; place-items: center; transform: rotate(45deg); } .gallery > img { width: 141%; /* 100%*sqrt(2) = 141% */ aspect-ratio: 1; object-fit: cover; transform: rotate(-45deg); clip-path: polygon(50% 0, 100% 50%, 50% 100%, 0 50%); }

Like the hexagon grid, we can make things fancier with that nice zooming hover effect:

CodePen Embed Fallback CSS Grid of Triangular Shapes CodePen Embed Fallback

You probably know by now that the big trick is figuring out the clip-path to get the shapes we want. For this grid, each element has its own clip-path value whereas the last two grids worked with a consistent shape. So, this time around, it’s like we’re working with a few different triangular shapes that come together to form a rectangular grid of images.

The three images at the top The three images at the bottom

We place them inside a 3×2 grid with the following CSS:

.gallery { display: grid; gap: 10px; grid-template-columns: auto auto auto; /* 3 columns */ place-items: center; } .gallery > img { width: 200px; /* controls the size */ aspect-ratio: 1; object-fit: cover; } /* the clip-path values */ .gallery > img:nth-child(1) { clip-path: polygon(0 0, 50% 0, 100% 100% ,0 100%); } .gallery > img:nth-child(2) { clip-path: polygon(0 0, 100% 0, 50% 100%); } .gallery > img:nth-child(3) { clip-path: polygon(50% 0, 100% 0, 100% 100%, 0 100%); } .gallery > img:nth-child(4) { clip-path: polygon(0 0, 100% 0, 50% 100%, 0 100%); } .gallery > img:nth-child(5) { clip-path: polygon(50% 0, 100% 100%, 0% 100%); } .gallery > img:nth-child(6) { clip-path: polygon(0 0, 100% 0 ,100% 100%, 50% 100%); } }

Here’s what we get:

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The final touch is to make the width of the middle column equal 0 to get rid of the spaces between the images. The same sort of spacing problem we had with the rhombus grid, but with a different approach for the shapes we’re using:

grid-template-columns: auto 0 auto;

I had to fiddle with the clip-path values to make sure they would all appear to fit together nicely like a puzzle. The original images overlap when the middle column has zero width, but after slicing the images, the illusion is perfect:

CSS Pizza Pie Grid

Guess what? We can get another cool grid by simply adding border-radius and overflow to our grid or triangular shapes. &#x1f389;

CodePen Embed Fallback CSS Grid of Puzzle Pieces

This time we are going to play with the CSS mask property to make the images look like pieces of a puzzle.

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If you haven’t used mask with CSS gradients, I highly recommend this other article I wrote on the topic because it’ll help with what comes next. Why gradients? Because that’s what we’re using to get the round notches in the puzzle piece shapes.

Setting up the grid should be a cinch by now, so let’s focus instead on the mask part.

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As illustrated in the above demo, we need two gradients to create the final shape. One gradient creates a circle (the green part) and the other creates the right curve while filling in the top part.

--g: 6px; /* controls the gap */ --r: 42px; /* control the circular shapes */ background: radial-gradient(var(--r) at left 50% bottom var(--r), green 95%, #0000), radial-gradient(calc(var(--r) + var(--g)) at calc(100% + var(--g)) 50%, #0000 95%, red) top/100% calc(100% - var(--r)) no-repeat;

Two variables control the shape. The --g variable is nothing but the grid gap. We need to account for the gap to correctly place our circles so they overlap perfectly when the whole puzzle is assembled. The --r variable controls the size of circular parts of the puzzle shape.

Now we take the same CSS and update a few values in it to create the three other shapes:

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We have the shapes, but not the overlapping edges we need to make them fit together. Each image is limited to the grid cell it’s in, so it makes sense why the shapes are sort of jumbled at the moment:

We need to create an overflow by increasing the height/width of the images. From the above figure, we have to increase the height of the first and fourth images while we increase the width of the second and third ones. You have probably already guessed that we need to increase them using the --r variable.

.gallery > img:is(:nth-child(1),:nth-child(4)) { width: 100%; height: calc(100% + var(--r)); } .gallery > img:is(:nth-child(2),:nth-child(3)) { height: 100%; width: calc(100% + var(--r)); }

We are getting closer!

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We created the overlap but, by default, our images either overlap on the right (if we increase the width) or the bottom (if we increase the height). But that’s not what we want for the second and fourth images. The fix is to use place-self: end on those two images and our full code becomes this:

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Here is another example where I am using a conic gradient instead of a radial gradient. This gives us triangular puzzle pieces while keeping the same underlying HTML and CSS.

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A last one! This time I am using clip-path and since it’s a property we can animate, we get a cool hover by simply updating the custom property that controls the shape.

CodePen Embed Fallback Wrapping up

That’s all for this first part! By combining the things we’ve already learned about CSS Grid with some added clip-path and mask magic, we were able to make grid layouts featuring different kinds of shapes. And we used the same HTML markup each time! And the markup itself is nothing more than a container with a handful of image elements!

In the second part, we are going to explore more complex-looking grids with more fancy shapes and hover effects.

I’m planning to take the demo of expanding image panels we made together in this other article:

CodePen Embed Fallback

…and transform it into a zig-zag image panels! And this is only one example among the many we will discover in the next article.

CSS Grid and Custom Shapes, Part 1 originally published on CSS-Tricks, which is part of the DigitalOcean family. You should get the newsletter.

New business wanted

QuirksBlog - Thu, 09/30/2021 - 12:22am

Last week Krijn and I decided to cancel performance.now() 2021. Although it was the right decision it leaves me in financially fairly dire straits. So I’m looking for new jobs and/or donations.

Even though the Corona trends in NL look good, and we could probably have brought 350 people together in November, we cannot be certain: there might be a new flare-up. More serious is the fact that it’s very hard to figure out how to apply the Corona checks Dutch government requires, especially for non-EU citizens. We couldn’t figure out how UK and US people should be tested, and for us that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Cancelling the conference relieved us of a lot of stress.

Still, it also relieved me of a lot of money. This is the fourth conference in a row we cannot run, and I have burned through all my reserves. That’s why I thought I’d ask for help.

So ...

Has QuirksMode.org ever saved you a lot of time on a project? Did it advance your career? If so, now would be a great time to make a donation to show your appreciation.

I am trying my hand at CSS coaching. Though I had only few clients so far I found that I like it and would like to do it more. As an added bonus, because I’m still writing my CSS for JavaScripters book I currently have most of the CSS layout modules in my head and can explain them straight away — even stacking contexts.

Or if there’s any job you know of that requires a technical documentation writer with a solid knowledge of web technologies and the browser market, drop me a line. I’m interested.

Anyway, thanks for listening.

position: sticky, draft 1

QuirksBlog - Wed, 09/08/2021 - 7:44am

I’m writing the position: sticky part of my book, and since I never worked with sticky before I’m not totally sure if what I’m saying is correct.

This is made worse by the fact that there are no very clear tutorials on sticky. That’s partly because it works pretty intuitively in most cases, and partly because the details can be complicated.

So here’s my draft 1 of position: sticky. There will be something wrong with it; please correct me where needed.

The inset properties are top, right, bottom and left. (I already introduced this terminology earlier in the chapter.)

h3,h4,pre {clear: left} section.scroll-container { border: 1px solid black; width: 300px; height: 250px; padding: 1em; overflow: auto; --text: 'scroll box'; float: left; clear: left; margin-right: 0.5em; margin-bottom: 1em; position: relative; font-size: 1.3rem; } .container,.outer-container { border: 1px solid black; padding: 1em; position: relative; --text: 'container'; } .outer-container { --text: 'outer container'; } :is(.scroll-container,.container,.outer-container):before { position: absolute; content: var(--text); top: 0.2em; left: 0.2em; font-size: 0.8rem; } section.scroll-container h2 { position: sticky; top: 0; background: white; margin: 0 !important; color: inherit !important; padding: 0.5em !important; border: 1px solid; font-size: 1.4rem !important; } .nowrap p { white-space: nowrap; } Introduction

position: sticky is a mix of relative and fixed. A sticky box takes its normal position in the flow, as if it had position: relative, but if that position scrolls out of view the sticky box remains in a position defined by its inset properties, as if it has position: fixed. A sticky box never escapes its container, though. If the container start or end scrolls past the sticky box abandons its fixed position and sticks to the top or the bottom of its container.

It is typically used to make sure that headers remain in view no matter how the user scrolls. It is also useful for tables on narrow screens: you can keep headers or the leftmost table cells in view while the user scrolls.

Scroll box and container

A sticky box needs a scroll box: a box that is able to scroll. By default this is the browser window — or, more correctly, the layout viewport — but you can define another scroll box by setting overflow on the desired element. The sticky box takes the first ancestor that could scroll as its scroll box and calculates all its coordinates relative to it.

A sticky box needs at least one inset property. These properties contain vital instructions, and if the sticky box doesn’t receive them it doesn’t know what to do.

A sticky box may also have a container: a regular HTML element that contains the sticky box. The sticky box will never be positioned outside this container, which thus serves as a constraint.

The first example shows this set-up. The sticky <h2> is in a perfectly normal <div>, its container, and that container is in a <section> that is the scroll box because it has overflow: auto. The sticky box has an inset property to provide instructions. The relevant styles are:

section.scroll-container { border: 1px solid black; width: 300px; height: 300px; overflow: auto; padding: 1em; } div.container { border: 1px solid black; padding: 1em; } section.scroll-container h2 { position: sticky; top: 0; } The rules Sticky header

Regular content

Regular content

Regular content

Regular content

Regular content

Regular content

Regular content

Content outside container

Content outside container

Content outside container

Content outside container

Content outside container

Content outside container

Now let’s see exactly what’s going on.

A sticky box never escapes its containing box. If it cannot obey the rules that follow without escaping from its container, it instead remains at the edge. Scroll down until the container disappears to see this in action.

A sticky box starts in its natural position in the flow, as if it has position: relative. It thus participates in the default flow: if it becomes higher it pushes the paragraphs below it downwards, just like any other regular HTML element. Also, the space it takes in the normal flow is kept open, even if it is currently in fixed position. Scroll down a little bit to see this in action: an empty space is kept open for the header.

A sticky box compares two positions: its natural position in the flow and its fixed position according to its inset properties. It does so in the coordinate frame of its scroll box. That is, any given coordinate such as top: 20px, as well as its default coordinates, is resolved against the content box of the scroll box. (In other words, the scroll box’s padding also constrains the sticky box; it will never move up into that padding.)

A sticky box with top takes the higher value of its top and its natural position in the flow, and positions its top border at that value. Scroll down slowly to see this in action: the sticky box starts at its natural position (let’s call it 20px), which is higher than its defined top (0). Thus it rests at its position in the natural flow. Scrolling up a few pixels doesn’t change this, but once its natural position becomes less than 0, the sticky box switches to a fixed layout and stays at that position.

The sticky box has bottom: 0

Regular content

Regular content

Regular content

Regular content

Regular content

Regular content

Sticky header

Content outside container

Content outside container

Content outside container

Content outside container

Content outside container

Content outside container

It does the same for bottom, but remember that a bottom is calculated relative to the scroll box’s bottom, and not its top. Thus, a larger bottom coordinate means the box is positioned more to the top. Now the sticky box compares its default bottom with the defined bottom and uses the higher value to position its bottom border, just as before.

With left, it uses the higher value of its natural position and to position its left border; with right, it does the same for its right border, bearing in mind once more that a higher right value positions the box more to the left.

If any of these steps would position the sticky box outside its containing box it takes the position that just barely keeps it within its containing box.

Details Sticky header

Very, very long line of content to stretch up the container quite a bit

Regular content

Regular content

Regular content

Regular content

Regular content

Regular content

Content outside container

Content outside container

Content outside container

Content outside container

Content outside container

Content outside container

Content outside container

The four inset properties act independently of one another. For instance the following box will calculate the position of its top and left edge independently. They can be relative or fixed, depending on how the user scrolls.

p.testbox { position: sticky; top: 0; left: 0; }

Content outside container

Content outside container

Content outside container

Content outside container

Content outside container

The sticky box has top: 0; bottom: 0

Regular content

Regular content

Regular content

Regular content

Sticky header

Regular content

Regular content

Regular content

Regular content

Regular content

Content outside container

Content outside container

Content outside container

Content outside container

Content outside container

Setting both a top and a bottom, or both a left and a right, gives the sticky box a bandwidth to move in. It will always attempt to obey all the rules described above. So the following box will vary between 0 from the top of the screen to 0 from the bottom, taking its default position in the flow between these two positions.

p.testbox { position: sticky; top: 0; bottom: 0; } No container

Regular content

Regular content

Sticky header

Regular content

Regular content

Regular content

Regular content

Regular content

Regular content

Regular content

Regular content

Regular content

So far we put the sticky box in a container separate from the scroll box. But that’s not necessary. You can also make the scroll box itself the container if you wish. The sticky element is still positioned with respect to the scroll box (which is now also its container) and everything works fine.

Several containers Sticky header

Regular content

Regular content

Regular content

Regular content

Regular content

Regular content

Regular content

Content outside container

Content outside container

Content outside outer container

Content outside outer container

Or the sticky item can be several containers removed from its scroll box. That’s fine as well; the positions are still calculated relative to the scroll box, and the sticky box will never leave its innermost container.

Changing the scroll box Sticky header

The container has overflow: auto.

Regular content

Regular content

Regular content

Regular content

Regular content

Regular content

Content outside container

Content outside container

Content outside container

One feature that catches many people (including me) unaware is giving the container an overflow: auto or hidden. All of a sudden it seems the sticky header doesn’t work any more.

What’s going on here? An overflow value of auto, hidden, or scroll makes an element into a scroll box. So now the sticky box’s scroll box is no longer the outer element, but the inner one, since that is now the closest ancestor that is able to scroll.

The sticky box appears to be static, but it isn’t. The crux here is that the scroll box could scroll, thanks to its overflow value, but doesn’t actually do so because we didn’t give it a height, and therefore it stretches up to accomodate all of its contents.

Thus we have a non-scrolling scroll box, and that is the root cause of our problems.

As before, the sticky box calculates its position by comparing its natural position relative to its scroll box with the one given by its inset properties. Point is: the sticky box doesn’t scroll relative to its scroll box, so its position always remains the same. Where in earlier examples the position of the sticky element relative to the scroll box changed when we scrolled, it no longer does so, because the scroll box doesn’t scroll. Thus there is no reason for it to switch to fixed positioning, and it stays where it is relative to its scroll box.

The fact that the scroll box itself scrolls upward is irrelevant; this doesn’t influence the sticky box in the slightest.

Sticky header

Regular content

Regular content

Regular content

Regular content

Regular content

Regular content

Regular content

Content outside container

Content outside container

Content outside container

Content outside container

Content outside container

Content outside container

One solution is to give the new scroll box a height that is too little for its contents. Now the scroll box generates a scrollbar and becomes a scrolling scroll box. When we scroll it the position of the sticky box relative to its scroll box changes once more, and it switches from fixed to relative or vice versa as required.

Minor items

Finally a few minor items:

  • It is no longer necessary to use position: -webkit-sticky. All modern browsers support regular position: sticky. (But if you need to cater to a few older browsers, retaining the double syntax doesn’t hurt.)
  • Chrome (Mac) does weird things to the borders of the sticky items in these examples. I don’t know what’s going on and am not going to investigate.

Breaking the web forward

QuirksBlog - Thu, 08/12/2021 - 5:19am

Safari is holding back the web. It is the new IE, after all. In contrast, Chrome is pushing the web forward so hard that it’s starting to break. Meanwhile web developers do nothing except moan and complain. The only thing left to do is to pick our poison.

blockquote { font-size: inherit; font-family: inherit; } blockquote p { font-size: inherit; font-family: inherit; } Safari is the new IE

Recently there was yet another round of “Safari is the new IE” stories. Once Jeremy’s summary and a short discussion cleared my mind I finally figured out that Safari is not IE, and that Safari’s IE-or-not-IE is not the worst problem the web is facing.

Perry Sun argues that for developers, Safari is crap and outdated, emulating the old IE of fifteen years ago in this respect. He also repeats the theory that Apple is deliberately starving Safari of features in order to protect the app store, and thus its bottom line. We’ll get back to that.

The allegation that Safari is holding back web development by its lack of support for key features is not new, but it’s not true, either. Back fifteen years ago IE held back the web because web developers had to cater to its outdated technology stack. “Best viewed with IE” and all that. But do you ever see a “Best viewed with Safari” notice? No, you don’t. Another browser takes that special place in web developers’ hearts and minds.

Chrome is the new IE, but in reverse

Jorge Arango fears we’re going back to the bad old days with “Best viewed in Chrome.” Chris Krycho reinforces this by pointing out that, even though Chrome is not the standard, it’s treated as such by many web developers.

“Best viewed in Chrome” squares very badly with “Safari is the new IE.” Safari’s sad state does not force web developers to restrict themselves to Safari-supported features, so it does not hold the same position as IE.

So I propose to lay this tired old meme to rest. Safari is not the new IE. If anything it’s the new Netscape 4.

Meanwhile it is Chrome that is the new IE, but in reverse.

Break the web forward

Back in the day, IE was accused of an embrace, extend, and extinguish strategy. After IE6 Microsoft did nothing for ages, assuming it had won the web. Thanks to web developers taking action in their own name for the first (and only) time, IE was updated once more and the web moved forward again.

Google learned from Microsoft’s mistakes and follows a novel embrace, extend, and extinguish strategy by breaking the web and stomping on the bits. Who cares if it breaks as long as we go forward. And to hell with backward compatibility.

Back in 2015 I proposed to stop pushing the web forward, and as expected the Chrome devrels were especially outraged at this idea. It never went anywhere. (Truth to tell: I hadn’t expected it to.)

I still think we should stop pushing the web forward for a while until we figure out where we want to push the web forward to — but as long as Google is in charge that won’t happen. It will only get worse.

On alert

A blog storm broke out over the decision to remove alert(), confirm() and prompt(), first only the cross-origin variants, but eventually all of them. Jeremy and Chris Coyier already summarised the situation, while Rich Harris discusses the uses of the three ancient modals, especially when it comes to learning JavaScript.

With all these articles already written I will only note that, if the three ancient modals are truly as horrendous a security issue as Google says they are it took everyone a bloody long time to figure that out. I mean, they turn 25 this year.

Although it appears Firefox and Safari are on board with at least the cross-origin part of the proposal, there is no doubt that it’s Google that leads the charge.

From Google’s perspective the ancient modals have one crucial flaw quite apart from their security model: they weren’t invented there. That’s why they have to be replaced by — I don’t know what, but it will likely be a very complicated API.

Complex systems and arrogant priests rule the web

Thus the new embrace, extend, and extinguish is breaking backward compatibility in order to make the web more complicated. Nolan Lawson puts it like this:

we end up with convoluted specs like Service Worker that you need a PhD to understand, and yet we still don't have a working <dialog> element.

In addition, Google can be pretty arrogant and condescending, as Chris Ferdinandi points out.

The condescending “did you actually read it, it’s so clear” refrain is patronizing AF. It’s the equivalent of “just” or “simply” in developer documentation.

I read it. I didn’t understand it. That’s why I asked someone whose literal job is communicating with developers about changes Chrome makes to the platform.

This is not isolated to one developer at Chrome. The entire message thread where this change was surfaced is filled with folks begging Chrome not to move forward with this proposal because it will break all-the-things.

If you write documentation or a technical article and nobody understands it, you’ve done a crappy job. I should know; I’ve been writing this stuff for twenty years.

Extend, embrace, extinguish. And use lots of difficult words.

Patience is a virtue

As a reaction to web dev outcry Google temporarily halted the breaking of the web. That sounds great but really isn’t. It’s just a clever tactical move.

I saw this tactic in action before. Back in early 2016 Google tried to break the de-facto standard for the mobile visual viewport that I worked very hard to establish. I wrote a piece that resonated with web developers, whose complaints made Google abandon the plan — temporarily. They tried again in late 2017, and I again wrote an article, but this time around nobody cared and the changes took effect and backward compatibility was broken.

So the three ancient modals still have about 12 to 18 months to live. Somewhere in late 2022 to early 2023 Google will try again, web developers will be silent, and the modals will be gone.

The pursuit of appiness

But why is Google breaking the web forward at such a pace? And why is Apple holding it back?

Safari is kept dumb to protect the app store and thus revenue. In contrast, the Chrome team is pushing very hard to port every single app functionality to the browser. Ages ago I argued we should give up on this, but of course no one listened.

When performing Valley Kremlinology, it is useful to see Google policies as stemming from a conflict between internal pro-web and anti-web factions. We web developers mainly deal with the pro-web faction, the Chrome devrel and browser teams. On the other hand, the Android team is squarely in the anti-web camp.

When seen in this light the pro-web camp’s insistence on copying everything appy makes excellent sense: if they didn’t Chrome would lag behind apps and the Android anti-web camp would gain too much power. While I prefer the pro-web over the anti-web camp, I would even more prefer the web not to be a pawn in an internal Google power struggle. But it has come to that, no doubt about it.

Solutions?

Is there any good solution? Not really.

Jim Nielsen feels that part of the issue is the lack of representation of web developers in the standardization process. That sounds great but is proven not to work.

Three years ago Fronteers and I attempted to get web developers represented and were met with absolute disinterest. Nobody else cared even one shit, and the initiative sank like a stone.

So a hypothetical web dev representative in W3C is not going to work. Also, the organisational work would involve a lot of unpaid labour, and I, for one, am not willing to do it again. Neither is anyone else. So this is not the solution.

And what about Firefox? Well, what about it? Ten years ago it made a disastrous mistake by ignoring the mobile web for way too long, then it attempted an arrogant and uninformed come-back with Firefox OS that failed, and its history from that point on is one long slide into obscurity. That’s what you get with shitty management.

Pick your poison

So Safari is trying to slow the web down. With Google’s move-fast-break-absofuckinglutely-everything axiom in mind, is Safari’s approach so bad?

Regardless of where you feel the web should be on this spectrum between Google and Apple, there is a fundamental difference between the two.

We have the tools and procedures to manage Safari’s disinterest. They’re essentially the same as the ones we deployed against Microsoft back in the day — though a fundamental difference is that Microsoft was willing to talk while Apple remains its old haughty self, and its “devrels” aren’t actually allowed to do devrelly things such as managing relations with web developers. (Don’t blame them, by the way. If something would ever change they’re going to be our most valuable internal allies — just as the IE team was back in the day.)

On the other hand, we have no process for countering Google’s reverse embrace, extend, and extinguish strategy, since a section of web devs will be enthusiastic about whatever the newest API is. Also, Google devrels talk. And talk. And talk. And provide gigs of data that are hard to make sense of. And refer to their proprietary algorithms that “clearly” show X is in the best interest of the web — and don’t ask questions! And make everything so fucking complicated that we eventually give up and give in.

So pick your poison. Shall we push the web forward until it’s broken, or shall we break it by inaction? What will it be? Privately, my money is on Google. So we should say goodbye to the old web while we still can.

Custom properties and @property

QuirksBlog - Wed, 07/21/2021 - 3:18am

You’re reading a failed article. I hoped to write about @property and how it is useful for extending CSS inheritance considerably in many different circumstances. Alas, I failed. @property turns out to be very useful for font sizes, but does not even approach the general applicability I hoped for.

Grandparent-inheriting

It all started when I commented on what I thought was an interesting but theoretical idea by Lea Verou: what if elements could inherit the font size of not their parent, but their grandparent? Something like this:

div.grandparent { /* font-size could be anything */ } div.parent { font-size: 0.4em; } div.child { font-size: [inherit from grandparent in some sort of way]; font-size: [yes, you could do 2.5em to restore the grandparent's font size]; font-size: [but that's not inheriting, it's just reversing a calculation]; font-size: [and it will not work if the parent's font size is also unknown]; }

Lea told me this wasn’t a vague idea, but something that can be done right now. I was quite surprised — and I assume many of my readers are as well — and asked for more information. So she wrote Inherit ancestor font-size, for fun and profit, where she explained how the new Houdini @property can be used to do this.

This was seriously cool. Also, I picked up a few interesting bits about how CSS custom properties and Houdini @property work. I decided to explain these tricky bits in simple terms — mostly because I know that by writing an explanation I myself will understand them better — and to suggest other possibilities for using Lea’s idea.

Alas, that last objective is where I failed. Lea’s idea can only be used for font sizes. That’s an important use case, but I had hoped for more. The reasons why it doesn’t work elsewhere are instructive, though.

Tokens and values

Let’s consider CSS custom properties. What if we store the grandparent’s font size in a custom property and use that in the child?

div.grandparent { /* font-size could be anything */ --myFontSize: 1em; } div.parent { font-size: 0.4em; } div.child { font-size: var(--myFontSize); /* hey, that's the grandparent's font size, isn't it? */ }

This does not work. The child will have the same font size as the parent, and ignore the grandparent. In order to understand why we need to understand how custom properties work. What does this line of CSS do?

--myFontSize: 1em;

It sets a custom property that we can use later. Well duh.

Sure. But what value does this custom property have?

... errr ... 1em?

Nope. The answer is: none. That’s why the code example doesn’t work.

When they are defined, custom properties do not have a value or a type. All that you ordered the browsers to do is to store a token in the variable --myFontSize.

This took me a while to wrap my head around, so let’s go a bit deeper. What is a token? Let’s briefly switch to JavaScript to explain.

let myVar = 10;

What’s the value of myVar in this line? I do not mean: what value is stored in the variable myVar, but: what value does the character sequence myVar have in that line of code? And what type?

Well, none. Duh. It’s not a variable or value, it’s just a token that the JavaScript engine interprets as “allow me to access and change a specific variable” whenever you type it.

CSS custom properties also hold such tokens. They do not have any intrinsic meaning. Instead, they acquire meaning when they are interpreted by the CSS engine in a certain context, just as the myVar token is in the JavaScript example.

So the CSS custom property contains the token 1em without any value, without any type, without any meaning — as yet.

You can use pretty any bunch of characters in a custom property definition. Browsers make no assumptions about their validity or usefulness because they don’t yet know what you want to do with the token. So this, too, is a perfectly fine CSS custom property:

--myEgoTrip: ppk;

Browsers shrug, create the custom property, and store the indicated token. The fact that ppk is invalid in all CSS contexts is irrelevant: we haven’t tried to use it yet.

It’s when you actually use the custom property that values and types are assigned. So let’s use it:

background-color: var(--myEgoTrip);

Now the CSS parser takes the tokens we defined earlier and replaces the custom property with them:

background-color: ppk;

And only NOW the tokens are read and intrepreted. In this case that results in an error: ppk is not a valid value for background-color. So the CSS declaration as a whole is invalid and nothing happens — well, technically it gets the unset value, but the net result is the same. The custom property itself is still perfectly valid, though.

The same happens in our original code example:

div.grandparent { /* font-size could be anything */ --myFontSize: 1em; /* just a token; no value, no meaning */ } div.parent { font-size: 0.4em; } div.child { font-size: var(--myFontSize); /* becomes */ font-size: 1em; /* hey, this is valid CSS! */ /* Right, you obviously want the font size to be the same as the parent's */ /* Sure thing, here you go */ }

In div.child he tokens are read and interpreted by the CSS parser. This results in a declaration font-size: 1em;. This is perfectly valid CSS, and the browsers duly note that the font size of this element should be 1em.

font-size: 1em is relative. To what? Well, to the parent’s font size, of course. Duh. That’s how CSS font-size works.

So now the font size of the child becomes the same as its parent’s, and browsers will proudly display the child element’s text in the same font size as the parent element’s while ignoring the grandparent.

This is not what we wanted to achieve, though. We want the grandparent’s font size. Custom properties — by themselves — don’t do what we want. We have to find another solution.

@property

Lea’s article explains that other solution. We have to use the Houdini @property rule.

@property --myFontSize { syntax: "<length>"; initial-value: 0; inherits: true; } div { border: 1px solid; padding: 1em; } div.grandparent { /* font-size could be anything */ --myFontSize: 1em; } div.parent { font-size: 0.4em; } div.child { font-size: var(--myFontSize); }

Now it works. Wut? Yep — though only in Chrome so far.

@property --myFontSize { syntax: ""; initial-value: 0; inherits: true; } section.example { max-width: 500px; } section.example div { border: 1px solid; padding: 1em; } div.grandparent { font-size: 23px; --myFontSize: 1em; } div.parent { font-size: 0.4em; } div.child { font-size: var(--myFontSize); } This is the grandparent This is the parent This is the child

What black magic is this?

Adding the @property rule changes the custom property --myFontSize from a bunch of tokens without meaning to an actual value. Moreover, this value is calculated in the context it is defined in — the grandfather — so that the 1em value now means 100% of the font size of the grandfather. When we use it in the child it still has this value, and therefore the child gets the same font size as the grandfather, which is exactly what we want to achieve.

(The variable uses a value from the context it’s defined in, and not the context it’s executed in. If, like me, you have a grounding in basic JavaScript you may hear “closures!” in the back of your mind. While they are not the same, and you shouldn’t take this apparent equivalency too far, this notion still helped me understand. Maybe it’ll help you as well.)

Unfortunately I do not quite understand what I’m doing here, though I can assure you the code snippet works in Chrome — and will likely work in the other browsers once they support @property.

Misson completed — just don’t ask me how.

Syntax

You have to get the definition right. You need all three lines in the @property rule. See also the specification and the MDN page.

@property --myFontSize { syntax: "<length>"; initial-value: 0; inherits: true; }

The syntax property tells browsers what kind of property it is and makes parsing it easier. Here is the list of possible values for syntax, and in 99% of the cases one of these values is what you need.

You could also create your own syntax, e.g. syntax: "ppk | <length>"

Now the ppk keyword and any sort of length is allowed as a value.

Note that percentages are not lengths — one of the many things I found out during the writing of this article. Still, they are so common that a special value for “length that may be a percentage or may be calculated using percentages” was created:

syntax: "<length-percentage>"

Finally, one special case you need to know about is this one:

syntax: "*"

MDN calls this a universal selector, but it isn’t, really. Instead, it means “I don’t know what syntax we’re going to use” and it tells browsers not to attempt to interpret the custom property. In our case that would be counterproductive: we definitely want the 1em to be interpreted. So our example doesn’t work with syntax: "*".

initial-value and inherits

An initial-value property is required for any syntax value that is not a *. Here that’s simple: just give it an initial value of 0 — or 16px, or any absolute value. The value doesn’t really matter since we’re going to overrule it anyway. Still, a relative value such as 1em is not allowed: browsers don’t know what the 1em would be relative to and reject it as an initial value.

Finally, inherits: true specifies that the custom property value can be inherited. We definitely want the computed 1em value to be inherited by the child — that’s the entire point of this experiment. So we carefully set this flag to true.

Other use cases

So far this article merely rehashed parts of Lea’s. Since I’m not in the habit of rehashing other people’s articles my original plan was to add at least one other use case. Alas, I failed, though Lea was kind enough to explain why each of my ideas fails.

Percentage of what?

Could we grandfather-inherit percentual margins and paddings? They are relative to the width of the parent of the element you define them on, and I was wondering if it might be useful to send the grandparent’s margin on to the child just like the font size. Something like this:

@property --myMargin { syntax: "<length-percentage>"; initial-value: 0; inherits: true; } div.grandparent { --myMargin: 25%; margin-left: var(--myMargin); } div.parent { font-size: 0.4em; } div.child { margin-left: var(--myMargin); /* should now be 25% of the width of the grandfather's parent */ /* but isn't */ }

Alas, this does not work. Browsers cannot resolve the 25% in the context of the grandparent, as they did with the 1em, because they don’t know what to do.

The most important trick for using percentages in CSS is to always ask yourself: “percentage of WHAT?”

That’s exactly what browsers do when they encounter this @property definition. 25% of what? The parent’s font size? Or the parent’s width? (This is the correct answer, but browsers have no way of knowing that.) Or maybe the width of the element itself, for use in background-position?

Since browsers cannot figure out what the percentage is relative to they do nothing: the custom property gets the initial value of 0 and the grandfather-inheritance fails.

Colours

Another idea I had was using this trick for the grandfather’s text colour. What if we store currentColor, which always has the value of the element’s text colour, and send it on to the grandchild? Something like this:

@property --myColor { syntax: "<color>"; initial-value: black; inherits: true; } div.grandparent { /* color unknown */ --myColor: currentColor; } div.parent { color: red; } div.child { color: var(--myColor); /* should now have the same color as the grandfather */ /* but doesn't */ }

Alas, this does not work either. When the @property blocks are evaluated, and 1em is calculated, currentColor specifically is not touched because it is used as an initial (default) value for some inherited SVG and CSS properties such as fill. Unfortunately I do not fully understand what’s going on, but Tab says this behaviour is necessary, so it is.

Pity, but such is life. Especially when you’re working with new CSS functionalities.

Conclusion

So I tried to find more possbilities for using Lea’s trick, but failed. Relative units are fairly sparse, especially when you leave percentages out of the equation. em and related units such as rem are the only ones, as far as I can see.

So we’re left with a very useful trick for font sizes. You should use it when you need it (bearing in mind that right now it’s only supported in Chromium-based browsers), but extending it to other declarations is not possible at the moment.

Many thanks to Lea Verou and Tab Atkins for reviewing and correcting an earlier draft of this article.

Let&#8217;s talk about money

QuirksBlog - Tue, 06/29/2021 - 1:23am

Let’s talk about money!

Let’s talk about how hard it is to pay small amounts online to people whose work you like and who could really use a bit of income. Let’s talk about how Coil aims to change that.

Taking a subscription to a website is moderately easy, but the person you want to pay must have enabled them. Besides, do you want to purchase a full subscription in order to read one or two articles per month?

Sending a one-time donation is pretty easy as well, but, again, the site owner must have enabled them. And even then it just gives them ad-hoc amounts that they cannot depend on.

Then there’s Patreon and Kickstarter and similar systems, but Patreon is essentially a subscription service while Kickstarter is essentially a one-time donation service, except that both keep part of the money you donate.

And then there’s ads ... Do we want small content creators to remain dependent on ads and thus support the entire ad ecosystem? I, personally, would like to get rid of them.

The problem today is that all non-ad-based systems require you to make conscious decisions to support someone — and even if you’re serious about supporting them you may forget to send in a monthly donation or to renew your subscription. It sort-of works, but the user experience can be improved rather dramatically.

That’s where Coil and the Web Monetization Standard come in.

Web Monetization

The idea behind Coil is that you pay for what you consume easily and automatically. It’s not a subscription - you only pay for what you consume. It’s not a one-time donation, either - you always pay when you consume.

Payments occur automatically when you visit a website that is also subscribed to Coil, and the amount you pay to a single site owner depends on the time you spend on the site. Coil does not retain any of your money, either — everything goes to the people you support.

In this series of four articles we’ll take a closer look at the architecture of the current Coil implementation, how to work with it right now, the proposed standard, and what’s going to happen in the future.

Overview

So how does Coil work right now?

Both the payer and the payee need a Coil account to send and receive money. The payee has to add a <meta> tag with a Coil payment pointer to all pages they want to monetize. The payer has to install the Coil extension in their browsers. You can see this extension as a polyfill. In the future web monetization will, I hope, be supported natively in all browsers.

Once that’s done the process works pretty much automatically. The extension searches for the <meta> tag on any site the user visits. If it finds one it starts a payment stream from payer to payee that continues for as long as the payer stays on the site.

The payee can use the JavaScript API to interact with the monetization stream. For instance, they can show extra content to paying users, or keep track of how much a user paid so far. Unfortunately these functionalities require JavaScript, and the hiding of content is fairly easy to work around. Thus it is not yet suited for serious business purposes, especially in web development circles.

This is one example of how the current system is still a bit rough around the edges. You’ll find more examples in the subsequent articles. Until the time browsers support the standard natively and you can determine your visitors’ monetization status server-side these rough bits will continue to exist. For the moment we will have to work with the system we have.

This article series will discuss all topics we touched on in more detail.

Start now!

For too long we have accepted free content as our birthright, without considering the needs of the people who create it. This becomes even more curious for articles and documentation that are absolutely vital to our work as web developers.

Take a look at this list of currently-monetized web developer sites. Chances are you’ll find a few people whose work you used in the past. Don’t they deserve your direct support?

Free content is not a right, it’s an entitlement. The sooner we internalize this, and start paying independent voices, the better for the web.

The only alternative is that all articles and documentation that we depend on will written by employees of large companies. And employees, no matter how well-meaning, will reflect the priorities and point of view of their employer in the long run.

So start now.

In order to support them you should invest a bit of time once and US$5 per month permanently. I mean, that’s not too much to ask, is it?

Continue

I wrote this article and its sequels for Coil, and yes, I’m getting paid. Still, I believe in what they are doing, so I won’t just spread marketing drivel. Initially it was unclear to me exactly how Coil works. So I did some digging, and the remaining parts of this series give a detailed description of how Coil actually works in practice.

For now the other three articles will only be available on dev.to. I just published part 2, which gives a high-level overview of how Coil works right now. Part 3 will describe the meta tag and the JavaScript API, and in part 4 we’ll take a look at the future, which includes a formal W3C standard. Those parts will be published next week and the week after that.

Wed, 12/31/1969 - 2:00pm
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