Month: June 2021

How do you make a layout with pictures down one side of a page matched up with paragraphs on the other side?

I got this exact question in an email the other day, and I thought it would make a nice blog post because of how wonderfully satisfying this is to do in CSS these days. Plus we can sprinkle in polish to it as we go.

HTML-wise, I’m thinking image, text, image, text, etc.

<img src="..." alt="..." height="" width="" /> <p>Text text text...</p>  <img src="..." alt="..." height="" width="" /> <p>Text text text...</p>  <img src="..." alt="..." height="" width="" /> <p>Text text text...</p>

If that was our entire body in an HTML document, the answer to the question in the blog post title is literally two lines of CSS:

body {   display: grid;   grid-template-columns: min-content 1fr; }

It’s going to look something like this…

Not pretty but we got the job done very quickly.

So cool. Thanks CSS. But let’s clean it up. Let’s make sure there is a gap, set the default type, and reign in the layout.

body {   display: grid;   padding: 2rem;   grid-template-columns: 300px 1fr;   gap: 1rem;   align-items: center;   max-width: 800px;   margin: 0 auto;   font: 500 100%/1.5 system-ui; } img {   max-width: 100%;   height: auto; }

I mean… ship it, right? Close, but maybe we can just add a quick mobile style.

@media (max-width: 650px) {   body {     display: block;     font-size: 80%;   }   p {     position: relative;     margin: -3rem 0 2rem 1rem;     padding: 1rem;     background: rgba(white, 0.8);   } }

OK, NOW ship it!


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Fixing a Bug in Low-Resolution Mode

I was working on a bug ticket the other day where it was reported that an icon was sitting low in a button. Just not aligned like it should be. I had to go on a little journey to figure out how to replicate it before I could fix it. Lemme set the scene.

Here’s the screenshot:

See how the icon is just… riding low?

But I go to look at the button on my machine, and it looks perfectly fine:

What the heck, right? Same platform (macOS), same browser (Firefox), same version, everything. Other people on the team looked too, and it was fine for them.

Then a discovery! (Thanks, Klare.)

It only showed up that way on her low-resolution external monitor. I don’t know if “low” is fair, but it’s not the “retina” of a MacBook Pro, whatever that is.

My problem is I don’t even have a monitor anymore that isn’t high resolution. So how I can test this? Maybe I just… can’t? Nope! I can! Check it out. I can “Get Info” on the Firefox app on my machine, and check this box:

Checked box for “Open in Low Resolution”

Now I can literally see the bug. It is unique to Firefox as far as I can tell. Perhaps something to do with pixel… rounding? I have no idea. Here’s a reduced test case of the HTML/CSS at play though.

The solution? Rather than using an inline-block display type for buttons, we moved to inline-flex, which feels like the correct display type for buttons because of how good flexbox is at centering.

.button {    /* a million things so that all buttons are perfect and... */    display: inline-flex;   align-items: center; }


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When a Click is Not Just a Click

The click event is quite simple and easy to use; you listen for the event and run code when the event is fired. It works on just about every HTML element there is, a core feature of the DOM API.

As often the case with the DOM and JavaScript, there are nuances to consider. Some nuances with the click event are typically not much a concern. They are minor and probably most people would never even notice them in the majority of use cases.

Take, for example, the click event listening to the grandfather of interactive elements, the <button> element. There are nuances associated with button clicks and these nuances, like the difference between a “click” from a mouse pointer and “click” from the keyboard. Seen this way, a click is not always a “click” the way it’s typically defined. I actually have run into situations (though not many) where distinguishing between those two types of clicks comes in handy.

How do we distinguish between different types of clicks? That’s what we’re diving into!

First things first

The <button> element, as described by MDN, is simply:

The HTML element represents a clickable button, used to submit forms or anywhere in a document for accessible, standard button functionality. By default, HTML buttons are presented in a style resembling the platform the user agent runs on, but you can change buttons’ appearance with CSS.

The part we’ll cover is obviously the “anywhere in a document for accessible, standard button functionality” part of that description. As you may know, a button element can have native functionality within a form, for example it can submit a form in some situations. We are only really concerning ourselves over the basic clicking function of the element. So consider just a simple button placed on the page for specific functionality when someone interacts with it.

Consider that I said “interacts with it” instead of just clicking it. For historical and usability reasons, one can “click” the button by putting focus on it with tabbing and then using the Space or Enter key on the keyboard. This is a bit of overlap with keyboard navigation and accessibility; this native feature existed way before accessibility was a concern. Yet the legacy feature does help a great deal with accessibility for obvious reasons.

In the example above, you can click the button and its text label will change. After a moment the original text will reset. You can also click somewhere else within the pen, tab to put focus on the button, and then use Space or Enter to “click” it. The same text appears and resets as well. There is no JavaScript to handle the keyboard functionality; it’s a native feature of the browser. Fundamentally, in this example the button is only aware of the click event, but not how it happened.

One interesting difference to consider is the behavior of a button across different browsers, especially the way it is styled. The buttons in these examples are set to shift colors on its active state; so you click it and it turns purple. Consider this image that shows the states when interacting with the keyboard.

Keyboard Interaction States

The first is the static state, the second is when the button has focus from a keyboard tabbing onto it, the third is the keyboard interaction, and the fourth is the result of the interaction. With Firefox you will only see the first two and last states; when interacting with either Enter or Space keys to “click” it you do not see the third state. It stays with the second, or “focused”, state during the interaction and then shifts to the last one. The text changes as expected but the colors do not. Chrome gives us a bit more as you’ll see the first two states the same as Firefox. If you use the Space key to “click” the button you’ll see the third state with the color change and then the last. Interestingly enough, with Chrome if you use Enter to interact with the button you won’t see the third state with the color change, much like Firefox. In case you are curious, Safari behaves the same as Chrome.

The code for the event listener is quite simple:

const button = document.querySelector('#button');  button.addEventListener('click', () => {   button.innerText = 'Button Clicked!';      window.setTimeout(() => {     button.innerText = '"click" me';   }, 2000); });

Now, let’s consider something here with this code. What if you found yourself in a situation where you wanted to know what caused the “click” to happen? The click event is usually tied to a pointer device, typically the mouse, and yet here the Space or Enter key are triggering the same event. Other form elements have similar functionality depending on context, but any elements that are not interactive by default would require an additional keyboard event to work. The button element doesn’t require this additional event listener.

I won’t go too far into reasons for wanting to know what triggered the click event. I can say that I have occasionally ran into situations where it was helpful to know. Sometimes for styling reasons, sometimes accessibility, and sometimes for specific functionality. Often different context or situations provide for different reasons.

Consider the following not as The Way™ but more of an exploration of these nuances we’re talking about. We’ll explore handling the various ways to interact with a button element, the events generated, and leveraging specific features of these events. Hopefully the following examples can provide some helpful information from the events; or possibly spread out to other HTML elements, as needed.

Which is which?

One simple way to know a keyboard versus mouse click event is leveraging the keyup and mouseup events, taking the click event out of the equation.

Now, when you use the mouse or the keyboard, the changed text reflects which event is which. The keyboard version will even inform you of a Space versus Enter key being used.

Here’s the new code:

const button = document.querySelector('#button');  function reset () {   window.setTimeout(() => {     button.innerText = '"click" me';   }, 2000); }  button.addEventListener('mouseup', (e) => {   if (e.button === 0) {     button.innerText = 'MouseUp Event!';     reset();   } });  button.addEventListener('keyup', (e) => {   if (e.code === 'Space' || e.code === 'Enter') {     button.innerText = `KeyUp Event: $ {e.code}`;     reset();   } });

A bit verbose, true, but we’ll get to a slight refactor in a bit. This example gets the point across about a nuance that needs to be handled. The mouseup and keyup events have their own features to account for in this situation.

With the mouseup event, about every button on the mouse could trigger this event. We usually wouldn’t want the right mouse button triggering a “click” event on the button, for instance. So we look for the e.button with the value of 0 to identify the primary mouse button. That way it works the same as with the click event yet we know for a fact it was the mouse.

With the keyup event, the same thing happens where about every key on the keyboard will trigger this event. So we look at the event’s code property to wait for the Space or Enter key to be pressed. So now it works the same as the click event but we know the keyboard was used. We even know which of the two keys we’re expecting to work on the button.

Another take to determine which is which

While the previous example works, it seems like a bit too much code for such a simple concept. We really just want to know if the “click” came from a mouse or a keyboard. In most cases we probably wouldn’t care if the source of the click was either the Space or Enter keys. But, if we do care, we can take advantage of the keyup event properties to note which is which.

Buried in the various specifications about the click event (which leads us to the UI Events specification) there are certain properties assigned to the event concerning the mouse location, including properties such as screenX/screenY and clientX/clientY. Some browsers have more, but I want to focus on the screenX/screenY properties for the moment. These two properties essentially give you the X and Y coordinates of the mouse click in relation to the upper-left of the screen. The clientX/clientY properties do the same, but the origin is the upper-left of the browser’s viewport.

This trick relies on the fact that the click event provides these coordinates even though the event was triggered by the keyboard. When a button with the click event is “clicked” by the Space or Enter key it still needs to assign a value to those properties. Since there’s no mouse location to report, if it falls back to zero as the default.

Here’s our new code:

const button = document.querySelector('#button');  button.addEventListener('click', (e) => {   button.innerText = e.screenX + e.screenY === 0 || e.offsetX + e.offsetY === 0 ?     'Keyboard Click Event!' : 'Mouse Click Event!';      window.setTimeout(() => {     button.innerText = '"click" me';   }, 2000); });

Back to just the click event, but this time we look for those properties to determine whether this is a keyboard or mouse “click.” We take both screenX and screenY properties, add them together, and see if they equal zero; which makes for an easy test. The possibilities of the button being in the immediate upper-left of the screen to be clicked has to be quite low. It could be possible if one attempted to make such an effort of a pixel-perfect click in such an odd location, but I would think it’s a safe assumption that it won’t happen under normal circumstances.

Now, one might notice the added e.offsetX + e.offsetY === 0 part. I have to explain that bit…

Enter the dreaded browser inconsistencies

While creating and testing this code, the all-too-often problem of cross-browser support reared its ugly head. It turns out that even though most browsers set the screenX and screenY values on a keyboard-caused click event to zero, Safari decides to be different. It applies a proper value to screenX and screenY as if the button was clicked by a mouse. This throws a wrench into my code which is one of the fun aspects of dealing with different browsers — they’re made by different groups of different people creating different outcomes to the same use cases.

But, alas, I needed a solution because I didn’t necessarily want to rely only on the keyup event for this version of the code. I mean, we could if we wanted to, so that’s still an option. It’s just that I liked the idea of treating this as a potential learning exercise to determine what’s happening and how to make adjustments for differences in browsers like we’re seeing here.

Testing what Safari is doing in this case, it appears to be using the offsetX and offsetY properties in the event to determine the location of the “click” and then applying math to determine the screenX and screenY values. That’s a huge over-simplification, but it sort of checks out. The offset properties will be the location of the click based on the upper-left of the button. In this context, Safari applies zero to offsetX and offsetY, which would obviously be seen as the upper-left of the button. From there it treats that location of the button as the determination for the screen properties based on the distance from the upper-left of the button to the upper-left of the screen.

The other usual browsers technically also apply zero to offestX and offsetY, and could be used in place of screenX and screenY. I chose not to go that route. It’s certainly possible to click a button that happens to be at the absolute top-left of the screen is rather difficult while clicking the top-left of a button. Yet, Safari is different so the tests against the screen and offsets is the result. The code, as written, hopes for zeroes on the screen properties and, if they are there, it moves forward assuming a keyboard-caused click. If the screen properties together are larger then zero, it checks the offset properties just in case. We can consider this the Safari check.

This is not ideal, but it wouldn’t be the first time I had to create branching logic due to browser inconsistencies.

In the hope that the behavior of these properties will not change in the future, we have a decent way to determine if a button’s click event happened by mouse or keyboard. Yet technology marches on providing us new features, new requirements, and new challenges to consider. The various devices available to us has started the concept of the “pointer” as a means to interact with elements on the screen. Currently, such a pointer could be a mouse, a pen, or a touch. This creates yet another nuance that we might want to be consider; determining the kind of pointer involved in the click.

Which one out of many?

Now is a good time to talk about Pointer Events. As described by MDN:

Much of today‘s web content assumes the user’s pointing device will be a mouse. However, since many devices support other types of pointing input devices, such as pen/stylus and touch surfaces, extensions to the existing pointing device event models are needed. Pointer events address that need.

So now let’s consider having a need for knowing what type of pointer was involved in clicking that button. Relying on just the click event doesn’t really provide this information. Chrome does have an interesting property in the click event, sourceCapabilities. This property in turn has a property named firesTouchEvents that is a boolean. This information isn’t always available since Firefox and Safari do not support this yet. Yet the pointer event is available much everywhere, even IE11 of all browsers.

This event can provide interesting data about touch or pen events. Things like pressure, contact size, tilt, and more. For our example here we’re just going to focus on pointerType, which tells us the device type that caused the event.

Clicking on the button will now tell you the pointer that was used. The code for this is quite simple:

const button = document.querySelector('#button');  button.addEventListener('pointerup', (e) => {   button.innerText = `Pointer Event: $ {e.pointerType}`;      window.setTimeout(() => {     button.innerText = '"click" me';   }, 2000); });

Really, not that much different than the previous examples. We listen for the pointerup event on the button and output the event’s pointerType. The difference now is there is no event listener for a click event. So tabbing onto the button and using space or enter key does nothing. The click event still fires, but we’re not listening for it. At this point we only have code tied to the button that only responds to the pointer event.

That obviously leaves a gap in functionality, the keyboard interactivity, so we still need to include a click event. Since we’re already using the pointer event for the more traditional mouse click (and other pointer events) we have to lock down the click event. We need to only allow the keyboard itself to trigger the click event.

The code for this is similar to the “Which Is Which” example up above. The difference being we use pointerup instead of mouseup:

const button = document.querySelector('#button');  function reset () {   window.setTimeout(() => {     button.innerText = '"click" me';   }, 2000); }  button.addEventListener('pointerup', (e) => {   button.innerText = `Pointer Event: $ {e.pointerType}`;   reset(); });  button.addEventListener('click', (e) => {   if (e.screenX + e.screenY === 0 || e.offsetX + e.offsetY === 0) {     button.innerText = 'Keyboard  ||Click Event!';     reset();   } });

Here we’re using the screenX + screenY (with the additional offset check) method to determine if the click was caused by the keyboard. This way a mouse click would be handled by the pointer event. If one wanted to know if the key used was space or enter, then the keyup example above could be used. Even then, the keyup event could be used instead of the click event depending on how you wanted to approach it.

Anoher take to determine which one out of many

In the ever-present need to refactor for cleaner code, we can try a different way to code this.

Yep, works the same as before. Now the code is:

const button = document.querySelector('#button');  function btn_handler (e) {   if (e.type === 'click' && e.screenX + e.screenY > 0 && e.offsetX + e.offsetY > 0) {     return false;   } else if (e.pointerType) {     button.innerText = `Pointer Event: $ {e.pointerType}`;   } else if (e.screenX + e.screenY === 0) {     button.innerText = 'Keyboard Click Event!';   } else {     button.innerText = 'Something clicked this?';   }      window.setTimeout(() => {     button.innerText = '"click" me';   }, 2000); }  button.addEventListener('pointerup', btn_handler); button.addEventListener('click', btn_handler);

Another scaled down version to consider: this time we’ve reduced our code down to a single handler method that both pointerup and click events call. First we detect if the mouse “click” caused the event; if it does, we wish to ignore it in favor of the pointer event. This is checked with a test opposite of the keyboard test; is the sum of screenX and screenY larger than zero? This time there’s an alteration to the offset check by doing the same as the screen test, is the sum of those properties larger than zero as well?

Then the method checks for the pointer event, and upon finding that, it reports which pointer type occurred. Otherwise, the method checks for keyboard interactions and reports accordingly. If neither of those are the culprit, it just reports that something caused this code to run.

So here we have a decent number of examples on how to handle button interactions while reporting the source of those interactions. Yet, this is just one of the handful of form elements that we are so accustomed to using in projects. How does similar code work with other elements?

Checking checkboxes

Indeed, similar code does work very much the same way with checkboxes.

There are a few more nuances, as you might expect by now. The normal usage of <input type="checkbox"> is a related label element that is tied to the input via the for attribute. One major feature of this combination is that clicking on the label element will check the related checkbox.

Now, if we were to attach event listeners for the click event on both elements, we get back what should be obvious results, even if they are a bit strange. For example, we get one click event fired when clicking the checkbox. If we click the label, we get two click events fired instead. If we were to console.log the target of those events, we’ll see on the double event that one is for the label (which makes sense as we clicked it), but there’s a second event from the checkbox. Even though I know these should be the expected results, it is a bit strange because we’re expecting results from user interactions. Yet the results include interactions caused by the browser.

So, the next step is to look at what happens if we were to listen for pointerup, just like some of the previous examples, in the same scenarios. In that case, we don’t get two events when clicking on the label element. This also makes sense as we’re no longer listening for the click event that is being fired from the checkbox when the label is clicked.

There’s yet another scenario to consider. Remember that we have the option to put the checkbox inside the label element, which is common with custom-built checkboxes for styling purposes.

<label for="newsletter">   <input type="checkbox" />   Subscribe to my newsletter </label>

In this case, we really only need to put an event listener on the label and not the checkbox itself. This reduces the number of event listeners involved, and yet we get the same results. Clicks events are fired as a single event for clicking on the label and two events if you click on the checkbox. The pointerup events do the same as before as well, single events if clicking on either element.

These are all things to consider when trying to mimic the behavior of the previous examples with the button element. Thankfully, there’s not too much to it. Here’s an example of seeing what type of interaction was done with a checkbox form element:

This example includes both types of checkbox scenarios mentioned above; the top line is a checkbox/label combination with the for attribute, and the bottom one is a checkbox inside the label. Clicking either one will output a message below them stating which type of interaction happened. So click on one with a mouse or use the keyboard to navigate to them and then interact with Space or Enter; just like the button examples, it should tell you which interaction type causes it.

To make things easier in terms of how many event listeners I needed, I wrapped the checkboxes with a container div that actually responds to the checkbox interactions. You wouldn’t necessarily have to do it this way, but it was a convenient way to do this for my needs. To me, the fun part is that the code from the last button example above just copied over to this example.

const checkbox_container = document.querySelector('#checkbox_container'); const checkbox_msg = document.querySelector('#checkbox_msg');  function chk_handler (e) {   if (e.type === 'click' && e.screenX + e.screenY > 0 && e.offsetX + e.offsetY > 0) {     return false;   } else if (e.pointerType) {     checkbox_msg.innerText = `Pointer Event: $ {e.pointerType}`;   } else if (e.screenX + e.screenY === 0) {     checkbox_msg.innerText = 'Keyboard Click Event!';   } else {     checkbox_msg.innerText = 'Something clicked this?';   }      window.setTimeout(() => {     checkbox_msg.innerText = 'waiting...';   }, 2000); }  checkbox_container.addEventListener('pointerup', chk_handler); checkbox_container.addEventListener('click', chk_handler);

That means we could possibly have the same method being called from the the various elements that need the same detecting the pointer type functionality. Technically, we could put a button inside the checkbox container and it should still work the same. In the end it’s up to you how to implement such things based on the needs of the project.

Radioing your radio buttons

Thankfully, for radio button inputs, we can still use the same code with similar HTML structures. This mostly works the same because checkboxes and radio buttons are essentially created the same way—it’s just that radio buttons tend to come in groups tied together while checkboxes are individuals even in a group. As you’ll see in the following example, it works the same:

Again, same code attached to a similar container div to prevent having to do a number of event listeners for every related element.

When a nuance can be an opportunity

I felt that “nuance” was a good word choice because the things we covered here are not really “issues” with the typical negative connotation that word tends to have in programming circles. I always try to see such things as learning experiences or opportunities. How can I leverage things I know today to push a little further ahead, or maybe it’s time to explore outward into new things to solve problems I face. Hopefully, the examples above provide a somewhat different way to look at things depending on the needs of the project at hand.

We even found an opportunity to explore a browser inconsistency and find a workaround to that situation. Thankfully we don’t run into such things that much with today’s browsers, but I could tell you stories about what we went through when I first started web development.

Despite this article focusing more on form elements because of the click nuance they tend to have with keyboard interactions, some or all of this can be expanded into other elements. It all depends on the context of the situation. For example, I recall having to do multiple events on the same elements depending on the context many times; often for accessibility and keyboard navigation reasons. Have you built a custom <select> element to have a nicer design than the standard one, that also responds to keyboard navigation? You’ll see what I mean when you get there.

Just remember: a “click” today doesn’t always have to be what we think a click has always been.


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What does `font: 110%/1.4 system-ui` mean?

I use this line, or one like it, in a lot of quick demos. Not that it’s not a production-worthy line of code—I just tend to be a bit more explicit on bigger projects.

html {   font: 110%/1.4 system-ui; }

Someone wrote in confused by it, and I could see how a line like that is a bit bewildering at first.

The first thing to know is that it is called shorthand. The font property in CSS gives you the opportunity to set a bunch of font-* properties all at once. In this case, we’re setting:

html {   font-family: system-ui;   font-size: 110%;   line-height: 1.4; }

There are a few more little specific things to know. For example, the order matters.

/* invalid */ html {   font: system-ui 100%/1.4; }

You also can’t set the line-height without also setting the font-size. If you’re going to set line-height, you have to set both. Be extra careful there because something like 20px is both a valid line-height and font-size, and if you only set one, it’ll be the font-size. If you go for a unitless number, which is a great idea for line-height, and try to set it alone, it’ll just fail.

/* invalid */ html {   font: 1.5 system-ui; }

Of course, we’ve got all this detailed in the Almanac entry for font. But I’ll also give a shout to Mateusz Hadryś who has a detailed article titled “Full Text Styling With a Single Line of CSS” with some detailed figures like this that are helpful in understanding everything:

Showing the font property declaration. Style, variant and weight are in yellow with a label above that says order doesn't matter and a label beneath saying these have to be first. Next is size with a forward slash then line-height in red. Above them is a label that says these have to be next to each other. Next is family in light blue with a label that says it has to be last. There is an additional white label that connects size and family that says they are required.

Lastly, if system-ui was part of the confusion there, that’s one of those System Things.


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Chromium spelling and grammar features

Delan Azabani digs into the (hopefully) coming soon ::spelling-error and ::grammar-error pseudo selectors in CSS. Design control is always nice. Hey, if we can style scrollbars and style selected text, why not this?

The squiggly lines that indicate possible spelling or grammar errors have been a staple of word processing on computers for decades. But on the web, these indicators are powered by the browser, which doesn’t always have the information needed to place and render them most appropriately. For example, authors might want to provide their own grammar checker (placement), or tweak colors to improve contrast (rendering).

To address this, the CSS pseudo and text decoration specs have defined new pseudo-elements ::spelling-error and ::grammar-error, allowing authors to style those indicators, and new text-decoration-line values spelling-error and grammar-error, allowing authors to mark up their text with the same kind of decorations as native indicators.

This is a unique post too, as Delan is literally the person implementing the feature in the browser. So there is all sorts of deep-in-the-weeds stuff about how complex all this is and what all the considerations are. Kinda like, ya know, web development. Love to see this. I’ve long felt that it’s weird there is seemingly such little communication between browser engineers and website authors, despite the latter being a literal consumer of the former’s work.

Direct Link to ArticlePermalink


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:nth-child Between Two Fixed Indexes

I needed to select some elements between two fixed indexes the other day — like literally the second through fifth elements. Ironically, I have a whole post on “Useful :nth-child Recipes” but this wasn’t one of them.

The answer, it turns out, isn’t that complicated. But it did twist my brain a little bit.

Say you want to select all divs from the second one and beyond:

div:nth-child(n + 2) {  } /* [ ]  [x]  [x]  [x]  [x]  [x]  [x]  [x], etc. */

That makes logical sense to me. If n is 0, the expression is 2, and n increments upwards from there and selects everything beyond it.

But then how do you “stop” the selecting at a specific index? Like…

/* Not real */ div:nth-child(minmax(2, 5)) {  } /* [ ]  [x]  [x]  [x]  [x]  [x]  [ ]  [ ], etc. */

Well, we can do the opposite thing, selecting only the first set of elements then stopping (constraining in the other direction) by reversing the value of n.

div:nth-child(-n + 6) {  } /* [x]  [x]  [x]  [x]  [x]  [ ]  [ ]  [ ], etc. */

That will select the the first five elements and then stop because, as n gets bigger, the expression value goes to 0 and into negative numbers.

So, the CSS trick here is to combine both of those :nth-child expressions.

We know that CSS pseudo-selectors are additive in the sense that they must both be true in order to select them.

a:first-child:hover {   /* selects the <a> if it is BOTH the first child and in a hover state */ }

To accomplish the idea of “2 and over” and “5 and under” we chain the pseudo-selectors:

div:nth-child(n + 2):nth-child(-n + 6) {   background: green; }

That’ll do:

The part that twisted my brain was thinking about “additive” pseudo-selectors. I was thinking that selecting “2 and up” would do just that, and “5 and under” would do just that, and those things combined meant “all elements.” But that’s just wrong thinking. It’s the conditions that are additive, meaning that every element must meet both conditions.

If you found this confusing like I did, wait until you check out Quanity Queries. By nesting a lot of nth-style pseudo-selectors, you can build logic that, for example, only selects elements depending on how many of them are in the DOM.

div:nth-last-child(n+2):nth-last-child(-n+5):first-child,  div:nth-last-child(n+2):nth-last-child(-n+5):first-child ~ div {   /* Only select if there are at least 2 and at most 5 */ }

Una broke this down even further for us a while back.


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System *Things

I think we’re all largely aware of named colors in CSS:

color: OldLace; background: rebeccapurple;

I guess you’d just call those “named colors” in CSS.

Those aren’t the only kind of named colors there are though. Some of them are a bit more fluid. Jim Nielsen was blowin’ minds the other day when he blogged about System Colors.

What I need is a way to say “hey browser, for my dropdown, use the same black (or white if in light mode) that you’re using for the background color of the document”. I need access to a variable of sorts that references the exact “black” the browser is using.

Then, via Thomas Steiner, I discovered there are literally CSS system colors. These aren’t colors that are (or at least attempt to be) the same across all browsers, but they are allowed to be set by “choices made by the user, the browser, or the OS.” So for example, Canvas is the “background of application content or documents.” Case in point: the background-color for dark mode is #1e1e1e in Safari and #121212 in Chrome. If you like that, meaning you’re leaning into what the browser thinks is a good color for things, then you can now access it through that Canvas keyword.

System colors! There are a bunch of them.

  • Canvas
  • CanvasText
  • LinkText
  • VisitedText
  • ActiveText
  • ButtonFace
  • ButtonText
  • ButtonBorder
  • Field
  • FieldText
  • Highlight
  • HighlightText
  • Mark
  • MarkText
  • GrayText

Not only do they change across browsers, they change when toggling between dark and light mode as long as you have CSS in place to support them…

html {   color-scheme: light dark; }

You’ll see them change when modes change. And you don’t have to use them for what they were designed for, I suppose:

So those are the system colors, but you can see right in that Pen that I’ve also used a system font: system-ui. Same vibe! It’s purposely fluid. It’s not going to be the same typeface across browsers and operating systems. Jim also covered this a while back. We used to replicate the idea with a big long stack of named fonts, but now CSS helps with it (in supporting browsers).

There are a bunch of them specced:

  • serif
  • sans-serif
  • monospace
  • system-ui
  • cursive
  • fantasy
  • emoji
  • math
  • fangsong
  • ui-serif
  • ui-sans-serif
  • ui-monospace
  • ui-rounded

Support seems scattered. For example, I could set this:

p {   font-family: ui-monospace, system-ui, fantasy; }

On my Mac, in Safari, I’d get SF Mono (ui-monospace). But in Chrome, ui-monospace doesn’t work so it would fall back to SF Pro (system-ui). In Firefox neither ui-monospace or system-ui work and I’d get Papyrus (fantasy). So font stacks are still important. It’s just funny to think about because these new system font keywords are almost like font stacks in and of themselves.

So there are system colors and system fonts — doesn’t that beg the question of what other system things there are?

Well, there are named font weights — like how font-weight: bold; is the same as 700, and bolder is just a bit more bold than the parent. But that doesn’t feel like a system-level thing where the system would want to take hold of that and do different things. But hey, maybe.

There are also named font sizes, like font-size: xx-small;. I could see systems wanting to get their hands on those values and adjust them to sizes that make sense contextually, but in a quick glance (comparing Chrome and iOS Safari), they compute to the same sizes.

Those named font size values don’t travel, either. I can’t do margin: large;. Well, I can, but it doesn’t do anything. So no real universal system sizes.

What about system icons? We do kinda have those in the form of emoji! We use the emoji knowing that different systems will render it differently and are generally fine with that as we know it will look consistent with that user’s platform.

The “Blue Book” emoji (via Emojipedia)

We could sort of think of inputs as “system inputs.” We know different browsers and platforms render input controls in very different ways, and that is how the spec intends it. To each their own.


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Working around the viewport-based fluid typography bug in Safari

Sara digs into a bug I happened to have mentioned back in 2012 where fluid type didn’t resize when the browser window resized. Back then, it affected Chrome 20 and Safari 6, but the bug still persists today in Safari when a calc() involves viewport units.

Sara credits Martin Auswöger for a super weird and clever trick using -webkit-marquee-increment: 0vw; (here’s the documentation) to force Safari into the correct behavior. I’ll make a screencast just to document it:

I randomly happened to have Safari Technology Preview open, which at the moment is Safari 15, and I see the bug is fixed. So I wouldn’t rush out the door to implement this.

Direct Link to ArticlePermalink


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Scaling Organizations Should Consider Building a Website Backed by a CRM Platform

To make some terminology clear here:

  • CMS = Content Management System
  • CRM = Customer Relationship Management

Both are essentially database-backed systems for managing data. HubSpot is both, and much more. Where a CMS might be very focused on content and the metadata around making content useful, a CRM is focused on leads and making communicating with current and potential customers easier.

They can be brothers-in-arms. We’ll get to that.

Say a CRM is set up for people. You run a Lexus dealership. There is a quote form on the website. People fill it out and enter the CRM. That lead can go to your sales team for taking care of that customer.

But a CRM could be based on other things. Say instead of people it’s based on real estate listings. Each main entry is a property, with essentially metadata like photos, address, square footage, # of bedrooms/baths, etc. Leads can be associated with properties.

That would be a nice CRM setup for a real estate agency, but the data that is in that CRM might be awfully nice for literally building a website around those property listings. Why not tap into that CRM data as literal data to build website pages from?

That’s what I mean by a CRM and CMS being brothers-in-arms. Use them both! That’s why HubSpot can be an ideal home for websites like this.

To keep that tornado of synergy going, HubSpot can also help with marketing, customer service, and integrations. So there is a lot of power packed into one platform.

And with that power, also a lot of comfort and flexibility.

  • You’re still developing locally.
  • You’re still using Git.
  • You can use whatever framework or site-building tools you want.
  • You’ve got a CLI to control things.
  • There is a VS Code Extension for super useful auto-complete of your data.
  • There is a staging environment.

And the feature just keep coming. HubSpot really has a robust set of tools to make sure you can do what you need to do.

As developer-rich as this all is, it doesn’t mean that it’s developer-only. There are loads of tools for working with the website you build that require no coding at all. Dashboard for content management, data wrangling, style control, and even literal drag-and-drop page builders.

It’s all part of a very learnable system.

Themestemplatesmodules, and fields are the objects you’ll work with most in HubSpot CMS as a developer. Using these different objects effectively lets you give content creators the freedom to work and iterate on websites independently while staying inside style and layout guardrails you set.


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Positioning Overlay Content with CSS Grid

Not news to any web developer in 2021: CSS Grid is an incredibly powerful tool for creating complex, distinct two-dimensional modern web layouts.

Recently, I have been experimenting with CSS Grid and alignment properties to create component layouts that contain multiple overlapping elements. These layouts could be styled using absolute positioning and a mix of offset values (top, right, bottom, left), negative margins, and transforms. But, with CSS Grid, positioning overlay elements can be built using more logical, readable properties and values. The following are a few examples of where these grid properties come in handy.

It will help to read up on grid-template-areas and grid-area properties if you’re not yet familiar with them.

Expanding images inside limited dimensions

In the demo, there is a checkbox that toggles the overflow visibility so that we can see where the image dimensions expand beyond the container on larger viewport widths.

Here’s a common hero section with a headline overlapping an image. Although the image is capped with a max-width, it scales up to be quite tall on desktop. Because of this, the content strategy team has requested that some of the pertinent page content below the hero remain visible in the viewport as much as possible. Combining this layout technique and a fluid container max-height using the CSS clamp() function, we can develop something that adjusts based on the available viewport space while anchoring the hero image to the center of the container.

CSS clamp(), along with the min() and max() comparison functions, are well-supported in all modern browsers. Haven’t used them? Ahmad Shadeed conducts a fantastic deep dive in this article.

Open this Pen and resize the viewport width. Based on the image dimensions, the container height expands until it hits a maximum height. Notice that the image continues to grow while remaining centered in the container. Resize the viewport height and the container will flex between its max-height’s lower and upper bound values defined in the clamp() function.

Prior to using grid for the layout styles, I might have tried absolute positioning on the image and title, used an aspect ratio padding trick to create a responsive height, and object-fit to retain the ratio of the image. Something like this could get it there:

.container {   position: relative;   max-height: clamp(400px, 50vh, 600px); }  .container::before {   content: '';   display: block;   padding-top: 52.25%; }  .container > * {   max-width: 1000px; }  .container .image {   position: absolute;   top: 0;   left: 50%;   transform: translateX(-50%);   width: 100%;   height: 100%;   object-fit: cover; }  .container .title {   position: absolute;   top: 50%;   left: 50%;   transform: translate(-50%, -50%);   width: 100%;   text-align: center; }

Maybe it’s possible to whittle the code down some more, but there’s still a good chunk of styling needed. Managing the same responsive layout with CSS Grid will simplify these layout style rules while making the code more readable. Check it out in the following iteration:

.container {   display: grid;   grid-template: "container";   place-items: center;   place-content: center;   overflow: hidden;   max-height: clamp(450px, 50vh, 600px); }  .container > * {   grid-area: container;   max-width: 1000px; }

place-content: center instructs the image to continue growing out from the middle of the container. Remove this line and see that, while the image is still vertically centered via place-items, once the max-height is reached, the image will stick to the top of the container block and go on scaling beyond its bottom. Set place-content: end center and you’ll see the image spill over the top of the container.

This behavior may seem conceptually similar to applying object-fit: cover on an image as a styling method for preserving its intrinsic ratio while resizing to fill its content-box dimensions (it was utilized in the absolute position iteration). However, in this grid context, the image element governs the height of its parent and, once the parent’s max-height is reached, the image continues to expand, maintaining its ratio, and remains completely visible if the parent overflow is shown. object-fit could even be used with the aspect-ratio property here to create a consistent aspect ratio pattern for the hero image:

.container .image {   width: 100%;   height: auto;   object-fit: cover;   aspect-ratio: 16 / 9; }

The overlay grid-area

Moving on to the container’s direct children, grid-area arranges each of them so that they overlap the same space. In this example, grid-template-areas with the named grid area makes the code a little more readable and works well as a pattern for other overlay-style layouts within a component library. That being said, it is possible to get this same result by removing the template rule and, instead of grid-area: container, using integers:

.container > * {   grid-area: 1 / 1; }

This is shorthand for grid-row-start, grid-column-start, grid-row-end, and grid-column-end. Since the siblings in this demo all share the same single row/column area, only the start lines need to be set for the desired result.

Setting place-self to place itself

Another common overlay pattern can be seen on image carousels. Interactive elements are often placed on top of the carousel viewport. I’ve extended the first demo and replaced the static hero image with a carousel.

Same story as before: This layout could fall back on absolute positioning and use integer values in a handful of properties to push and pull elements around their parent container. Instead, we’ll reuse the grid layout rulesets from the previous demo. Once applied, it appears as you might expect: all of the child elements are centered inside the container, overlapping one another.

Picture of a cute light brown puppy with the words Welcome to the Snuggle Zone on top in white. The text overlaps over text elements and is hard to read.
With place-items: center declared on the container, all of its direct children will overlap one another.

The next step is to set alignment values on individual elements. The place-self property—shorthand for align-self and justify-self—provides granular control over the position of a single item inside the container. Here are the layout styles altogether:

.container {   display: grid;   grid-template:"container";   place-items: center;   place-content: center;   overflow: hidden;   max-height: clamp(450px, 50vh, 600px); }  .container > * {   grid-area: container;   max-width: 1000px; }  .title {   place-self: start center; }  .carousel-control.prev {   place-self: center left; }  .carousel-control.next {   place-self: center right; }  .carousel-dots {   place-self: end center; }

There’s just one small problem: The title and carousel dot indicators get pulled out into the overflow when the image exceeds the container dimensions.

To properly contain these elements within the parent, a grid-template-row value needs to be 100% of the container, set here as one fractional unit.

.container {   grid-template-areas: "container";   grid-template-rows: 1fr; }

For this demo, I leaned into the the grid-template shorthand (which we will see again later in this article).

.container {   grid-template: "container" 1fr; }

After providing that little update, the overlay elements stay within the parent container, even when the carousel images spread beyond the carousel’s borders.

Alignment and named grid-template-areas

Let’s use the previous overlay layout methods for one more example. In this demo, each box contains elements positioned in different areas on top of an image.

For the first iteration, a named template area is declared to overlay the children on the parent element space, similar to the previous demos:

.box {   display: grid;   grid-template-areas: "box"; }  .box > *, .box::before {   grid-area: box; }

The image and semi-transparent overlay now cover the box area, but these style rules also stretch the other items over the entire space. This seems like the right time for place-self to pepper these elements with some alignment magic!

.tag {   place-self: start; }  .title {   place-self: center; }  .tagline {   place-self: end start; }  .actions {   place-self: end; }

That‘s looking great! Every element is positioned in their defined places over the image as intended. Well, almost. There’s a bit of nuance to the bottom area where the tagline and action buttons reside. Hover over an image to reveal the tagline. This might look fine with a short string of text on a desktop screen, but if the tagline becomes longer (or the boxes in the viewport smaller), it will eventually extend behind the action buttons.

A two by two grid of images with text overlaid on top, as well as a tag label in the top right corner and, tagline in the bottom left corner and actions to like and share in the bottom right corner of each one.
Note how the tagline in the first box on the second row overlaps the action buttons.

To clean this up, the grid-template-areas use named areas for the tagline and actions. The grid-template-columns rule is introduced so that the actions container only scales to accommodate the size of its buttons while the tagline fills in the rest of the inline area using the 1fr value.

.box {   display: grid;   grid-template-areas: "tagline actions";   grid-template-columns: 1fr auto; }

This can also be combined with the grid-template shorthand. The column values are defined after a slash, like so:

.box {   grid-template: "tagline actions" / 1fr auto; }

The grid-area is then converted to integers now that the “box” keyword has been removed.

.box > *, .box::before {   grid-area: 1 / 1 / -1 / -1; }

Everything should look the way it did before. Now for the finishing touch. The tagline and actions keywords are set as their respective element grid-area values:

.tagline {   grid-area: tagline;   place-self: end start; }  .actions {   grid-area: actions;   place-self: end; }

Now, when hovering over the cards in the demo, the tagline wraps to multiple lines when the text becomes too long, rather than pushing past the action buttons like it did before.

Named grid lines

Looking back at the first iteration of this code, I really liked having the default grid-area set to the box keyword. There’s a way to get that back.

I’m going add some named grid lines to the template. In the grid-template rule below, the first line defines the named template areas, which also represents the row. After the slash are the explicit column sizes (moved to a new line for readability). The [box-start] and [box-end] custom identifiers represent the box area.

.box {   display: grid;   grid-template:      [box-start] "tagline actions" [box-end] /     [box-start] 1fr auto [box-end]; }  .box > *, .box::before {   grid-area: box; }

Passing a name with the -start and -end syntax into brackets defines an area for that name. This name, known as a custom ident, can be anything but words from the CSS spec should be avoided.

Logical placement values

One of the really interesting parts to observe in this last example is the use of logical values, like start and end, for placing elements. If the direction or writing-mode were to change, then the elements would reposition accordingly.

When the “right to left” direction is selected from the dropdown, the inline start and end positions are reversed. This layout is ready to accommodate languages, such as Arabic or Hebrew, that read from right to left without having to override any of the existing CSS.

Wrapping up

I hope you enjoyed these demos and that they provide some new ideas for your own project layouts—I’ve compiled a collection of examples you can check out over at CodePen. The amount of power packed into the CSS Grid spec is incredible. Take a minute to reflect on the days of using floats and a clearfix for primitive grid row design, then return to the present day and behold the glorious layout and display properties of today‘s CSS. To make these things work well is no easy task, so let’s applaud the members of the CSS working group. The web space continues to evolve and they continue to make it a fun place to build.

Now let’s release container queries and really get this party started.


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