CSS3 Box Sizing – a Way of Calculating the Size of a Box

Buy ebook

CSS Mine

Get my e-book focusing on CSS3 and
modern web UI development.

Learn more

This is a change in calculating the width and height of the element or the box-model.

You will learn why developers who make fluid layouts just love the box-sizing: border-box property. And you will also learn why people who hate math love it. Just read on.

Syntax

box-sizing: content-box | border-box | padding-box;

Do you remember the traditional box-model value that IE6 and older versions used to handle the sizing of elements?

The width or height of an element =
  actual visible width or height of the content
  + padding
  + border

Do you get it? This is the border-box box-model.

Box Sizing

In contrast, all other modern browsers use the content-box value or the “W3C box-model”. You know the drill:

The width or height of an element =
  actual visible width or height of the content

This is the initial value of the box-sizing property which we can – thankfully – change.

Just for the record: let’s explain how the width and height of an element is calculated when using the box-sizing: padding-box declaration. It is in fact a border-box value, but the width of the border property is not added into the calculation.

Good, but how can we make use of it? Let’s take a look at a few scenarios.

Examples of Use

Border Box Everywhere

* { box-sizing: border-box } Some people may use the box-sizing property if using the W3C box model is too hard to tackle. The W3C box model is also considered to be counter-intuitive by the vast majority of developers. Therefore they let browsers calculate all sizes using the border-box value. A similar approach can be found in modern front-end frameworks such as Bootstrap or Foundation.

Fluid Layout

This property is widely used in responsive web design, especially when working with layouts that are percentage-based. Just imagine navigation with five items, and each item being 20% of the width, plus an item separator using a fixed-width border:

.nav li {
  width: 20%;
  display: inline-block;
  border-left: .25em solid #fff;
}

Unfortunately, when using this notation, the fifth navigation item will break onto the next line. To avoid this, all we need to do is to tell the browser that it would be a good idea to calculate the width of the navigation items using the box-sizing: border-box property:

.nav li {
  box-sizing: border-box;
  width: 20%;
  display: inline-block;
  border-left: .25em solid #fff;
}

See a live example at cdpn.io/e/FeLkJ.

Changing the Size of Form Fields

The box-sizing property is very handy when it comes to unifying how the width and height of form fields are calculated. Depending on the browser, some of the fields are handled using the content-box property, some using the border-box property (e.g. input type='submit' vs select). If you want to make sure that all form elements in your design have the same height, just declare box-sizing: border-box before you even start to think about styling them. A live example of form fields can be found at cdpn.io/e/iBquK.

Browser Support

IE7+ and all modern browsers. If you previously did not know about this property, you will be surprised how well it is supported: caniuse.com/box-sizing.

On the other hand, it is good to know that the not-so-common padding-box property is supported by Firefox only.




Content

Introduction

Introduction

On today’s frontend UI development

UI development transformations

Tools, technologies and workflows

Fallback strategies

CSS3 reference guide

Introduction

Text properties

Background properties

Border properties

Box properties

Media Queries

CSS transforms

CSS animations

CSS3 Layout

Another CSS3 Properties

Non-standard properties

End

End

Buy ebook

CSS Mine

Get my e-book focusing on CSS3 and
modern web UI development.

Learn more