UX Design and Development course

Using CSS flexible boxes


The CSS3 Flexible Box, or flexbox, is a layout mode providing for the arrangement of elements on a page such that the elements behave predictably when the page layout must accommodate different screen sizes and different display devices. For many applications, the flexible box model provides an improvement over the block model in that it does not use floats, nor do the flex container's margins collapse with the margins of its contents.

Many designers will find the flexbox model easier to use. Child elements in a flexbox can be laid out in any direction and can have flexible dimensions to adapt to the display space. Positioning child elements is thus much easier, and complex layouts can be achieved more simply and with cleaner code, as the display order of the elements is independent of their order in the source code. This independence intentionally affects only the visual rendering, leaving speech order and navigation based on the source order.

Note: Though CSS Flexible Boxes Layout specification is at the Candidate Recommendation stage, not all browsers have implemented it. WebKit implementation must be prefixed with -webkit-; Internet Explorer implements an old version of the spec, prefixed with -ms-; Opera 12.10 implements the latest version of the spec, unprefixed. See the compatibility table on each property for an up-to-date compatibility status.

Flexible boxes concept

The defining aspect of the flex layout is the ability to alter its items' width and/or height to best fill the available space on any display device. A flex container expands items to fill available free space, or shrinks them to prevent overflow.

The flexbox layout algorithm is direction-agnostic as opposed to the block layout, which is vertically-biased, or the inline layout, which is horizontally-biased. While the block layout works well for pages, it lacks sufficient definition to support application components that have to change orientation, resize, stretch, or shrink as the user agent changes, flips from vertical to horizontal, and so forth. Flexbox layout is most appropriate for the components of an application, and small-scale layouts, while the (emerging) Grid layout is intended for larger scale layouts. Both are part of a wider effort of the CSS Working Group to provide for greater interoperability of web applications with different user agents, different writing modes, and other demands on flexibility.


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