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Introduction to Browser-Specific CSS Hacks

Introduction to Browser-Specific CSS Hacks

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Introduction to Browser-Specific CSS Hacks
1 of 5
10/13/2006 9:43 PM
Trenton Moss

Trenton is crazy
about Web
usability and
accessibility \u2013

so crazy that he went and
started his ownweb
accessibility and usability
consultancy to help make
the Internet a better place
for everyone.

Trenton Moss has written13 articles for SitePoint with an average reader rating of8.8.

View all articles by Trenton
Home\u00bbClient Side Coding \u00bb CSS Tutorials \u00bb Page 1

By Trenton Moss
January 20th 2005
Reader Rating: 9.1

More and more Web developers are ditching tables and coming
round to the idea of usingCSS [1] to control the layouts of sites.
And, given the many benefits of using CSS, such as quicker
download time, improvedaccessibility [2] and easier site
management, why not?

The Problem with CSS

Historically, the main problem with using CSS has been a lack of browser
support. This is no longer the case, as version 5 browsers, which all provide good support for CSS, now account for
over 99% of the browsers in use.

The problem that remains is that browsers can sometimes interpret CSS commands in different ways, which fact
alone causes many developers to throw their arms up in the air and switch back to pixel-perfect table layouts. Fear
not, though! As you learn more about CSS, you'll gradually start to understand the different browser
interpretations and realise that there aren't really that many -- and that, where necessary, their idiosyncrasies can
be catered to using various workarounds or hacks.

How CSS Hacks Work

The way CSS hacks works is to send one CSS rule to the browser(s) you're trying to trick, and a second CSS rule that overrides the first command to the other browsers. If you have two CSS rules with identical selectors, the second CSS rule will almost always take precedence.

Say, for example, you want the space between a page's header area and its content to total 25px in Internet
Explorer. This gap might look good inIE, [3] but inFirefox [4],Opera [5] and Safari the gap is huge -- you decide
that a 10px gap looks far better. To achieve this perfect look in all browsers, you could use the following two CSS

Introduction to Browser-Specific CSS
Introduction to Browser-Specific CSS Hacks
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10/13/2006 9:43 PM
#header {margin-bottom:25px}
#header {margin-bottom:10px}

The first command is intended for IE, the second for all other browsers. How does this work? Well, it won't at the moment becauseall browsers can understandboth CSS rules. As such, they'll all use the second CSS rule because it comes after the first.

By inserting a CSS hack, we can perform browser detection by hiding the second CSS rule from IE. This means that
IE won't even know that rule exists, and will therefore use the first CSS rule. How do we do this? Read on to find

Browser Detection for Internet Explorer

To send different CSS rules to IE, we can use the child selector command, which IE can't understand. The child selector command involves two elements, one of which is the child of the other. So,html[6]>body refers to the child,body, contained within the parent,html.

Using the example of the header margin, our CSS command would be:
#header {margin-bottom:3em}
html>body #header {margin-bottom:1em}
IE can't understand the second CSS rule, due to thehtml>body CSS command, so it will ignore it and use the
first rule. All other browsers will use the second rule.
Browser Detection for Internet Explorer 5

It may seem strange at first to send different CSS rules to different versions of a browser, but in the case of IE5 it's
very necessary. The problem lies in IE5's misinterpretation of the box model. When we specify the width of an
element in CSS, padding and borders aren't included in this value. IE5, however, incorporates these values into the
width value, which causes element widths to become smaller in this browser.

The following CSS rule would result in a width of 10em for all browsers, except IE5, which would give it a width of
ust 5em (IE5 would incorporate two sets of padding and border, on both the left and right, when calculating the
#header {padding: 2em; border: 0.5em; width: 10em}

The solution to this problem? The box model hack [7], invented by Tantek \u00c7elik, who has become quite famous in the CSS world as a result of this hack -- and rightly so. To perform browser detection, and send a different CSS rule to IE5 you would use the following:

Introduction to Browser-Specific CSS Hacks
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10/13/2006 9:43 PM
#header {padding: 2em; border: 0.5em; width: 15em; voice-family: "\"}\"";
voice-family:inherit; width: 10em}

How Mr. Celik worked out how to do this is anyone's guess! The important thing is that it works: IE5 will use the
first width value of 15em, 5em of which will be taken up by the two sets of padding and border (one each for the left
and for the right). This would ultimately give the element a width of 10em in IE5.

The 15em value will then be overridden by the second width value of 10em by all browsers except IE5, which, for some reason, can't understand the CSS command that comes immediately after all those squiggles. It doesn't look pretty, but it does work!

There is a slight problem with the box model hack, as it can often 'kill' the next CSS rule in IE5.0. However, there
are plenty of other box model hacks [8] that you could implement instead.
Browser Detection for Internet Explorer on the Mac

Quite simply, IE on the Mac does strange things with CSS. The browser's become somewhat obsolete since
Microsoft announced it's not going to release an updated version. As such, many Web developers code their
CSS-driven sites so that the site works in IE/Mac, although it may not offer the same level of advanced
functionality or design that's offered to users of other platform and browser combinations. Provided IE/Mac users
can access all areas of the site, this is seen as a suitable way to do things.

To hide a command using the IE/Mac CSS hack [9] is simple. It involves wrapping a set of dashes and stars around
as many CSS rules as you like:
/* Hide from IE-Mac \*/

#header {margin-bottom:3em}
#footer {margin-top:1.5em}
/* End hide */

IE/Mac will simply ignore all these commands. This CSS hack can actually be quite useful if there's a certain area of the site that doesn't work properly in IE/Mac. If that section isn't fundamental to visitors' use of the site, you can simply hide it from IE/Mac like so:

#noiemac {display: none}

/* Hide from IE-Mac \*/
#noiemac {display: block}
/* End hide */

The first CSS rule hides the entire section assigned the noiemac id (i.e. <div id="noiemac">). The second
CSS rule, which IE/Mac can't see, displays this section.

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