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Harnessing Flexbox For Today’s Web Apps

Although the syntax might be initially confounding, flexbox1 lives up to its name. It creates intelligent boxes that are stretchable, squeezable and capable of changing visual order. It provides simple solutions to layout paradigms that CSS has always struggled with: vertical centering and equal heights. Flex items are truly accommodating and a pleasure to work with.

Chris Coyier sums up flexbox2 nicely:

The Flexbox Layout (Flexible Box) module (currently a W3C Last Call Working Draft) aims at providing a more efficient way to lay out, align and distribute space among items in a container, even when their size is unknown and/or dynamic (thus the word “flex”).

The main idea behind the flex layout is to give the container the ability to alter its items’ width/height (and order) to best fill the available space (mostly to accommodate to all kind of display devices and screen sizes). A flex container expands items to fill available free space, or shrinks them to prevent overflow.

Flexbox truly shines with HTML5 web applications. Most web apps consist of a series of modular, reusable components. You can use flexbox for those bits of layout that induce headaches and that depend on brittle CSS hacks to work. Small modules work very well with flexbox, and you can use floats and other tools for broader sections of the layout.

I’m using flexbox in a big way for a web app that I’m currently working on, and I am very pleased with how it handles layout and box calculations intelligently. I’d like to share some demos and examples of this — any feedback would be appreciated.

This article presumes that you have working knowledge of flexbox. A wealth of information is available online. Keep in mind that the specification has undergone several changes over the years.

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