A minimalistic bundle of three SCSS/Sass tools for building modern, flexible websites: a better normalize, a semantic flexbox-based grid system, and a fluid sizing function.
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Vitals makes a great addition to your Sass toolkit. It happily exists alongside the other libraries you already use and even expects you to use them.

Vitals simply consists of three Sass tools for building modern, flexible websites: an improved normalize (also available in pure CSS), a flexbox-based grid layout system, and a fluid sizing function.

Browser support:

  • IE 11
  • Edge
  • Firefox 28+
  • Chrome 44+
  • Safari/iOS 10.1+
  • Opera 31+
  • Chrome for Android
  • Firefox for Android

The goal is to be compatible with the most common browsers and versions currently in use. For example, older versions of IE (like 6-8) are intentionally not supported. Very few people use those versions, and if support for them is needed, I'm not interested in tackling that as it involves a lot of extra work for not much benefit.

I highly recommend combining Vitals with the excellent MQ+ media query library to create responsive grids and font sizes.

How to use Vitals in your Sass project

Disclaimer: I come from the world of PHP and have no experience with Ruby or Node, so I've never really used any of the usual tooling to install this kind of stuff. So naturally, I'm writing these instructions for someone like myself.

If you grab everything in the scss directory and put it in the same directory as the file you're working on, you can just use this, which will pull in all the important stuff:

@import "vitals";

Or you can import the other components individually, if you like:

@import "fluid";
@import "grid";

How to use Vitals Grid

To start off, create a CSS class for a grid row container - something like this:

.page {
  @include vg-row;

If you want, you can then add any of the following to that class to tweak it:

  // reverses the flow of cells in the row (like LTR -> RTL)
  // NOTE: this also reverses the effects of vg-align-left and vg-align-right!
  @include vg-reverse;

  // sets the horizontal alignment of all cells within row
  @include vg-align-left;
  @include vg-align-center;
  @include vg-align-right;
  @include vg-align-justify;      // equal space between, none on l/r edge
  @include vg-align-equalmargins; // space on edge will be 1/2 of space between

  // sets the vertical alignment of all cells within row
  @include vg-valign-top;
  @include vg-valign-middle;
  @include vg-valign-bottom;

Now that you have a row container, here's the signature of the cell mixin.

  @mixin vg-cell($fraction[, $gutter: 0.625rem]);

  // ONLY for cells inside containers that use vg-reverse
  @mixin vg-cell-reverse($fraction[, $gutter: 0.625rem]);

The first parameter is a fraction that specifies the width of the cell, and the second (optional) parameter sets a custom gutter size between the cells (default is 0.625rem, or 10px).

So, let's make some cells to put in the row. I think I'll have a left and a right sidebar (both the same size) with a content area in the middle, and I'll just use the default gutter.

.sidebar {
  @include vg-cell(1/4);

.content {
  @include vg-cell(1/2);

I want all of my cells to match the height of the tallest one, so I won't need any of the following. But if you don't want that behavior, you can have them vertically aligned however you want, and you can change this behavior at the cell or even container level (see above).

  // overrides the vertical alignment setting for this cell only
  @include vg-cell-valign-top;
  @include vg-cell-valign-middle;
  @include vg-cell-valign-bottom;

How to make cells responsive

To use Vitals Grid in a responsive manner, just redefine your @vg-cells with a different size inside of media queries. This works because any cell that exceeds 100% of a row's width will be wrapped automatically – creating a column without setting flex-direction: column (which would come with its own set of caveats). And it's better than a flex column because this way you can still have multiple cells on one row if you want.

Here's a primitive example using the sidebar class and media query library I recommended above.

.sidebar {
  @include vg-cell(1); // full width by default, for mobile-first design

  @include mq(48em) {
    @include vg-cell(1/4); // 25% wide at desktop resolution

It's that simple!

How to use Vitals Fluid

Fluid is a function that will output a flexible dimension, which scales along with the viewport width, for use with any property.

If you use this OUTSIDE of a media query, the scaling will not stop at a minimum or maximum.

This function takes a min and max size, and a min and max viewport.

@function v-fluid($sm, $lg, $narrow, $wide);

$sm is the size to be used when the viewport is at $narrow width, and $lg is the size at $wide width.

This function outputs a calc() string that scales the size linearly from $sm to $lg for the viewport range of $narrow to $wide.

Here's an example using Modular Scale and MQ+.

body {
  // the smallest font size, for mobile first
  font-size: ms(0);

  @include mq(45em, 60em) {
    // the intermediate size, which scales smoothly
    font-size: v-fluid($sm: ms(0), $lg: ms(1), $narrow: 45em, $wide: 60em);

  @include mq(60em) {
    // the largest size
    font-size: ms(1);

About the grid layout system

At some point in my journey as a web dev, I came across Bootstrap like so many have. Then at a later date, I decided to see what else was out there, and decided I liked Foundation better. But as I started to look into using Sass, while Foundation had a Sass version, I came to find that there were some grid systems that were built primarily for Sass usage.

... like Bourbon Neat. I was about to adopt that as my own when I realized that it was a float-based grid like the Bootstrap and Foundation I had left behind. But I did appreciate its emphasis on semantics, and I wanted to hang onto that as I looked for a flexbox-based system.

So I found a project called Batch that implemented flexbox using Sass. It looked cool until I saw the unsemantic class names that resembled Bootstrap.

I figured surely it wouldn't take much to adapt Batch into something that would allow better semantics. So that's what I've done here.

Then Neat 2.0 came out and introduced me to the concept of a push-left grid being better than the old half-gutter grid I had originally written for Vitals. Because Neat is still sticking to a float-based grid, I adapted the push-left concept to flexbox to make the current Vitals Grid system.

You'll notice that there's no compiled version of the grid system. That's intentional; my entire purpose for making it was for it to be used with Sass to generate grid code for semantic CSS selectors. That's just not possible with pure CSS. So if you want a pure CSS flexbox grid system, check out Batch.

Is that it?

Yes, for now. I think there are some existing projects that adequately address their goals, such as:

I'll add to this list as I find other useful Sass projects.


Modular Scale

If you use the Modular Scale library, I've found that the following configuration gives some nice round increments at multiples of 3.

$modularscale: (
  base: 1rem,
  ratio: 1.25992

Using this, ms(0) = 1rem, ms(3) = 2rem, ms(6) = 4rem, ms(9) = 8rem, and so on.

I've included this in _defaults.scss which you must import explicitly if you want to use it, as it is optional.