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fox.js allows you to use ASCII-art to create grid layouts in JavaScript.

Grid layouts are often an important part of creating rich internet applications, and yet creating them is still quite difficult and verbose. The humble and experimental goal of fox.js is to see whether ASCII art provides a helpful way to design such layouts for applications easily and flexibly.

Oh, right. Table layouts are evil. Look away now if you want. I'll just say that: a) this is on the client side, so semantics for SEO and so on become less important; and b) I've plans to allow fox.js to support other layout approaches like flex and grid anyway.

In the 21st century, you shouldn't care; but fox.js is less than 1k compressed.

See some examples, or read the guide below to get started.


Include fox.js in your web app. It adds the global Fox namespace. Currently this has one function of note: Fox.makeTable().

This function takes two arguments. The first is an array of equally-lengthed strings that constitute the ASCII-art of the layout you want. The second is a configuration object of options that alters the way the function works.

By default, the function returns a DOM node for the table you've drawn. So, the simplest usage of the function is something like:

        "|A  |",

This adds a one row, one column table to the document's body, with the letter A in it. See below for how to use the 'map' option to patch longer strings, elements, or views into the layout.

Or course you also can do something more exotic, with row and cell spanning:

        "|A  |B  |C  |",
        "|   +---+---+",
        "|   |D  |E  |",
        "|   +---+   |",
        "|   |F  |   |",

The rules to obey when you're drawing your table are as follows:

  • All rows must be the same length
  • Vertices of cells must be drawn with a plus symbol +
  • Horizontal edges of cells must be drawn with a hyphen, -
  • Vertical edges of cells must be drawn with a pipe symbol, |
  • Every cell must be at least one character high, and one character wide
  • Label cells with a single letter

Watch for wayward or missing + symbols. Unexpected behavior may ensue.


The configuration options (in the function's second object argument) are as follows:


The output option takes the following possible values:

  • 'node' (default) - the function returns the table as a HTMLTableElement node
  • 'html' - the function returns the table's HTML as a string
  • 'raw' - the function returns the table as a raw JavaScript arrays & objects

For example, to prompt the HTML string of the table:

        "|A  |",
    ], {
        output: 'html'

The 'raw' output mode returns an array of table rows, which in turn are arrays of cell objects, containing properties describing the cells' row and column spans, content, and styling.

(If you wish to alter these objects and then resubmit them to Fox to have them turned into an HTMLTableElement, you can use the Fox.toTableElement() function)

There's a JSON.stringify example in index.html to show what this resulting structure looks like.


The map option allows you to patch strings, elements, or views into your table layout. Pass in an object with properties of the same name as the letters you've placed in your ASCII art. The values of these properties can be strings, DOM elements, or any object that has an el property (such as a Backbone.js view).

For example:

        "|a  |b  |",
        "|c  |d  |",
    ], {
        map: {
            a: "The letter A",
            b: document.createElement('img'),
            c: {id:'myView', el:document.createElement('img')}


Using an object in the same way as for the map above, you can also add specific styles to the tables' cells. This allows you to have control over the layout's dimensions and colors:

        "|a          |b  |",
        "|c  |d          |",
        "|   |           |",
        "|   |           |",
        "|   +---+-------+",
        "|   |e  |f      |",
    ], {
        map: {
            a: "Toolbar",
            b: "Menu",
            c: "Sidebar",
            d: "Canvas",
            e: "Button",
            f: "Button"
        styles: {
            table: {'border-collapse':'collapse'},
            a: {width: '80%', background: '#ccc'},
            b: {width: '20%'},
            c: {width: '20%', background: '#777'},
            d: {height: '150px', width: '80%'},
            e: {width: '20%'},
            f: {width: '60%'}

Use the string-based versions of CSS property names as the objects' properties. For example, to specify a maximum width, use 'max-width' rather than maxWidth.

You can also set a table property which sets style on the outer table as a whole. And you can also specify a special property 'fixed-width' which will generate real max-width, min-width and width properties to all have that same value.


As it says on the tin. It's off by default, but set to true to log to the console the variables used while processing the table's art, as well as the outputted raw object. Not really much use to anyone except me for when things don't work properly.

Browser support

The library is developed against Chrome, and I'm sure contemporary WebKit browsers will be fine. The library doesn't do anything very clever except use forEach for a few of its loops. So certainly JavaScript 1.6 or polyfills are required for that.

Drop me a pull request if you're feeling nostalgic for less-abled browsers.


Check out the index.html file in the project directory to see the library at work with a few simple examples.

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