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Media Queries, but for container elements.
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Container Queries

This is in early development, syntax and other aspects may change. You can watch the video introduction recorded March 8, 2013.

What are container queries?

Container queries are much like media queries, except instead of querying the media/device, they query the parent container of an element. Where media queries use the @media directive, container queries use the @container directive. The @container directive follows a selector and the rule is formatted similarly to a media rule.

An Example:

.myselector @container ( max-width: 40em ) and ( min-width: 20em ) { ... }

A @container directive can be contained within a more complex query as well:

.listselector @container ( max-width: 40em ) and ( min-width: 20em ) li { ... }

The @container directive supports min-width, max-width, min-height, max-height, min-aspect-ratio and max-aspect-ratio for the query rules.

Why are container queries awesome?

Container queries are a major step forward in building modular web sites and applications. Say we have a fairly common layout consisting of a .main-content-area and a .sidebar, and we also have a .blog-module that displays the most recent three blog posts from our blog. This .blog-module should display differently based on it's available width. If it is in the .main-content-area where there is plenty of horizontal space, it should display the three blog posts side-by-side, however if it is in the .sidebar where there is limited horizontal space, it should display the posts vertically on top of each other.

Without container queries, something like this can be done, but we would need to define separate queries eg. .main-content-area .blog-module and .sidebar .blog-module. This module cannot be truly separated from it's parent document. And if there exists a media query that repositions the .sidebar below the .main-content-area, then we need to write more queries.

With container queries we can simply write:

.blog-module .post { width: 33.3% }
.blog-module @container ( max-width:30em ) .post { width: 100% }

This module is no longer dependent on it's parent document or parent containers. If we wanted to stick our .blog-module in a smaller block within the .main-content-area, no additional css is required. If the .blog-module has less than 30ems of space, it'll display the posts vertically, otherwise it'll display them side-by-side. Simple.

Plus, this module can be pulled out and used in another web site or application and it will (visually at least) just work. Container queries are the solution to one of the biggest problems standing in the way of interchangeable, responsive HTML5 modules.

But wait... @container doesn't actually exist

Sadly, this is true. However I am working on a specification which will hopefully be standardized and in the meantime I have developed a polyfill that mimics how the native version should work.

How to use the polyfill

Simply add a <script> reference to containerqueries.js or containerqueries.min.js after all of your stylesheets. View the Demo.


  • Must use http/https protocols, will not work on file protocol due to the XHR request.
  • The polyfill will only work for external stylesheets, and does not currently play nice if you are disabling or deleting stylesheets.
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