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Plain CSS min() and max(): Draft 3

(Issue, Changelog)

This proposal defines how Sass handles CSS's min() and max() math functions.

Table of Contents

Background

This section is non-normative.

Since Ruby Sass 3.2, Sass has provided min() and max() functions that return the minimum or maximum values among a set of SassScript numbers. Later, CSS Values and Units Level 4 added support for additional math functions with special syntax like that in calc(), among which were min() and max().

This presents a problem for Sass: to retain backwards-compatibility with existing Sass stylesheets, it must support min() and max() as Sass functions. However, to provide compatibility with CSS, it must also support them as math functions with special syntax.

Support for CSS's min() and max() has landed in real browsers and Sass users want to use it, so this should be solved with some urgency.

Summary

This section is non-normative.

Sass will support a combined syntax for min() and max() that will parse to either a SassScript function call or a CSS math function, depending on the syntax of the arguments. If all arguments to a function named min() or max() are valid arguments for CSS math functions (possibly including use of the var() or env() functions), it's parsed as a math function. Otherwise, it's parsed as a SassScript function.

Design Decisions

Another possible solution to this problem would be to rename the min() and max() functions to something that doesn't conflict with CSS, or to add partial support for the proposed module system to allow the functions to be used with a namespace. Both of these solutions would require the existing function invocations to be deprecated, though, and for all existing stylesheets that use them to be migrated.

This deprecation would add a substantial amount of time before support for CSS's math functions could be added, and the eventual removal of the SassScript functions would probably create substantial migration pain for our users for a long time.

Supporting both syntaxes does run the risk of escalating users' typos or misunderstandings of syntax into confusing errors or even busted output. However, because the CSS syntax is relatively narrow, it's likely that errors will cause functions to be interpreted as SassScript where unit mismatches or type errors will quickly be brought to the user's attention.

It's also conceivable that users are using SassScript's min() and max() in ways that are now valid CSS. This seems very unlikely, though, since any such invocation would either be useless or fail at runtime. Those invocations that don't have type errors will also be compiled to semantically-identical (although possibly less-compatible) CSS, so this is likely not to be a meaningful concern.

Syntax

This proposal defines a new production, MinMaxExpression. This expression should be parsed in a SassScript context when an expression is expected and the input stream starts with an identifier with value min or max (ignoring case) followed immediately by (.

The grammar for this production is:

MinMaxExpression ::= CssMinMax | FunctionExpression
CssMinMax        ::= ('min(' | 'max(') CalcValue (',' CalcValue)* ')'
CalcValue        ::= CalcValue (('+' | '-' | '*' | '/') CalcValue)+
                   | '(' CalcValue ')'
                   | ('calc(' | 'env(' | 'var(') InterpolatedDeclarationValue ')'
                   | CssMinMax
                   | Interpolation
                   | Number

If a MinMaxExpression is parsed as a CssMinMax, it should return an unquoted interpolated string expression that would be identical to the source text according to CSS semantics for all possible interpolated strings. If it's parsed as a FunctionExpression, it should be returned as a function expression. Parsing a CssMinMax takes precedence over parsing a FunctionExpression in cases where either would apply.

Note that in practice all CssMinMax productions would also be valid FunctionExpressions. However, any CssMinMax that's likely to be used in practice would produce a FunctionExpression that would fail at runtime.