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A lightweight, semantic grid framework built with Bourbon
CSS Ruby

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A lightweight, semantic grid framework built with Bourbon

Neat is a fluid grid framework built with Bourbon with the aim of being easy enough to use out of the box and flexible enough to customize down the road.

Follow the @bourbonsass Twitter account for updates.



For command line help, visit our wiki page on Neat’s command line interface.

  1. Install the Neat gem using the RubyGems package manager:

    gem install neat

    Alternatively, you can install Neat with Bower.

  2. Install or update Neat’s dependencies:

    gem install sass # or gem update sass
    gem install bourbon # or gem update bourbon
  3. Install the Neat library into the current directory:

    bourbon install # if not already installed
    neat install
  4. Import Neat in your stylesheet, after Bourbon:

    @import "bourbon/bourbon";
    @import "neat/neat";

    It’s not recommended to add or modify the Neat files so that you can update them easily.

Installation for Ruby on Rails

  1. Add Neat to your Gemfile:

    gem 'neat'
  2. Then run:

    bundle install

    If you see the error Bundler could not find compatible versions for gem "sass", run:

    bundle update sass
  3. Import Neat in your application.scss, after Bourbon:

    @import "bourbon";
    @import "neat";

    It should be noted that @import rules are not compatible with Sprockets directives. You need to use one or the other.

Installing older versions of Neat

  1. Uninstall any Neat gem versions you already have:

    gem uninstall neat
  2. Reinstall the Neat gem, using the -v flag to specify the version you need:

    gem install neat -v 1.7.0
  3. Follow the instructions above to install Neat into your project.

Using Neat

First off, if you are planning to override the default grid settings (12 columns), it is recommended to create a _grid-settings.scss file for that purpose. Make sure to import it right before importing Neat:

@import "bourbon/bourbon"; // or "bourbon" when in Rails
@import "grid-settings";
@import "neat/neat"; // or "neat" when in Rails

In your newly created _grid-settings.scss, import neat-helpers if you are planning to use new-breakpoint(), then define your new variables:

@import "neat/neat-helpers"; // or "neat-helpers" when in Rails

// Change the grid settings
$column: 90px;
$gutter: 30px;
$grid-columns: 10;
$max-width: 1200px;

// Define your breakpoints
$tablet: new-breakpoint(max-width 768px 8);
$mobile: new-breakpoint(max-width 480px 4);

See the docs for a full list of settings.

Next, include the outer-container mixin in the topmost container (to which the max-width setting will be applied):

div.container {
  @include outer-container;

Then use span-columns on any element to specify the number of columns it should span:

div.element {
  @include span-columns(6);

If the element’s parent isn’t the top-most container, you need to add the number of columns of the parent element to keep the right proportions:

div.container {
  @include outer-container;

  div.parent-element {
    @include span-columns(8);

    div.element {
      @include span-columns(6 of 8);

To make your layout responsive, use the media() mixin to modify both the grid and the layout:

.my-class {
  @include media($mobile) { // As defined in _grid-settings.scss
    @include span-columns(2);

// Compiled CSS
@media screen and (max-width: 480px) {
  .my-class {
    display: block;
    float: left;
    margin-right: 7.42297%;
    width: 46.28851%; // 2 columns of the total 4 in this media context
  .my-class:last-child {
    margin-right: 0;

By setting $visual-grid to true, you can display the base grid in the background (default) or as an overlay. You can even change the color and opacity of the grid-lines by overriding the default settings as detailed in the section below.

The visual grid reflects the changes applied to the grid via the new-breakpoint() mixin, as long as the media contexts are defined before importing Neat.


How do I use omega() in a mobile-first workflow?

Using omega() with an nth-child pseudo selector in a mobile-first workflow will cause the style to be applied to wider-viewport media queries as well. That is the cascading nature of CSS.

One solution would be to provide an omega-reset() mixin that negates the effect of omega() on that specific nth-child pseudo selector. While this is often the most suggested solution, it is also a lazy hack that outputs ugly code and can quickly get out of hand in complex layouts. As a general rule, having to undo CSS styles is a sign of poor stylesheet architecture (more about CSS code smells).

The other, more elegant, solution is to use mutually exclusive media queries, also referred to as media-query splitting. This would guarantee that omega() styles are only applied where desired.

$first-breakpoint-value: 400px;
$second-breakpoint-value: 700px;
$medium-viewport: new-breakpoint(min-width $first-breakpoint-value max-width $second-breakpoint-value);
$large-viewport: new-breakpoint(min-width $second-breakpoint-value + 1);

.element {
  @include media($medium-viewport) {
    @include span-columns(6);
    @include omega(2n);

  @include media($large-viewport) {
    @include span-columns(4);
    @include omega(3n);

If, for some reason, you still think that omega-reset is the only way you want to go, check out Josh Fry’s omega-reset.

Why are the elements not properly aligned with the visual grid?

The visual grid is built using CSS gradients whose stops might contain decimal values depending on the default settings of your grid. In order to render the gradient, browsers round the pixel values since they can’t deal with pixel fractions.

As a result the visual grid might be few pixels off in some browsers. The result is also inconsistent across browsers. For best results, preview your website on Firefox as it renders closest to the expected outcome.

At this point, writing an internal rounding mechanism is not high priority.

Framework X has this feature that Neat seems to be missing. Can you add it?

Unless you open a pull request, the answer is most likely going to be no. Neat is lightweight and simple compared to other grid frameworks, and strives to remain so. We have plans for adding new features in future versions of the framework, but these will be most likely to support new ways of working with layouts on the Web, not patches to existing ones.

Browser support

  • Chrome 10+
  • Firefox 29+
  • Internet Explorer 9+ (visual grid is IE 10 only)
  • Internet Explorer 8 with selectivizr (no media() support)
  • Opera 9.5+
  • Safari 5.1+

The Bourbon family

  • Bourbon: A simple and lightweight mixin library for Sass
  • Neat: A lightweight semantic grid framework for Sass and Bourbon
  • Bitters: Scaffold styles, variables and structure for Bourbon projects
  • Refills: Prepackaged patterns and components built with Bourbon, Neat and Bitters


Copyright © 2012–2015 thoughtbot, inc. Neat is free software, and may be redistributed under the terms specified in the license.

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