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A lightweight, semantic grid framework built with Bourbon
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Bourbon Neat

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

Learn more about Neat and why we built it here.


  • Sass 3.2+
  • Bourbon 2.1+

Non-Rails projects

Install/update the dependencies first:

gem install sass #or gem update sass
gem install bourbon #or gem update bourbon

Install Neat:

gem install neat

Then cd to your Sass directory and run:

bourbon install #If not installed
neat install

In your main stylesheet:

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

To update Neat, run:

neat update

and to remove it:

neat remove

Rails apps

In your Gemfile:

gem 'neat'

After running bundle install you will be able to use Bourbon and Neat together.

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

bundle update sass

Within your application.css.scss file place the following:

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

Using the grid

The default grid uses 12 columns, a setting that can be easily overridden as detailed further down.


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

div.container {
  @include outer-container;

You can include this mixin in more than one element in the same page.


Use the span-columns mixin to specify the number of columns an element should span:

@include span-columns($span: $columns of $container-columns, $display: block)
  • columns is the number of columns you wish this element to span.
  • container-columns (optional) is the number of columns the container spans, defaults to the total number of columns in the grid.
  • display (optional) changes the display type of the grid. Use block—the default—for floated layout, table for table-cell layout, and inline-block for an inline block layout.

eg. Element that spans across 6 columns (out of the default 12):

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 use a table-cell layout, add table as the display argument:

@include span-columns(6 of 8, table)

Likewise for inline-block:

@include span-columns(6 of 8, inline-block)


In order to clear floated or table-cell columns, use the row mixin:

@include row($display);
  • display takes either block—the default—or table.

Shifting columns

To move an element to the left or right by a number of columns, use the shift mixin:

@include shift(2); // Move 2 columns to the right
@include shift(-3); // Move 3 columns to the left

Please note that the shift() mixin is incompatible with display table.

Padding columns

To add padding around the entire column use pad(). By default it uses the grid's gutter but can take any argument, including the padding shorthand syntax.

@include pad; // Adds a padding equivalent to the grid's gutter --> padding: 2.35765%;
@include pad(20px); // Adds a padding of 20px --> padding: 20px;
@include pad(30px default); // padding: 30px 2.35765%;
@include pad(30px 20px 10px default); // padding: 30px 20px 10px 2.35765%;

The pad() mixin works particularly well with span-columns(x, table) by adding the necessary padding without breaking your table-based grid layout.

Removing gutter

Neat removes by default the last column's gutter. However, if you are queueing more than one row of columns within the same parent element, you need to specify which columns are considered last in their row to preserve the layout. Use the omega mixin to achieve this:

@include omega; // Removes the right gutter (margin) of the element
@include omega(table); // Removes the right gutter (padding) of a table-cell element
@include omega(4n); // Removes every 4th right gutter (margin)
@include omega(4n table); // Removes every 4th right gutter (padding) of a table-cell element

The omega mixin takes any valid :nth-child value. Composite values such as 3n+5 should be passed as strings in order to work: omega('3n+5'). See

Filling parent elements

This makes sure that the child fills 100% of its parent:

@include fill-parent;

Media Queries

The media() mixin allows you to use media-queries to modify both the grid and the layout. It takes two arguments:

@include media($query, $total-columns: $grid-columns)
  • query contains the media feature (min-width, max-width, etc.) and the value (481px, 30em, etc.). If you specify the value only, min-width will be used by default (ideal if you follow a mobile-first approach). You can also change the default feature in the settings (see section below).
  • total-columns (optional) is the total number of columns to be used inside this media query. Changing the total number of columns will change the width, padding and margin percentages obtained using the span-column mixin.
Example 1
.my-class {
  @include media(481px) {
    font-size: 1.2em;

// Compiled CSS

@media screen and (min-width: 481px) {
  .my-class {
    font-size: 1.2em;
Example 2
.my-class {
  @include media(max-width 769px) {
    float: none;

// Compiled CSS

@media screen and (max-width: 769px) {
  .my-class {
    float: none;
Example 3
.my-class {
  @include media(max-width 769px) {
    @include span-columns(6);

// Compiled CSS

@media screen and (max-width: 769px) {
  .my-class {
    display: block;
    float: left;
    margin-right: 2.35765%;
    width: 48.82117%; // That's 6 columns of the total 12

  .my-class:last-child {
    margin-right: 0;
Example 4
.my-class {
  @include media(max-width 769px, 6) { // Use a 6 column grid (instead of the default 12)
    @include span-columns(6);

// Compiled CSS

@media screen and (max-width: 769px) {
  .my-class {
    display: block;
    float: left;
    margin-right: 4.82916%;
    width: 100%; // That's 6 columns of the total 6 specified for this media query
  .my-class:last-child {
    margin-right: 0;
Example 5
.my-class {
  @include media(min-width 320px max-width 480px) {
    font-size: 1.2em;

// Compiled CSS

@media screen and (min-width: 320px) and (max-width: 480px) {
  .my-class {
    font-size: 1.2em;

You can also use two @media features at the same time.

Here is a summary of possible argument combinations:

// YAY
@include media(480px);
@include media(max-width 480px);
@include media(min-width 320px max-width 480px);
@include media(480px, 4);
@include media(max-width 480px, 4);
@include media(min-width 320px max-width 480px, 4);
@include media(max-width 480px 4); // Shorthand syntax
@include media(min-width 320px max-width 480px 4); // Shorthand syntax

// NAY
@include media(480px 4);
@include media(max-width 4);
@include media(max-width, 4);
@include media(320px max-width 480px);

For convenience, you can create a new media context (breakpoint/column-count) with the help of the new-breakpoint mixin and use it throughout your code:

$mobile: new-breakpoint(max-width 480px 4); // Use a 4 column grid in mobile devices

.my-class {
  @include media($mobile) {
    @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;

The new-breakpoint takes the same arguments as media.


  • The em($pxval, $base: 16) function takes a pixel value and returns its equivalent in em units. You can change the base pixel size in the second argument.

Visual grid

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 gridlines by overriding the default settings as detailed in the section below. Keep in mind that on Webkit, rounding errors in the fluid grid might result in the overlay being few pixels off.

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.

Changing the defaults

All the default settings in Neat can be modified, as long as these overrides occur before importing Neat (failing to do so will cause the framework to use the default values). The most straighforward way to achieve this is creating a _grid-settings.scss file in the root of your stylesheets folder, then importing it before Neat:

@import "bourbon"; // or "bourbon/bourbon" when not in Rails
@import "grid-settings";
@import "neat"; // or "neat/neat" when not in Rails

In your newly created _grid-settings.scss:

@import "neat-helpers"; // or "neat/neat-helpers" when not in Rails

// Change the grid settings
$column: 90px;
$gutter: 30px;
$grid-columns: 10;
$max-width: em(1088);

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

Here is the list of the available settings:

Grid settings

  • $column: The width of a single column in px or em.
  • $gutter: Space between each two columns in px or em.
  • $grid-columns: Total number of columns in the base grid. Defaults to 12.
  • $max-width: The maximum width of the outer container in px or em.

Visual grid settings

  • $visual-grid: Show the base grid when set to true. Defaults to false.
  • $visual-grid-color: Visual grid color. Defaults to #EEEEEE.
  • $visual-grid-index: If set to front, the grid is overlaid on the content.
  • $visual-grid-opacity: Visual grid opacity.

Other settings

  • $border-box-sizing: Makes all elements have a border-box layout. Defaults to true.
  • $default-feature: Default @media feature for the breakpoint() mixin. Defaults to min-width.

Browser support

  • Firefox 3.5+
  • Safari 4.0+
  • Chrome 4.0+
  • Opera 9.5+
  • IE 9+ (Visual grid is IE10 only)
  • IE 8 with selectivizr (no media() support)


The development roadmap can be tracked on this public Trello board.



Bourbon is maintained and funded by thoughtbot, inc. Tweet your questions or suggestions at @kaishin and @kylefiedler.


Bourbon Neat is Copyright © 2012-2013 thoughtbot. It is free software, and may be redistributed under the terms specified in the LICENSE file.

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