An Auto-Filling CSS Grid With Max Columns of a Minimum Size | CSS-Tricks

Within Drupal 10 core, we’re implementing a new auto-filling CSS Grid technique that I think is cool enough to share with the world.

The requirements are:

  • The user specifies a maximum number of columns. This is the auto-filling grid’s “natural” state.
  • If a grid cell goes under a user-specified width, the auto-filling grid will readjust itself and decrease the number of columns.
  • The grid cells should always stretch to fit the auto-filling grid container’s width, no matter the column count.
  • All of this should work independent of viewport width and should not require JavaScript.

Screenshot showing the auto-filling CSS Grid's settings in Drupal.

The auto-filling CSS Grid in action

Here’s how the resulting auto-filling CSS grid behaves when it is compressed by the draggable div element to its left.

Here’s the code

If you’re not looking for the theory behind the auto-filling grid, and just want to copy/paste code, here you go!

.grid-container {
  /**
   * User input values.
   */
  --grid-layout-gap: 10px;
  --grid-column-count: 4;
  --grid-item--min-width: 100px;

  /**
   * Calculated values.
   */
  --gap-count: calc(var(--grid-column-count) - 1);
  --total-gap-width: calc(var(--gap-count) * var(--grid-layout-gap));
  --grid-item--max-width: calc((100% - var(--total-gap-width)) / var(--grid-column-count));

  display: grid;
  grid-template-columns: repeat(auto-fill, minmax(max(var(--grid-item--min-width), var(--grid-item--max-width)), 1fr));
  grid-gap: var(--grid-layout-gap);
}

Theory and tools behind the auto-filling CSS Grid

The code above uses several modern CSS tools including CSS Grid’s repeat(), auto-fill()and minmax() functions, as well as the CSS max()and calc() functions. Here’s how it works.

CSS Grid’s auto-fill() function

The key to all of this is auto-fill(). We need each row to fill up with as many columns as possible. For more info on auto-fillcheck out Sara Soueidan’s awesome article on the difference between auto-fill and auto-fitwhich includes this helpful video showing how it works.

But how to we make sure that it doesn’t fill in too many columns?

The CSS max() function

That’s where the max() function comes in! We want each grid cell’s width to max out at a certain percentage, say 25% for a four-column grid. But, we can’t have it go below the user-specified minimum width.

So, assuming a four-column grid and minimum cell width of 100pxthe max() function would look something like: max(25%, 100px).

However, the 25% value is still not quite correct because it doesn’t take the grid gaps into account. What we really need is something like this instead:

max(calc(25% - <grid-gap-for-one-cell>), 100px)

We can calc()-ulate this in CSS! (Who says CSS isn’t programming?)

--gap-count: calc(var(--grid-column-count) - 1);
--total-gap-width: calc(var(--gap-count) * var(--grid-layout-gap));
--grid-item--max-width: calc((100% - var(--total-gap-width)) / var(--grid-column-count));

Now we have another key to making this work! This will tell the grid cell to go to its maximum width — which takes into account the user-specified columns) — but will never go under 100px.

max(100px, var(--grid-item--max-width))

Learn more about the max() function with Chris Coyier’s article on the CSS min(),max()and clamp() functions.

CSS Grid’s minmax() function

We’re getting close, but there’s one key ingredient that’s missing: The grid doesn’t always stretch to its parent’s container’s width.

This is exactly what the minmax() function is designed to do. The following CSS will set the minimum width to the <grid-item-width>and if it has room, it’ll stretch all the cells out equally to fit the parent’s width!

minmax(<grid-item-width>, 1fr)

Let’s put it all together and make some magic!

Using the tools above, we can put together this magic bit of code that does exactly what we want!

--gap-count: calc(var(--grid-column-count) - 1);
--total-gap-width: calc(var(--gap-count) * var(--grid-layout-gap));
--grid-item--max-width: calc((100% - var(--total-gap-width)) / var(--grid-column-count));

grid-template-columns: repeat(auto-fill, minmax(max(var(--grid-item--min-width), var(--grid-item--max-width)), 1fr));

CSS is fun!

CSS has really come a long way. I had a lot of fun working on this, and I’m so happy that use-cases like this are now possible without the use of JavaScript.

Special thanks to Andy Blum, who suggested auto-fill() over auto-fit(). Also, an extremely special thanks to all of the implementors and spec writers who make advanced functions like this standardized and possible.

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