When the first CSS specification was published, all of CSS was contained in one document that defined CSS Level 1. CSS Level 2 was defined also by a single, multi-chapter document. However for CSS beyond Level 2, the CSS Working Group chose to adopt a modular approach, where each module defines a part of CSS, rather than to define a single monolithic specification. This breaks the specification into more manageable chunks and allows more immediate, incremental improvement to CSS.
Since different CSS modules are at different levels of stability, the CSS Working Group has chosen to publish this profile to define the current scope and state of Cascading Style Sheets as of mid 2017. This profile includes only specifications that we consider stable and for which we have enough implementation experience that we are sure of that stability.
Note: This is not intended to be a CSS Desktop Browser Profile: inclusion in this profile is based on feature stability only and not on expected use or Web browser adoption. This profile defines CSS in its most complete form.
Note: Although we don’t anticipate significant changes to the specifications that form this snapshot, their inclusion does not mean they are frozen. The Working Group will continue to address problems as they are found in these specs. Implementers should monitor www-style and/or the CSS Working Group Blog for any resulting changes, corrections, or clarifications.
1.1. Background: The W3C Process and CSS
This section is non-normative.
In the W3C Process, a Recommendation-track document passes through three levels of stability, summarized below:
- Working Draft (WD)
This is the design phase of a W3C spec. The WG iterates the spec in response to internal and external feedback.
The first official Working Draft is designated the “First Public Working Draft” (FPWD). In the CSSWG, publishing FPWD indicates that the Working Group as a whole has agreed to work on the module, roughly as scoped out and proposed in the editor’s draft.
The transition to the next stage is sometimes called “Last Call Working Draft” (LCWD) phase. The CSSWG transitions Working Drafts once we have resolved all known issues, and can make no further progress without feedback from building tests and implementations.
This “Last Call for Comments” sets a deadline for reporting any outstanding issues, and requires the WG to specially track and address incoming feedback. The comment-tracking document is the Disposition of Comments (DoC). It is submitted along with an updated draft for the Director’s approval, to demonstrate wide review and acceptance.
- Candidate Recommendation (CR)
This is the testing phase of a W3C spec.
Notably, this phase is about using tests and implementations to test the specification:
it is not about testing the implementations.
This process often reveals more problems with the spec,
and so a Candidate Recommendation will morph over time in response to implementation and testing feedback,
though usually less so than during the design phase (WD).
Demonstration of two correct, independent implementations of each feature is required to exit CR, so in this phase the WG builds a test suite and generates implementation reports.
The transition to the next stage is “Proposed Recommendation” (PR). During this phase the W3C Advisory Committee must approve the transition to REC.
- Recommendation (REC)
- This is the completed state of a W3C spec and represents a maintenance phase. At this point the WG only maintains an errata document and occasionally publishes an updated edition that incorporates the errata back into the spec.
An Editor’s Draft is effectively a live copy of the editors’ own working copy. It may or may not reflect Working Group consensus, and can at times be in a self-inconsistent state. (Because the publishing process at W3C is time-consuming and onerous, the Editor’s Draft is usually the best (most up-to-date) reference for a spec. Efforts are currently underway to reduce the friction of publishing, so that official drafts will be regularly up-to-date and Editor’s Drafts can return to their original function as scratch space.)
2. Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) — The Official Definition
As of 2017, Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is defined by the following specifications.
- CSS Level 2, latest revision (including errata) [CSS2]
- This defines the core of CSS, parts of which are overridden by later specifications. We recommend in particular reading Chapter 2, which introduces some of the basic concepts of CSS and its design principles.
- CSS Syntax Level 3 [CSS-SYNTAX-3]
- Replaces CSS2§4.1, CSS2§4.1, CSS2§4.2, CSS2§4.4, and CSS2§G, defining how CSS is parsed.
- CSS Style Attributes [CSS-STYLE-ATTR]
- Defines how CSS declarations can be embedded in markup attributes.
- Media Queries Level 3 [CSS3-MEDIAQUERIES]
- Replaces CSS2§7.3 and expands on the syntax for media-specific styles.
- CSS Conditional Rules Level 3 [CSS3-CONDITIONAL]
- Replaces CSS2§7.2, updating the definition of @media rules to allow nesting, and introduces @supports rules for feature-support queries.
- CSS Namespaces [CSS3-NAMESPACE]
- Introduces an @namespace rule to allow namespace-prefixed selectors.
- Selectors Level 3 [SELECT]
- Replaces CSS2§5 and CSS2§6.4.3, defining an extended range of selectors.
- CSS Cascading and Inheritance Level 3 [CSS-CASCADE-3]
- Replaces CSS2§1.4.3 and CSS2§6
- CSS Values and Units Level 3 [CSS-VALUES-3]
- Replaces CSS2§18.104.22.168, CSS2§4.3, and CSS2§A.2.1–3, defining CSS’s property definition syntax and expanding its set of units.
- CSS Color Level 3 [CSS3-COLOR]
- Replaces CSS2§4.3.6, CSS2§14.1, and CSS2§18.2, defining an extended range of color values. Also introduces the opacity property.
- CSS Backgrounds and Borders Level 3 [CSS3-BACKGROUND]
- Replaces CSS2§8.5 and CSS2§14.2, providing more control of backgrounds and borders, including layered background images, image borders, and drop shadows.
- CSS Image Values and Replaced Content Level 3 [CSS3-IMAGES]
- Provides a new foundation text for the sizing of replaced elements (such as images), adds additional controls to their sizing and orientation, and introduces syntax for gradients as images in CSS.
- CSS Fonts Level 3 [CSS-FONTS-3]
- Replaces CSS2§15 and provides more control over font choice and feature selection.
- CSS Multi-column Layout Level 1 [CSS3-MULTICOL]
- Introduces multi-column flows to CSS layout.
- CSS User Interface Module Level 3 [CSS-UI-3]
- Replaces CSS2§18.1 and CSS2§18.4, defining cursor, outline, and several new CSS features that also enhance the user interface.
- CSS Compositing and Blending Level 1 [COMPOSITING]
- Defines the compositing and blending of overlaid content and introduces features to control their modes.
- CSS Writing Modes Level 3 [CSS-WRITING-MODES-3]
- Defines CSS support for various international writing modes, such as left-to-right (e.g. Latin or Indic), right-to-left (e.g. Hebrew or Arabic), bidirectional (e.g. mixed Latin and Arabic) and vertical (e.g. Asian scripts).
- CSS Transitions Level 1 [CSS3-TRANSITIONS] and CSS Animations Level 1 [CSS3-ANIMATIONS]
- Define mechanisms for transitioning the computed values of CSS properties over time.
- CSS Flexible Box Module Level 1 [CSS-FLEXBOX-1]
- Introduces a flexible linear layout model for CSS.
- CSS Transforms Level 1 [CSS3-TRANSFORMS]
- Introduces graphical transformations to CSS.
- CSS Custom Properties for Cascading Variables Module Level 1 [CSS-VARIABLES-1]
- Introduces cascading variables as a new primitive value type that is accepted by all CSS properties, and custom properties for defining them.
- CSS Text Module Level 3 [CSS-TEXT-3]
- Defines properties for text manipulation and specifies their processing model. It covers line breaking, justification and alignment, white space handling, and text transformation.
- CSS Counter Styles Level 3 [CSS-COUNTER-STYLES-3]
- Expands the possible values of <counter-style> and provides an @counter-style syntax for customized counter styles.
- CSS Masking Level 1 [CSS-MASKING-1]
- Replaces CSS2§11.1.2 and introduces more powerful ways of clipping and masking content.
- CSS Shapes Module Level 1 [CSS-SHAPES-1]
- Extends floats to effect non-rectangular wrapping shapes.
- CSS Text Decoration Level 3 [CSS-TEXT-DECOR-3]
- Replaces CSS2§16.3, providing more control over text decoration lines and adding the ability to specify text emphasis marks and text shadows.
- CSS Will Change Level 1 [CSS-WILL-CHANGE-1]
- Introduces a performance hint property called will-change.
We hope to incorporate them into a future snapshot.
A list of all CSS modules, stable and in-progress, and their statuses can be found at the CSS Current Work page.
2.1. CSS Levels
Cascading Style Sheets does not have versions in the traditional sense; instead it has levels. Each level of CSS builds on the previous, refining definitions and adding features. The feature set of each higher level is a superset of any lower level, and the behavior allowed for a given feature in a higher level is a subset of that allowed in the lower levels. A user agent conforming to a higher level of CSS is thus also conformant to all lower levels.
- CSS Level 1
- The CSS Working Group considers the CSS1 specification to be obsolete. CSS Level 1 is defined as all the features defined in the CSS1 specification (properties, values, at-rules, etc), but using the syntax and definitions in the CSS2.1 specification. CSS Style Attributes defines its inclusion in element-specific style attributes.
- CSS Level 2
Although the CSS2 specification is technically a W3C Recommendation, it passed into the Recommendation stage
before the W3C had defined the Candidate Recommendation stage. Over time
implementation experience and further review has brought to light many problems
in the CSS2 specification, so instead of expanding an already unwieldy
errata list, the CSS Working Group chose to define CSS Level 2
Revision 1 (CSS2.1). In case of any conflict between the two specs
CSS2.1 contains the definitive definition.
Once CSS2.1 became Candidate Recommendation—effectively though not officially the same level of stability as CSS2—obsoleted the CSS2 Recommendation. Features in CSS2 that were dropped from CSS2.1 should be considered to be at the Candidate Recommendation stage, but note that many of these have been or will be pulled into a CSS Level 3 working draft, in which case that specification will, once it reaches CR, obsolete the definitions in CSS2.
The CSS2.1 specification defines CSS Level 2 and the CSS Style Attributes specification defines its inclusion in element-specific style attributes.
- CSS Level 3
CSS Level 3 builds on CSS Level 2 module by module, using the CSS2.1
specification as its core. Each module adds functionality and/or
replaces part of the CSS2.1 specification. The CSS Working Group
intends that the new CSS modules will not contradict the CSS2.1
specification: only that they will add functionality and refine
definitions. As each module is completed, it will be plugged in to
the existing system of CSS2.1 plus previously-completed modules.
From this level on modules are levelled independently: for example Selectors Level 4 may well be completed before CSS Line Module Level 3. Modules with no CSS Level 2 equivalent start at Level 1; modules that update features that existed in CSS Level 2 start at Level 3.
- CSS Level 4 and beyond
- There is no CSS Level 4. Independent modules can reach level 4 or beyond, but CSS the language no longer has levels. ("CSS Level 3" as a term is used only to differentiate it from the previous monolithic versions.)
2.2. CSS Profiles
Not all implementations will implement all functionality defined in CSS.
In the past, the Working Group published a few Profiles, which were meant to define the minimal subset of CSS that various classes of User Agents were expected to support.
This effort has been discontinued, as the Working Group was not finding it effective or useful, and the profiles previously defined are now unmaintained.
Note: Partial implementations of CSS, even if that subset is an official profile, must follow the forward-compatible parsing rules for partial implementations.
3. Requirements for Responsible Implementation of CSS
The following sections define several conformance requirements for implementing CSS responsibly, in a way that promotes interoperability in the present and future.
3.1. Partial Implementations
So that authors can exploit the forward-compatible parsing rules to assign fallback values, CSS renderers must treat as invalid (and ignore as appropriate) any at-rules, properties, property values, keywords, and other syntactic constructs for which they have no usable level of support. In particular, user agents must not selectively ignore unsupported property values and honor supported values in a single multi-value property declaration: if any value is considered invalid (as unsupported values must be), CSS requires that the entire declaration be ignored.
3.2. Implementations of Unstable and Proprietary Features
To avoid clashes with future stable CSS features, the CSSWG recommends the following best practices for the implementation of unstable features and proprietary extensions to CSS:
3.2.1. Experimentation and Unstable Features
Implementations of unstable features that are described in W3C specifications but are not interoperable should not be released broadly for general use; but may be released for limited, experimental use in controlled environments.
Why?We want to allow both authors and implementors to experiment with the feature and give feedback, but prevent authors from relying on them in production websites and thereby accidentally "locking in" (through content dependence) certain syntax or behavior that might change later.
A CSS feature is considered unstable until its specification has reached the Candidate Recommendation (CR) stage in the W3C process. In exceptional cases, the CSSWG may additionally, by an officially-recorded resolution, add pre-CR features to the set that are considered safe to release for broad use.
Note: Vendors should consult the WG explicitly and not make assumptions on this point, as a pre-CR spec that hasn’t changed in awhile is usually more out-of-date than stable.
The current list of pre-CR features approved for wide release consists of:
- CSS Animations [CSS3-ANIMATIONS]
- CSS Transitions [CSS3-TRANSITIONS]
- CSS Transforms [CSS3-TRANSFORMS]
- The min-content, max-content, and fit-content keywords from [CSS-SIZING-3]
- The :dir() and :lang() selectors from [SELECTORS4]
3.2.2. Proprietary and Non-standardized Features
To avoid clashes with future CSS features, the CSS2.1 specification reserves a prefixed syntax [CSS2] for proprietary and experimental extensions to CSS. A CSS feature is a proprietary extension if it is meant for use in a closed environment accessible only to a single vendor’s user agent(s). A UA should support such proprietary extensions only through a vendor-prefixed syntax and not expose them to open (multi-UA) environments such as the World Wide Web.
Why?The prefixing requirement allows shipping specialized features in closed environments without conflicting with future additions to standard CSS. The restriction on exposure to open systems is to prevent accidentally causing the public CSS environment to depend on an unstandardized proprietary extensions.
Even if a feature is intended to eventually be used in the Web, if it hasn’t yet been standardized it should still not be exposed to the Web.
3.2.3. Market Pressure and De Facto Standards
If a feature is unstable (i.e. the spec has not stabilized yet), yet
at least three UAs implement the feature (or a UA has broken the other rules and shipped for broad use an unstable or otherwise non-standard feature in a production release),
and the implementations have rough interoperability,
and the CSS Working Group has recorded consensus that this feature should exist and be released,
implementers may ship that feature unprefixed in broad-release builds. Rough interoperability is satisfied by a subjective judgment that even though there may be differences, the implementations are sufficiently similar to be used in production websites for a substantial number of use cases.
Note that the CSSWG must still be consulted to ensure coordination across vendors and to ensure sanity review by the CSS experts from each vendor. Note also that rough interoperability still usually means painful lack of interop in edge (or not-so-edge) cases, particularly because details have not been ironed out through the standards review process.
Why?If a feature is sufficiently popular that three or more browsers have implemented it before it’s finished standardization, this clause allows releasing the pressure to ship. Also, if a feature has already escaped into the wild and sites have started depending on it, pretending it’s still “experimental” doesn’t help anyone. Allowing others to ship unprefixed recognizes that the feature is now de facto standardized and encourages authors to write cross-platform code.
22.214.171.124. Vendor-prefixing Unstable Features
When exposing such a standards-track unstable feature to the Web in a production release, implementations should support both vendor-prefixed and unprefixed syntaxes for the feature. Once the feature has stabilized and the implementation is updated to match interoperable behavior, support for the vendor-prefixed syntax should be removed.
Why?This is recommended so that authors can use the unprefixed syntax to target all implementations, but when necessary, can target specific implementations to work around incompatibilities among implementations as they get ironed out through the standards/bugfixing process.
The lack of a phase where only the prefixed syntax is supported greatly reduces the risk of stylesheets being written with only the vendor-prefixed syntax. This in turn allows UA vendors to retire their prefixed syntax once the feature is stable, with a lower risk of breaking existing content. It also reduces the need occasionally felt by by some vendors to support a feature with the prefix of another vendor, due to content depending on that syntax.
Anyone promoting unstable features to authors should document them using their standard unprefixed syntax, and avoid encouraging the use of the vendor-prefixed syntax for any purpose other than working around implementation differences.
126.96.36.199. Preserving the Openness of CSS
In order to preserve the open nature of CSS as a technology, vendors should make it possible for other implementors to freely implement any features that they do ship. To this end, they should provide spec-editing and testing resources to complete standardization of such features, and avoid other obstacles (e.g., platform dependency, licensing restrictions) to their competitors shipping the feature.
3.3. Implementations of CR-level Features
Once a specification reaches the Candidate Recommendation stage, implementers should release an unprefixed implementation of any CR-level feature they can demonstrate to be correctly implemented according to spec, and should avoid exposing a prefixed variant of that feature.
To establish and maintain the interoperability of CSS across implementations, the CSS Working Group requests that non-experimental CSS renderers submit an implementation report (and, if necessary, the testcases used for that implementation report) to the W3C before releasing an unprefixed implementation of any CSS features. Testcases submitted to W3C are subject to review and correction by the CSS Working Group.
Further information on submitting testcases and implementation reports can be found from on the CSS Working Group’s website at http://www.w3.org/Style/CSS/Test/. Questions should be directed to the email@example.com mailing list.
These sections are non-normative.
4.1. Terms Index
- additive tuple
- alignment baseline
- alignment container
- alignment context
- alignment subject
- ascii case-insensitive
- aural "box" model
- authoring tool
- automatic minimum size
- avoid break values
- baseline alignment
- baseline alignment preference
- baseline set
- baseline-sharing group
- box alignment properties
- box fragment
- check if three code points would start an identifier
- check if two code points are a valid escape
- clipping path
- clipping region
- code point
- collapsed flex item
- column break
- compatible baseline alignment preferences
- component value
- conditional group rule
- conditional group rules
- conformance::authoring tool
- conformance::style sheet
- consume a component value
- consume a declaration
- consume a function
- consume a list of declarations
- consume a list of rules
- consume a name
- consume an at-rule
- consume an escaped code point
- consume an ident-like token
- consume a number
- consume a numeric token
- consume a qualified rule
- consume a simple block
- consume a string token
- consume a token
- consume a unicode-range token
- consume a url token
- consume comments
- consume the next input token
- consume the remnants of a bad url
- content-distribution properties
- content size
- convert a string to a number
- counter style
- counter symbol
- cross axis
- cross-axis baseline set
- cross dimension
- cross size
- cross size property
- css qualified name
- current input code point
- current input token
- current tuple
- custom property
- default namespace
- definite size
- determine the fallback encoding
- distributed alignment
- ending token
- end of the range
- environment encoding
- eof code point
- expanded name
- fallback alignment
- first-baseline alignment
- first baselines
- first-baseline self-alignment
- first symbol value
- flex base size
- flex basis
- flex container
- flex direction
- flex formatting context
- flex grow factor
- flexible length
- flex item
- flex layout
- flex line
- flex shrink factor
- forced break
- forced break values
- fragmentation break
- fragmentation container
- fragmentation context
- fragmentation direction
- fragmentation root
- fragmented flow
- fully inflexible
- generate a counter
- generate baselines
- get an encoding
- group rule body
- hex digit
- hypothetical cross size
- hypothetical main size
- initial free space
- initial representation for the counter value
- input stream
- invalid at computed-value time
- last-baseline alignment
- last-baseline content-alignment
- last baselines
- last main-axis baseline set
- line break
- lowercase letter
- main axis
- main dimension
- mask border image
- mask border image area
- mask image
- mask layer image
- mask painting area
- mask positioning area
- maximum allowed code point
- '@media' rule
- min main size property
- multi-line flex container
- name code point
- namespace prefix
- name-start code point
- next input code point
- next input token
- non-ascii code point
- non-printable code point
- order-modified document order
- overflow alignment
- page break
- parse a comma-separated list of component values
- parse a component value
- parse a css stylesheet
- parse a declaration
- parse a list of component values
- parse a list of declarations
- parse a list of rules
- parse a rule
- parse a stylesheet
- parse error
- participates in baseline alignment
- pending-substitution value
- positional alignment
- preserved tokens
- qualified rule
- reconsume the current input code point
- reconsume the current input token
- region break
- remaining fragmentainer extent
- remaining free space
- scaled flex shrink factor
- self-alignment properties
- serialize an <an+b> value
- simple block
- single-line flex container
- specified size
- spread break
- start of the range
- static-position rectangle
- stroke bounding box
- strut size
- style attribute
- style rule
- style sheet
- style sheet!!as conformance class
- substitute a var()
- '@supports' rule
- surrogate code point
- synthesize baselines
- target main size
- top-level flag
- transferred size
- unforced break
- uppercase letter
- user agent
- uses a negative sign
- visual box model
- would start a number
4.2. Selector Index
4.3. At-Rule Index
4.4. Property Index
4.5. Values Index
- in css-masking-1, for mask-mode
- in css-flexbox-1, for min-width, min-height
- in css-flexbox-1, for flex-basis
- in css-flexbox-1, for align-self
- in css-flexbox-1, for align-items, align-self
- in css-align-3, for justify-self
- in css-align-3, for align-self
- in css-break-3, for break-before, break-after
- in css-break-3, for break-inside, page-break-inside
- in css-will-change-1, for will-change
- in css-counter-styles-3, for @counter-style/range
- in css-counter-styles-3, for @counter-style/speak-as
Special thanks to Florian Rivoal for creating the initial draft of the §3.2.1 Experimentation and Unstable Features recommendations.