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An instructive how to on writing CSS media queries

napoleon039 profile image Nihar Raote Updated on ・4 min read

When I first encountered media queries, I had no clue what to write and what everything means. All I could understand was the width, max-width and min-width parts. The rest was all guesswork. I avoided using media queries since I had no idea what they were and how they affect my code. But after studying them, I know how useful they are for making a responsive app.

Media queries can be as simple as you want or be complex and very specific. This article only aims to show you some moderately simple ones so you know what you're doing when you have to use one.

What are they?

CSS media queries are like if statements for stylesheets. In languages like JavaScript, Python or Java, an if statement signifies a branch of code that will only be executed when the condition of the if statement is satisfied.

Media queries in CSS do the same. If the condition in the media query is satisfied, or becomes true, then what we write inside is executed.

Writing media queries

A media query starts with the @media keyword followed by the conditions. A condition can be the type of the device - a device with a screen (like laptop or a computer), a print medium (a printed paged material or documents viewed on a screen in print preview mode), etc. This is not the only condition. For instance, we can also specify width and height.

A typical media query will query the width and height of the browser window as well as the type of device

Let's jump into some examples:

@media screen and (width: 500px) {
    .heading {
        padding: 20px;
    }
}

In this example, if our device type is screen and the width of our browser window is 500px, the element with class heading will have a padding of 20px. We can also use height which corresponds to the height of the browser window.

Usually, you'd want to check if the width or height falls within a certain range instead of a fixed value like 500px. For that, we have min-width, min-height, max-width and max-height.

In the query above, and is a logical operator. screen and (width: 500px) are two separate queries. We combine them with the logial operator and. With a logical operator, like in if statements, we can combine multiple queries together.

Next is an example where we check if the width falls in a certain range:

@media screen and (min-width: 500px) and (max-width: 700px) {
    .heading {
        padding: 25px;
    }
}

We have 3 different queries here all combined with a logical operator - screen, (min-width: 500px) and (max-width: 700px). The above media query will only apply to the element .heading if the device is of type screen and the browser window has a width that falls between 500px and 700px.

The last example will have a query for all device types and use the logical or operator.

.heading {
    background-color: red;
    margin-right: 15px;
}
@media all and (min-width: 500px) and (max-width: 720px), (min-width: 1000px) {
    .heading {
        background-color: aqua;
        font-size: 37px;
        margin: 25px 0;
    }
}

This query is similar to the previous one. Instead of screen, we use all. It means instead of a particular device, we want this query to be executed for all devices. Next we have the two queries we saw previously - (min-width: 500px) and (max-width: 720px). They check if the width falls in the range of 500px to 720px.

We have some new conditions in this query - , (min-width: 1000px). We know from our examples so far that (min-width: 1000px) is a query. So what does the comma mean? It is the logical or operator.

The meaning of our media query is - apply the following CSS to .heading if there is any device (since we used all, it doesn't matter which type of device it is) and the width of the browser window is between 500px and 720px or if the browser window has a minimum width of 1000px.

This example also has another set of styles for our .heading element. There, a background color of red is applied. So if we want the styles in our media query to be applied, our browser window must either have a width between 500-720px or it must have a minimum width of 1000px. If neither of those conditions can be fulfilled, then the styles outside of the media query will be applied to the element with class heading.

Wrapping up

Simple media queries check for width and device type as shown in the examples above. Although simple, it is quite useful when making responsive websites and apps that work well on a variety of device types - from mobile phones to tablets to wide-screen desktops. Knowing how they work and being able to use them is very beneficial.

More resources

  • Read this article on CSS-Tricks to learn more about media queries.
  • Here is another good one by MDN.

Posted on Dec 25 '19 by:

napoleon039 profile

Nihar Raote

@napoleon039

Front end web developer working with Vue.js 👨‍💻 | Learning React.js | Love to learn new concepts | Aiming to be a Full Stack Developer

Discussion

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Nice article Nihar! 👏

 

Thank you. Glad you liked it 😄