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Discussion on: TailwindCSS @apply - the right approach?

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ninofiliu profile image
Nino Filiu

@aleksandrhovhannisyan makes a very good point about @apply in his article that has been trending in hacker news:

If it’s not already obvious, @apply completely violates Tailwind’s founding and guiding principles. The fact that this jailbreak even exists is troubling. What exactly is the difference between using @apply and just using the CSS rules that correspond to your utility classes? There is no difference—except now, you’ve defeated the point of using a utility CSS framework in the first place, and you’re better off just writing vanilla CSS to begin with.

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pp profile image
Paweł Ludwiczak Author • Edited on

I'm not sure if I agree with this one. I have a codebase that doesn't use any dynamically generated components (like React - where one file can be responsible for one component). It's more static codebase - with files for entire views and/or parts of it. There's definitely not a react-like component for Buttons - you have to create them by hand.

So it makes perfect sense for me to use utility classes to set up layouts, grids, etc but I'd had to repaste 20 exactly the same utility classes for every of my button

<button class="bg-red text-white px-4 py-2 ...">...</button>
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Instead it makes sense to create old-school cool button.css file with something like

.btn {
  @apply bg-red text-white px-4 py-2 ...;
}
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And while using utility classes elsewhere in the views (for defining some generic layouts and grid), I still need to create more old-school CSS-only components. You can say that I could do something like this:

.btn {
  background: var(--red);
  color: var(--white);
  padding: var(--s2) var(--s4);
  ...
}
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...so I don't have to use @apply but then the question is how to keep my CSS vars in sync with Tailwind (which I'm not sure supports vars that well - I could be wrong here though).

That being said, I think it makes perfect sense to use utility classes in HTML in some places with combination of @apply approach for creating pseudo-components.

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malloryerik profile image
mallory-erik

Really late answer, but Tailwind in general lets me develop with speed. I can experiment and create designs uniquely fitting my domain. @apply allows me to clean up and standardize the mess I've made as needed, like a halfway point before converting everything to pure CSS. Maybe you can think of Tailwind as development speed and flexibility on credit, so there's a minor technical debt you accrue. You can "refinance" that debt with @apply. Finally some day, if need be, you can pay it off entirely by switching the whole thing to "proper" CSS.