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Rails asset pipeline: Why things break in production and what precompilation does to your assets

When you work with a Rails 3.1+ application, you will be working with the asset pipeline. The asset pipeline is awesome until you deploy. Then it will be less so if you haven't done everything as the pipeline expected it from you.

The problem

When using the asset pipeline your assets (images, javascripts, stylesheets, fonts) live in folders inside app:

app/assets/fonts
app/assets/images
app/assets/javascripts
app/assets/stylesheets

With the asset p...

Linked content

Two CSS layouting techniques compared: Flexbox vs. Grid

CSS Flexbox has become extremely popular amongst front-end developers the last couple of years. This isn’t surprising, as it has made it a lot easier for us to create dynamic layouts and align content within containers.
However, there’s a new kid in town called CSS Grid, and it’s got a lot of the same capabilities as Flexbox. In come cases it’s better than Flexbox, while in other cases it’s not.

If you are to take one lesson from this article, let it be this one:

Flexbox is made for one-dimensional layouts and Grid is made for tw...

Linked content

Nested Spreewald patiently blocks are now patient

In Spreewald 1.10.4+, nested patiently blocks are now patient.

Here is an example:

patiently do
  outer_code
  patiently do
    inner_code
  end
end

On spreewald 1.11.2+ the inner block will wait for the full configured wait time (by default 5 seconds). The outer patiently block would now be out of time, but it will always be retried at least a second time. This behavior allows with_scope to be patient, and it must be patient, as explained below.

In versions 1.10.4 - 1.11.1, inner blocks would keep giving the ou...

Deprecated

Centering with CSS vertically and horizontally (all options overview)

There are a million ways to center <div>s or text in CSS, horizontally or vertically. All the ways are unsatisfying in their own unique way, or have restrictions regarding browser support, element sizes, etc.

Here are two great resources for finding the best way of aligning something given your use case and browser support requirements:

How to center in CSS
: A long form that lets you define your use case and browser support requirements, then shows you the preferred way of aligning.

[Centering CSS: A com...

Capybara: A step for finding images with filename and extension

This cucumber step is useful for testing an image (looking at the src of the image).

Then(/^I should see the image "([^"]*)"$/) do |filename_with_extension|
  expect(page).to have_css("img[src*='#{filename_with_extension}']")
end
Then I should see the image "placeholder.png"

Outline: Read more about how to test a uploaded file here, e.g. file downloads.

Sprites with Compass

Using CSS sprites for background images is a technique for optimizing page load time by combining smaller images into a larger image sprite.

There are ongoing arguments on how useful this still is, as modern browsers become more comfortable to load images in parallel. However, many major websites still use them, for example amazon, [facebook](...

Linked content

CSS: Giving text lines a background-color (with configurable line padding and margin)

The gist is:

  • wrap the text with a span
  • use line-height for the spacing between lines ("margin")
  • use box-shadow to control the line background size ("padding")

Example

text_lines_with_background_color.png

span
  box-shadow: 0 0 0 10px #fff
  background-color: #fff
  box-decoration-break: clone # Fix Firefox
  line-height: 2.2

→ [jsfiddle](https://jsfiddle.net/2fmqgbh...

How to fix HTML elements being cut off when printing

When you print (or print preview) and elements are cut off (e.g. after 1st page, or "randomly") you should check your CSS rules for these:

  • Is there an element with "display: inline-block" that surrounds your content? Make sure it has "display: block" for printing.
    This primarily affects Firefox and Internet Explorer. Chrome seems to be able to handle inline-block elements in most cases.

  • Does the element itself, or a container, define "overflow: hidden"? Use "overflow: auto" (or maybe "overflow: visible") instead.

  • Is th...

Linked content

Limitations you should be aware of when Internet Explorer 9 parses CSS files

Internet Explorer until version 9 has some limitations when parsing CSS files

Summarized, these are:

  • Up to 31 CSS files or tags per page.
  • Up to 4095 selectors per CSS file.
  • Up to 3 nested @import rules

To test the selector limit for a specific browser, check this CSS selector limitation test website.

When you run into this issue, the following links might be helpful to fix the problem. The Idea is to split up the css fi...

Linked contentRepeats

CSS has a well-supported :empty selector

All browsers + IE9 know the CSS :empty selector. It lets you hide an element when it has no content, i.e. not even white space.

For instance, you have a badge displaying the number of unread messages in a red bubble with white text:

.unread-messages-bubble {
  background-color: red;
  border-radius: 10px;
  padding: 10px;
  color: white;
}

To hide that bubble entirely when there are no new messages:

.unread-messages-bubble:empty {
  display: none;
}

Note that the element must be...

How to fix broken font collisions in wkhtmltopdf

If you are using PDFKit / wkhtmltopdf, you might as well want to use custom fonts in your stylesheets. Usually this should not be a problem, but at times they include misleading Meta-information that leads to a strange error in the PDF.

The setup

  • The designer gave you two fonts named something like BrandonText-Regular and BrandonText-Bold. (With flawed Meta-information)
  • You have a HTML string to be rendered by PDFKit
  • For demonstration purposes, this strin...
Linked content

How to exploit websites that include user input in their CSS

The linked article shows how to exploit websites that include unsanitized user input in their CSS.

Although the article often mentions React and CSS-in-JS libraries, the methods are applicable to any web app that injects user input into style tags or properties.

Also, sanitizing user input for CSS injection is much harder than sanitizing HTML.

Linked content

A Theme Switcher

Hack to implement an inverted "night mode" theme with a few lines of CSS.

Colors in images are preserved.

Linked content

Know what makes your browser pant

I figure we needed a definitive reference for what work is triggered by changing various CSS properties. It's something I get asked about often enough by developers, and while we can do tests with DevTools, I have both the time and inclination to shortcut that for everyone. I'm nice like that. —Paul Lewis

Cucumber: Test that an element is not overshadowed by another element

I needed to make sure that an element is visible and not overshadowed by an element that has a higher z-index (like a modal overlay).

Here is the step I wanted:

Then the very important notice should not be overshadowed by another element

This is the step definition:

Then(/^(.*?) should not be overshadowed by another element$/) do |locator|
  selector = selector_for(locator)
  expect(page).to have_css(selector)
  js = <<-JS
    var selector = #{selector.to_json};
    var elementFromSelector = document.querySelector(selector)...

How to define height of a div as percentage of its variable width

This is useful if, for example, you want to use a background-image that has to scale with the width and the div should only have the height of the picture.

html:

<div class="outer">
  <div class="inner">
  </div>
</div>

css:

.outer {
  width: 100%;
  background-image: image-url('background.png');
  background-size: cover;
}
  
.inner {
  padding-top: 60%;
}

How does it work?

There are several CSS attributes that can handle values as percentage. But they use different other attributes as "reference value...

Middleman for Rails Developers

Middleman is a static page generator that brings many of the goodies that Rails developers are used to.

Out of the box, Middleman brings Haml, Sass, helpers etc. However, it can be configured to do even better. This card is a list of improvement hints for a Rails developer.

Gemfile

Remove tzinfo-data and wdm unless you're on Windows. Add these gems:

gem 'middleman-livereload'
gem 'middleman-sprockets' # Asset pipeline!

gem 'bootstrap-sass' # If you want to use Bootstrap

gem 'byebug'

gem 'capistrano'
gem 'capistrano-mid...
Linked content

Classic CSS problems that are easy with flexbox

Solved with flexbox is a collection of css problems which were hard or impossible to solve without flexbox:

  • Better, Simpler Grid Systems
  • Holy Grail Layout
  • Input Add-ons
  • Media Object
  • Sticky Footer
  • Vertical Centering
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