Ben Nadel
On User Experience (UX) Design, JavaScript, ColdFusion, Node.js, Life, and Love.
I am the chief technical officer at InVision App, Inc - a prototyping and collaboration platform for designers, built by designers. I also rock out in JavaScript and ColdFusion 24x7.
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Ben Nadel at cf.Objective() 2012 (Minneapolis, MN) with: Erik Meier and Jesse Shaffer

The Power Of ZOOM - Fixing CSS Issues In Internet Explorer

By Ben Nadel on
Tags: HTML / CSS

I think we've all experienced how frustrating it can be to do cross-browser testing with CSS-based web sites. Why is it that Internet Explorer (IE) never seems to play nicely with good, solid CSS markup?!? Anyway, I just thought I'd share one technique that I've found to be extremely helpful. When I have some CSS that just won't work in IE, I see if adding a ZOOM property of 1 (one) will help:

  • div {
  • zoom: 1 ;
  • }

I have to say, 90% of the time, this fixes the display issues that I am having in IE... and, it does so without adversely affecting any of the other browsers (that I have tested). I guess you could call this an IE-hack since I believe the zoom property is only supported by Internet Explorer.

I am not exactly sure why this works, but it has something to do with what you are trying to accomplish and the concept of an element having a "layout". In IE, some elements have a "hasLayout" property that is true by default. This is required for many visual settings; for example, an alpha filter only works on an element that hasLayout. So, why does {Zoom:1} work? It gives the target elements the hasLayout property.

There's a bunch of other things you can do to fix rendering issues in IE, but I have found {zoom:1} to be the lowest hanging fruit. For a more in depth look at what it means for an element to hasLayout, click here.



Reader Comments

Ben...

Personally, I rarely find the need to write hacks for IE. If you're coding to standards compliant xHTML, and are using the Strict doctype, then it's usually a matter of knowing how to write CSS code which won't require hacks.

At most I might have to write some tweaks to my CSS which adjust the differences between border interpretation between IE and the other browsers.

@Andy,

I think we're on the same page. That's why I only mentioned Zoom here and not a bunch of other things. The propert Doc Type and nice markup are the best defense against hacks. However, I have found that some things just don't play nice.

The most recent example I ran across was applying an alpha filter to a Div. Worked fine in FireFox, but was ignored in IE because the DIV didn't have a set height and width (it has variable sized content). Howeer, when I added zoom:1, IE honored the alpha filter. I am not sure that any changes in the CSS or Markup would have fixed this?

Here's a handy CSS rule to see if your layout problems are related to IE and not your CSS. This quickly sets these values, which seem to be at the root of most IE rendering issues, for all elements.

* {position: relative; zoom: 1;}

@Steve,

While I like where you're going with that, I tend to shy away from mass-settings. It makes me feel more comfortable to fix issues as they are found, but that's a personal choice.

Elements with layout are responsible for laying themselves out and their children.

The DOM is essentially a big tree:

html
...body
......div
.........p

If the <body> has layout it's responsible for laying itself out on the screen and then placing it's children and sizing them. If we gave the p layout, it would then be responsible for this, instead of letting the < body > element do it.

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb250481(VS.85).aspx

Note that you should always put hacks like this in a separate file and include it with conditional comments that target specific versions. Otherwise you might break badly in future versions of IE.

Hi Ben,

I found this little hack for IE based Issues or say FF based issues too related to the CSS.

In this statement:

width:20px;#width:23px:_width:20px;

FF applies the first width; IE7 applies the second one and IE6 applies the third one. This method works on all the CSS attributes too.

It may be extra code, but when clients are mad of their page lookup in IE6 too[people still use IE6 !!!], this is a nice hack

I don't believe this simple code solved my problem*... and i don't believe i've never heard of this property before (and its use as a hack).

It's a life saver.

Thanks, Ben.

Cheers from Brazil!

* Some div content kept vanishing after using jQuery's slideDown animation method. Now solved with this simple hack. Internet Explorer keeps surprising me... :(

Ben, your post is interesting however! when using jQuery animate changing the opacity it seems to add a Zoom:1 into the inline style of the element this damages the element showing a double text effect as though the transition is only going 99% of the way.

This seems to be effecting a number of elements which use the fade or any other opacity transition the bug only happens in IE6.0 i have managed to fix this by removing the Zoom:1 using the css() functionality in jQuery.

is that a valid solution? i've noticed putting a background colour fix's it too! which is the best i have no idea!

Thanks
Dan

Hi Ben
I have used your code in my stylesheet and seems to work fine in IE but it seems to not like in my CSS code it shows the following error

Validation CSS 2.1 Zoom is not a known CSS property name

Can this bit of code be used in a stylesheet?
thanks

@Angel,

Zoom is an IE-specific CSS property. As such, I don't think it will validate. However, it is ignored by browsers that don't use it.

the problem is that: ZOOM is a non standard property so you will no pass the W3C CSS check... especcialy with a DTD STRICT...
and on IE 6 blokcs the magnification of the text so it gives problems for accessibility...

@Andrea,

I suppose for validation, you could always add a zoom class post-page-load with Javascript? As far as blocking the zoom functionality in IE6 - I'll be honest with you, I don't even know what zoom does. I've never seen anyone use it in real life.

If you use the conditional statements for IE it will validate just fine, if that concerns you. IE conditional statements are just comments as far as every other browser is concerned, which no validator should examine.
Browser support of CSS is so full of holes that I don't bother with trying to achieve 100% validation unless it's a showcase site where people are likely to check it out. That's just wasting my client's money in most cases. It's more important that a site works perfectly (if not exactly the same) in 99% of actual browsers in use than it is to pass validation in a system that isn't itself 100% well-defined. Using Strict doctypes is something I do as a matter of course, but it often isn't much more reliable than using none at all, and non-compliant browsers are everywhere. With all the phones and mobile devices in use the situation is getting worse, not better.
Figuring out the hasLayout behaviour of IE is worthwhile, even if it sometimes appears totally illogical. Unlike the earlier versions of Firefox and Safari, many people are actually still using IE6 and 7... I wish they weren't but it's just not going to go away any time soon. (Having said that, I spotted a user in my stats recently apparently still using Netscape!)

Validation is something I always try to aim for, but sometimes you can write the most standards compliant code in the world and you'll still get IE barfing. Had one today in IE7 where a background image applied to an inline element just disappeared when the element included a line break.

I hate hacks - and won't use anything like Tantek's hack or anything like that - however I'll cope with using things like zoom:1 or the odd "superfluous" position:relative if I have to - at least they can't possibly have any ill effects in other browsers. Even if someone else does implement zoom, then zoom:1 just means "don't zoom".

Apparently Zoom does just that - it zooms. If you put zoom:200% it will magnify your element to double the size. Bit like Firefox and Opera do when you zoom an entire page - but just for one element.

@Andrew,

I've never actually played around with anything that wasn't zoom:1 (meaning, I've never tried zoom:2). I'll have to give that try.

I think validation is nice, but not at the sacrifice of user experience; at the end of the day, a consistent, compelling user experience is the most important feature of any public-facing service. And, if a small hack makes that possible, I am all for it.

Got the same solution from here :

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/2769560/li-float-crashes-ie6

Wow, 1 hr of frustration and 1 tiny little tablet fixed it.

Love the fact that you take the time to reply to every post.

I think the series you did on the jQuery client-side MVC was awesome -- never thought you could do stuff like that -- The code was no walk in the park but - It was a lot of efforts from your side and a great job on that. Thanks! :) - Cheers from India!

@DMin,

Hey man, thanks for saying that. Sometimes it's hard to keep up with the comments; but it's really energizing to hear that it is appreciated.

A site I'm building looks fine when I test on 4 browsers including IE 6. My client says most of the pages don't show on her IE. If they display fine for me how do I diagnose the problems or know when they are corrected? Thanks.

A sculptor friend asked me to put together some pages of images for her. She wanted each page to fit neatly onto her small screen. As it was nearly all images, I used fixed-width tables. Displayed perfectly on Firefox and Chrome, but Explorer resized it by 125%, thus needing both vertical and horizontal scrolling. Looked awful and the drop-down elements of the the javascript menus failed. You can't see the worst page where text aligned left obstinately stayed in the center of its cell. Spent hours searching Google and having learnt all about Adaptive Zoom and imaging I added:
<!--[if IE]>
<style type="text/css">
div {zoom:90% ;}
</style>
<![endif]-->
which worked very well for Els to see her site properly BUT I know it's not the solution for every visitor with Explorer8. Am I the only person out here with this problem? Is there a better fix? Thankyou, indeed for being there. I hope you like our work.

@Dale,

That is always a serious problem to debug. I'd suggest getting your client to take screen shots of the site to make sure you are on the same page. Also, you might want to try doing a screen-share (ala GoToMeeting / WebEx / Adobe Connect / etc) to see if you can do some "real time" debugging. ... no matter what, I'm sure it will be a pain. Flying "blind" in the debugging process is about the worst problem in computer science.

@Elizabeth,

That's cool - I've never actually ever seen someone use Zoom to actually "zoom" :) Glad it worked out for you.

We have be using zoom: 1 for IE fixes for a long time and we love it!! But lets say you have used zoom: 1 to get ie to "hasLayout" but now you don't want it to. Do zoom: normal and it no longer "hasLayout".

This is how we view zoom around here:

zoom = hasLayout

@Jeff,

Cool tip. Since I have only ever used this as a fix, can you elaborate a bit on why you might want to remove it? What kind of stuff are you doing where zoom:1 gets in the way?

Hi there

I am new in CSS and I created couple of pages. they have boxes. all look perfectly in IE8,opera,Chrome. but if zoom in IE goes less than 100% the boxes will look out of order and bad. you mentioned a trick
div {
zoom: 1 ;
}
where should i add this? I really appriciate if you give me your advice.

thank you in advance.

roshanak

Found this on QuirksMode:

http://www.quirksmode.org/css/opacity.html

IE compatibility note

If you want opacity to work in all IE versions, the order should be:

.opaque {
-ms-filter:"progid:DXImageTransform.Microsoft.Alpha(Opacity=50)"; // first!
filter: alpha(opacity=50); // second!
}

If you don't use this order, IE8-as-IE7 doesn't apply the opacity, although IE8 and a pure IE7 do.

Seems to work instead of zoom.

@KB,

Interesting. Thankfully, I use so much jQuery to perform fading in/out that I rarely have to set opacity manually. Good to know, though, for the stuff we want to control outside of animations.

@Abhishek,

Awesome :)

thanks! simple but powerful for Internet Explorer. I'm a beginner when it comes to web designing and each and everyday I've learned new techniques. thanks again!..
CJAY from: Philippines

You know what, you saved my life. I been struggling with this IE7 print preview spacing issue. This once line of code fixed EVERYTHING.

Thank you so much :)

Thanks a lot for the informational article, it was very educating in understanding why sometimes things visually fail in one browser or another...it doesn't fix everything 100% of the time, but it gives you the hints to know where to look for the mistakes =)

Thanks again.

My entire

  • <p>

is invisible because the text is supposed to be completely transparent set against a semi-opaque background.

I tried zoom:1 & Sanjeev & KB's fixes for opacity and I still can't get my CSS/opacity to work in IE 7/8. Am I doing something wrong or anyone know a code snippet to fix it?

Hi Ben, I've tried every idea on the internet to fix Opacity in IE, including the ideas you posted above (I'm currently using the W3C schools CSS alpha transparency code and also added zoom as you mentioned above as well as the -ms-filter recommended above (I've tried several variations of filters to no avail).

My current settings work on all browsers on both Mac and PC except for IE 6,7, and 8 on Windows. It works on IE 9. So I know it should work in all browsers.

Tthe page flickers the background on and then off when loading IE 8 for a second. Do you happen to know what could cause this? It may be the answer to my problem.

The page and CSS validates except for filter, etc. I'm using Doc type 4.01 transitional.

Wow! I've been trying to troubleshoot a few css layout issues for a couple days now for an html page that I converted into a php file, and zoom took care of everything. Thanks!

thanks Ben, but where should i add the code?
there are several codes in my IE7.css file. do it matter where to write?
is it different in different IEs?

Thanks a lot for your post.nearly every world wide web developer uses registers to conceive his navigation. generally, you conceive the canister component, conceive some connections inside and then ride high the anchors in the direction he wants and calls it a day. Usually. IE though concludes to make it a alallotmentment more complicated.

More helpful- www.karnimaagroup.com

hi ben,
I m making a web page which has tables and forms in it. How to solve the zooming problems.. Its not giving up the regular website zooming.thank you

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