CSS columns

The CSS columns property is a shorthand property for setting multiple "column" related properties in one place.

Specifically, columns property sets the column-width and column-count properties.

The CSS columns property is a time-efficient way of coding your multi-column layouts.

Note that order is important. You must specify the values in the same order as listed in the Syntax section below.

Syntax

animation: <'column-width'> || <'column-count'>

Possible Values

<'column-width'>
Defines the width that each column should be. Value can be either auto or a fixed length (e.g. 120px). For more information on this value, see the column-width property.
<'column-count'>
Defines the number of columns in the multi-column element. For more information on this value, see the column-count property.

In addition, all CSS properties also accept the following CSS-wide keyword values as the sole component of their property value:

initial
Represents the value specified as the property's initial value.
inherit
Represents the computed value of the property on the element's parent.
unset
This value acts as either inherit or initial, depending on whether the property is inherited or not. In other words, it sets all properties to their parent value if they are inheritable or to their initial value if not inheritable.

Basic Property Information

Initial Value
See individual properties
Applies To
non-replaced block-level elements (except table elements), table cells, and inline-block elements
Inherited?
No
Media
Visual
Animatable
Yes (see example)

Example Code

Basic CSS

/* 
These are all valid CSS declarations for the <code>columns</code> property. 
Omitted values are set to their initial values. 
Also, the order of the values isn't important. 
*/
columns: 220px;      /* column-width: 220 pixels; column-count: auto */
columns: auto 220px; /* column-width: 220 pixels; column-count: auto */
columns: 3;         /* column-width: auto; column-count: 3 */
columns: 3 auto;    /* column-width: auto; column-count: 3 */
columns: auto;      /* column-width: auto; column-count: auto */
columns: auto auto; /* column-width: auto; column-count: auto */

Working Example within an HTML Document

<!doctype html>
<title>Example</title>
<style>
.multicol { 
  background: beige;
  padding: 10px;
  -webkit-columns: 3; /* Safari and Chrome */
  -moz-columns: 3; /* Firefox */
  columns: 3; /* CSS3 */
}
</style>

<div class="multicol">
  <h3>Columns Example</h3>
  <p>The CSS columns property is a shorthand property for setting multiple column-related properties in one place. Specifically, it sets the column-width and column-count properties.</p>
  <p>This is an efficient way of coding your multi-column layouts.</p>
  <p>Try changing the values to see the effect it has on this example.</p>
</div>

Try it with the Online Editor

This example uses vendor prefixes for the multi-column layout due to lack of browser support for the official standard at the time of writing.

CSS Specifications

Browser Support

The following table provided by Caniuse.com shows the level of browser support for this feature.

Vendor Prefixes

For maximum browser compatibility many web developers add browser-specific properties by using extensions such as -webkit- for Safari, Google Chrome, and Opera (newer versions), -ms- for Internet Explorer, -moz- for Firefox, -o- for older versions of Opera etc. As with any CSS property, if a browser doesn't support a proprietary extension, it will simply ignore it.

This practice is not recommended by the W3C, however in many cases, the only way you can test a property is to include the CSS extension that is compatible with your browser.

The major browser manufacturers generally strive to adhere to the W3C specifications, and when they support a non-prefixed property, they typically remove the prefixed version. Also, W3C advises vendors to remove their prefixes for properties that reach Candidate Recommendation status.

Many developers use Autoprefixer, which is a postprocessor for CSS. Autoprefixer automatically adds vendor prefixes to your CSS so that you don't need to. It also removes old, unnecessary prefixes from your CSS.

You can also use Autoprefixer with preprocessors such as Less and Sass.