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How to resize HTML elements: with few lines of CSS, using a React hook, or with pure JavaScript

Filed under: HTML/CSS— Tagged with: layout, UI components

How to resize DOM elements supers easily with pure CSS, or in a more fancy way using React lib.

You know how textareas can be resized easily by dragging from the corner? This same behavior can be activated for any element out there.

For example, the below piece is demoing the classic Holy Grail layout. When showing it, it’s pretty important to see fluidity of the demo.

And it’s a nice use-case for a resizable element:

Resizable wrapper

Choose the resizing behavior:


Test in FireFox for full effect
Holy Grail

Here’s the basic plot of the React components (nothing surprising there, what the demo does is a topic for another post):

const HolyGrail = () => (
  <Wrap>
    <Header>Resizable wrapper</Header>
    <SidebarLeft>Sidebar content</SidebarLeft>
    <Content>
      <p>Choose the resizing behavior:</p>
    </Content>
    <SidebarRight>Sidebar content</SidebarRight>
    <Footer>Holy Grail</Footer>
  </Wrap>
)

When using the demo, just wrap it to a ResizableContainer component:

<ResizableContainer>
  <HolyGrail />
</ResizableContainer>

That’s pretty simple, check the CSS below.

The code: few line of CSS

Here’s the CSS for the resizable container:

.resizable-container {
  height: 400px;
  overflow: auto;
  resize: both;
}

The height is not necessarily needed, I just like it since it’s a wrapper, then I blast the inner component 100% height. The overflow should be anything else than visible.

Possible values for resize are:

none
The resizing is just basically deactivated.
both
Both axis, Y and X, are subjected to resizing.
horizontal
Size can only be changed horizontally (X axis ↔︎).
vertical
Only vertical sizing is possible (Y axis ↕︎).
block experimental
The element displays a mechanism for allowing the user to resize it in the block direction (either horizontally or vertically, depending on the writing-mode and direction value).
inline experimental
The element displays a mechanism for allowing the user to resize it in the inline direction (either horizontally or vertically, depending on the writing-mode and direction value).

About the block and inline values

If I understand right, the block and inline values are just a different ways of saying horizontal and vertical, because some languages (like Japanese) are written from top to bottom. If my computer would be in Japanese, setting resize to block would actually be same as horizontal, where as in my English computer it means vertical.

Disabling textarea resizing

By setting resize: none you can easily disable textarea sizing:

Which I think is the only HTML element that has resizing on by default.

Browser support for resize

This is an old feature, I’ve just learned about it recently heh. The block and inline modes only work in FireFox for now (2021).

Resizable Iframe

Iframes can be made resizable the same as any other element, comes handy when displaying demos and such.

I wrapped the Iframe to a div, and set the resizing to the outer element, then set the Iframe width and height to 100%:

<div style="resize: both; overflow: auto; height: 300px;">
  <iframe
    src="https://clubmate.fi"
    style="width: 100%; height: 100%; border: 1px solid #aaa"
  ></iframe>
</div>

Resizable React component

The only benefit of making something resizable with JavaScript: have more control.

Below is a component made using a simple resize hook I wrote. Compared to the CSS implementation it has few advantages:

  • It gives you the size of the box.
  • You can define a sizing step, in this case 40px.
  • The look of the handle can be controlled. I’m using a CSS triangle.
  • The transition between the steps can be animated.
I’m resizable, my size is Infinity x Infinity

There’s 3 parts to the code that renders that box.

Usage of the component

I build it as a render prop component, so the size is returned from the function. The usage of it looks like this:

<ResizableComponent options={{ step: 40 }}>
  {size => (
    <span>
      I’m resizable, my size is {size.width} x {size.height}
    </span>
  )}
</ResizableComponent>

The component itself

At the heart of it, is the useResize hook (below), which doesn’t render anything on its own, but merely provides the logic. You feed the hook a ref to the element you want to resize, and the optional options. Building a hook, rather than a component makes it super flexible, you’re not bound to the limitations of the component, but can make your own.

The resizing hook gives back 3 things: initResize, size, and cursor (more on those below):

import React from 'react'
import PropTypes from 'prop-types'
import { useResize } from './useResize'
import { Handle, Resizable } from './styles'

const ResizableComponent = props => {
  const ref = React.useRef()
  const { initResize, size, cursor } = useResize(ref, props.options)

  return (
    <Resizable ref={ref}>
      {props.children(size)}
      <Handle cursor={cursor} onMouseDown={initResize} />
    </Resizable>
  )
}

The resize hook

This hooks is pretty basic, you could easily bake in more features to it if needed, like keyboard support, Max/min dimensions and so on. But there’s already many React helpers for resizing components, building this hook was more of an exercise.

See a demo in CodeSandbox:

Edit vibrant-lamarr-uv54l

Input params

ref
A ref to the resized component. Use React.useRef()
options.step
A px value, i.e.: 40. The box will be resized with this interval.
options.axis
both|horizontal|vertical. Both is the default.

Return value

An the resize hook will return these three things:

initResize
A function, which you should call with an onMouseDown in your resizing handle.
size
This is the live size of the resized box.
cursor
This depends on the sizing axis passed in options.axis. Then you can pass this along into the your resizing handle.
import React from 'react'

const cursor = {
  both: 'nwse-resize',
  vertical: 'ns-resize',
  horizontal: 'ew-resize'
}

export const useResize = (ref, options) => {
  ref = ref || {}
  const { step = 1, axis = 'both' } = options || {}
  const [coords, setCoords] = React.useState({ x: Infinity, y: Infinity })
  const [dims, setDims] = React.useState({ width: Infinity, height: Infinity })
  const [size, setSize] = React.useState({ width: Infinity, height: Infinity })

  const initResize = event => {
    if (!ref.current) return
    setCoords({ x: event.clientX, y: event.clientY })
    const { width, height } = window.getComputedStyle(ref.current)
    setDims({ width: parseInt(width, 10), height: parseInt(height, 10) })
  }

  React.useEffect(() => {
    // Round the size based to `props.step`.
    const getValue = input => Math.ceil(input / step) * step

    const doDrag = event => {
      if (!ref.current) return

      // Calculate the box size.
      const width = getValue(dims.width + event.clientX - coords.x)
      const height = getValue(dims.height + event.clientY - coords.y)

      // Set the box size.
      if (axis === 'both') {
        ref.current.style.width = width + 'px'
        ref.current.style.height = height + 'px'
      }
      if (axis === 'horizontal') ref.current.style.width = width + 'px'
      if (axis === 'vertical') ref.current.style.height = width + 'px'
      setSize({ width, height })
    }

    const stopDrag = () => {
      document.removeEventListener('mousemove', doDrag, false)
      document.removeEventListener('mouseup', stopDrag, false)
    }

    document.addEventListener('mousemove', doDrag, false)
    document.addEventListener('mouseup', stopDrag, false)
  }, [dims, coords, step, ref, axis])

  return { initResize, size, cursor: cursor[axis] }
}

Make element resizable with vanilla JavaScript

Here’s pure JavaScript solution, based heavily to this StackOverflow answer.

See a demo:

Edit resizable-box

Usage:

<div id="box" class="box">Click the element to make it resizable.</div>

The script:

const el = document.getElementById('box')

el.addEventListener('click', init, false)

const coords = { x: Infinity, y: Infinity }
let startWidth, startHeight

function init() {
  el.removeEventListener('click', init, false)
  el.classList.add('resizable')
  makeTheHandle()
}

function makeTheHandle() {
  const handle = document.createElement('div')
  handle.classList.add('handle')
  el.appendChild(handle)
  handle.addEventListener('mousedown', initDrag, false)
}

function initDrag(event) {
  coords.x = event.clientX
  coords.y = event.clientY
  startWidth = parseInt(window.getComputedStyle(el).width, 10)
  startHeight = parseInt(window.getComputedStyle(el).height, 10)
  document.addEventListener('mousemove', doDrag, false)
  document.addEventListener('mouseup', stopDrag, false)
}

function doDrag(event) {
  el.style.width = startWidth + event.clientX - coords.x + 'px'
  el.style.height = startHeight + event.clientY - coords.y + 'px'
}

function stopDrag() {
  document.removeEventListener('mousemove', doDrag, false)
  document.removeEventListener('mouseup', stopDrag, false)
}

And the styles:

.box {
  background-color: Pink;
  padding: 20px;
  position: relative;
}

.handle {
  background-color: Black;
  bottom: 0;
  cursor: se-resize;
  height: 10px;
  position: absolute;
  right: 0;
  width: 10px;
}

Conclusions

I would use the native CSS solution whenever possible, and then fallback to a JS solution if I have design or accessibility needs that are not met by the native resize.

There are also resizing sensors out there, that detect resizing and return the dimensions etc. Here's just few first ones I found with a quick search:

Thanks for reading. Hope this was helpful.

Comments would go here, but the commenting system isn’t ready yet, sorry. Tweet me @hiljaa if you want to make a correction etc.

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