styled-system

⬢ Style props for rapid UI development (by styled-system)

Styled-system Alternatives

Similar projects and alternatives to styled-system

NOTE: The number of mentions on this list indicates mentions on common posts plus user suggested alternatives. Hence, a higher number means a better styled-system alternative or higher similarity.

styled-system reviews and mentions

Posts with mentions or reviews of styled-system. We have used some of these posts to build our list of alternatives and similar projects. The last one was on 2023-01-10.
  • Past Informs the Present: Begin’s Approach to CSS
    9 projects | dev.to | 10 Jan 2023
    Note how each class in the atomic version maps to just a single CSS property and value. In fact, if I hadn’t included the second block, I bet you’d have had no problem determining each class’ effect from the markup alone! This is a hallmark of atomic CSS — the effect of a class is typically self evident from its name alone, whereas the specifics of a class name like media are more ambiguous.

    For anyone familiar with atomic CSS today, the example above will likely appear unremarkable. The transition towards this approach was anything but, however — and on some corners of the web today, debate still rages about whether atomic CSS has been the best or worst thing to happen to styling on the web since CSS.

    There was, however, clearly an appetite for this approach amongst a non-trivial swath of web developers: the year 2014 saw the release of both Adam Morse’s Tachyons and Brent Jackson’s Basscss, the first two frameworks to go all-in on atomic CSS. These frameworks were instrumental in writing the blueprints for the atomic CSS methodology and turning the status quo on its head — and indeed, the shift was so monumental that, within a number of years, ‘utility-first’ CSS frameworks started becoming multimillion dollar businesses.

    The atomization of CSS had officially begun.

    Atomic CSS: successes and perceived failures

    In order to understand the success of atomic CSS (even if that success remains a point of debate in some circles), we should first examine its principles, and the goals those principles seek to achieve. Many of these principles are derived from functional programming, hence the alternative name ‘functional CSS’. Additional inspiration came from the Unix philosophy.

    The most fundamental principles of atomic CSS are:

    Classes should have a single purpose.
    Classes should do one thing, and they should do it well. This makes each class more reusable. A class that applies a margin, and only a margin, is more reusable than a class that applies and margin and a text colour.
    A class’ effect should be self evident.
    There should be no mystery about the effect of using a class — clarity should always trump cleverness. The effect of a class named flex which sets the display property to flex is self evident. The effect of a class named media which may set any number of property values is ambiguous.
    Classes should be composable.
    Complex styles should be achieved by composing multiple single purpose classes together, rather than by writing new, complex, and less reusable classes.
    Classes should be immutable and free of side effects.
    For example, the underline class should only ever apply an underline style. It should never not apply the underline, or apply another style, or change any other property of any other element. Under no circumstances should it change the effect of another class.

    It’s important to note that these principles were not devised for their own sake — each plays an important role in authoring performant, maintainable, robust styles:

    • Single purpose classes are more reusable and composable than multipurpose classes. Thus, single purpose classes provide greater flexibility as well as reduced CSS file sizes, both at the outset of new projects and throughout their lifecycle (as fewer styles need to be added to deliver iterations and additions to UI).

    • Classes with singular, self evident effects reduce cognitive overhead for developers; the resultant styling systems are thus easier to learn, and this in turn helps frontend teams scale their efforts across people and time.

    • Classes which are immutable and free of side effects result in fewer bugs — and where bugs occur, easier debugging and resolution follows.

    In these ways and in others, I have always felt that the nature of atomic CSS flows very much with the grain of CSS itself. Remember that CSS was designed to be independent of markup, and atomic CSS is by design untethered to any particular markup structure or content based semantics. Atomic CSS also honors CSS’ specificity algorithm rather than attempting to game it — it does not concern itself with optimized selector ranking or scope, since every class is of single purpose and equal specificity. This also means CSS’ inheritance model becomes an advantage as it was originally intended: compositions can be built up with inheritance in mind, over several layers of markup.

    There are, however, many common objections raised against the atomic CSS methodology. In general, these tend to be:

    ’It’s not semantic.’
    We’ve touched on this already, but it’s worth repeating: semantics, accessibility, and clarity do matter, but with all due respect to Zeldman, there is nothing inherently unsemantic, inaccessible, or unclear about ‘visual class names’, nor is there a reason for CSS to map to the same semantics as HTML.
    ‘This is inline styles all over again.’
    Nope. Inline styles are defined in HTML; atomic classes are defined in a style sheet. Inline styles do not permit media queries, pseudo elements, or pseudo classes; atomic classes do. Inline styles have a specificity ranking of 1-0-0-0, which can only be outranked by !important; atomic classes have a specificity of 0-0-1-0, the same as any single class. An inline style’s source of truth is its own singular invocation on a given element; an atomic class’ source of truth is a style sheet. There is a lexical resemblance between class='red' and style='color: red'; this is where the similarities end.
    ‘Putting so many classes on my elements looks ugly/is hard to read.’
    Admittedly, doesn’t read like poetry (and yes, that snippet is taken from this very page as of this writing). However, something that is a delight is being able to rapidly iterate on this composition — from the logical origin of that composition (the markup), whether in the browser or my editor — to explore different combinatorial spaces within the bounds of a design system. Iterating in this fashion simply cannot be matched when using other methodologies.
    ‘This is so not DRY.’
    It’s true, atomic CSS can lead to repeating declarations of various styling rules — but I vastly prefer repeating declarations to repeating definitions (which, in my experience, are much harder to maintain). Also, remember that every time you repeat a class name, that’s one more addition you didn’t have to make to your style sheet! Ultimately, this is a matter of choosing what kind of repetition you want, not one of avoiding repetition altogether.
    ‘Atomic CSS is at odds with modern component modeling.’
    ‘Thinking in React’ is one of those articles that changed the way I thought about web development when it was published, and there’s no denying that building frontends on the web has become a component centric process. However, it’s important to differentiate the process of thinking in components and the process of styling components. A conceptual abstraction does not require an equivalent material abstraction, and the fact of a component’s existence does not necessitate a dedicated CSS class.
    ‘This still doesn’t solve the problem of global scope or one off styles.’
    It doesn’t, and in fact atomic CSS is not designed for this. For scoped or one off styles, a different approach is absolutely required.

    Atomic CSS can provide a fantastic foundation that covers the vast majority of styling needs for a given website and its constituent components, and it can deliver those styles in a fraction of the file size and complexity of other methodologies. To be clear, these claims are not theoretical: this has been my experience both as a contributor and leader of frontend teams over the past 8 years, and the same has been true for many others both within and outside of my professional circle. But as we’ve noted, atomic CSS doesn’t cover every use case: scoped and one off styles are not part of its wheelhouse. So what’s to be done when a need for these sorts of styles emerges?

    Going bespoke

    Photograph of a blacksmith working metal at a grinder.
    Photo by Chris Ralston on Unsplash

    Where one off styles are needed, or where we want to ensure certain styles are scoped to a given component, additional measures beyond an atomic CSS methodology will be required. There are several techniques that can be used to address these concerns, with a few notable examples having become more popular in recent years:

    CSS in JS
    The obvious contender in this list. I used CSS in JS for many years myself, and have to say the developer ergonomics are pretty impressive, as is the ability to leverage both repeatable and bespoke, scoped styles (especially when using libraries like Styled System or Theme UI). Unfortunately, great developer ergonomics and scoping are not enough. CSS in JS can add significant weight to client side bundles, along with increased setup complexity (especially when server side rendering is involved). Some solutions can also lock you in to certain frontend frameworks, limiting the portability of your styles. There are some solutions emerging to address these concerns (e.g. Vanilla Extract), but at the end of the day, I admit I’m growing tired of learning abstractions of CSS — there are so many more valuable things I could be doing with my time. This isn’t necessarily a popular opinion, but I think CSS is actually pretty amazing on its own, and the closer to the metal I can stay, the happier I am.
    CSS Modules
    The name may suggest that CSS Modules are part of the CSS spec, but this is not the case. CSS Modules allow authors to extract styles from a vanilla .css file and into a JavaScript file containing markup; at build time, these extracted styles are then regenerated as locally scoped styles wherever they are used. This seems to offer some of the benefits of CSS in JS, but without the ergonomics of colocating styles, content, and behavior within a given component.
    Shadow DOM
    Shadow DOM is a web standards specification which is designed to provide encapsulation of content, styles, and behavior — but it has a number of hard to swallow caveats. For one, Shadow DOM roots need to be initialized in JavaScript (though Declarative Shadow DOM should address this in the future.) Further, styling encapsulation doesn’t work quite like you think it does, and this can cause some headaches. I believe the Shadow DOM holds promise, but for many use cases, it can end up being more trouble than it’s worth.

    Fortunately, a compelling solution for dealing with scoped and one off styles exists in the form of HTML custom elements, which are part of the web components spec along with Shadow DOM and HTML templates. I may be biased, but I think the best way to work with custom elements right now is with Enhance (though to be fair, I got a sneak peak at Enhance before joining Begin in 2022, and was just as enthusiastic at that time).

    Using Enhance to author custom elements in the form of Single File Components (SFCs) has a number of huge benefits:

    1. Custom elements are expanded on the server, providing great performance and an excellent baseline for progressive enhancement on the client.

    2. Locally scoped, one off styles can be authored simply by including a block in your SFC. When your component is expanded on the server, these style blocks will be hoisted into the document head, with all of that style block’s selectors scoped to your custom element. This allows for one off styles to be encapsulated and scoped to the component they’re authored in, without needing to touch the Shadow DOM. Scoped styles written within an SFC are also a great place to leverage strategies like intrinsic design, which can happily coexist alongside a global, atomic class system.

    3. If you don’t need to write client side behavior, you never have to interface with JavaScript classes or the Custom Elements Registry. This is particularly handy for engineers (or designers) who might excel at HTML and CSS but lack experience in JavaScript. Although SFCs are authored as JavaScript functions, the bulk of the authored code is written in HTML and CSS, as seen below:

    // my-button.mjs
    export default function MyButton({ html }) {
      return html`
        
          /* One off styles applied only to button elements rendered by MyButton. */
          /* Any button outside this component will not be affected. */
          button {
            appearance: none;
            box-shadow: 0 2px 4px rgba(0,0,0,0.1);
          }
        
        
        
          
        
      `
    }
    
    // index.html
    <my-button>Click Me!</my-button>
  • Tailwind Is a Leaky Abstraction
    5 projects | news.ycombinator.com | 29 Nov 2022
    I find css-as-props is better than a huge string of classes, as it much more readable and statically analyzable. I wonder if anyone is working on a successor to styled-system (though it works fine).

    [1] https://styled-system.com/

  • Migrating my Gatsby MDX blog to AstroJS (and why you shouldn't)
    12 projects | dev.to | 6 Oct 2022
    My goal was to try a few new libraries and get experience under my belt (cause isn’t that what dev blogs are for?). I’d swap out Gatsby for **Astro,** and Styled Components + Styled System for **Vanilla Extract**. I was interested in trying Astro as it just hit 1.0, and I’ve been experimenting for a while with Vanilla Extract as a way to write Typescript powered styles and export to CSS.
  • Critical CSS? Not So Fast
    5 projects | news.ycombinator.com | 10 Sep 2022
    I'm a huge fain of Tailwind but if you're using react you can also consider styled-system:

    https://styled-system.com

    It seems to have a lot of the benefits of Tailwind but better integration with Typescript.

  • Style libraries for RN
    3 projects | reddit.com/r/reactnative | 10 Aug 2022
    Restyle is my personal favorite. It’s strongly inspired by the amazing, albeit a bit outdated, styled-system for web, but is fully type-safe and has amazing customization options.
  • Is using styled components in this way just inline style with extra steps??
    2 projects | reddit.com/r/webdev | 26 Jul 2022
  • best styling DX for component libraries with design tokens
    4 projects | reddit.com/r/reactjs | 16 Jul 2022
    I am a huge fan of design tokens which is popularized by styled-system (unmaintained?) and theme-ui Interested in finding out how to achieve the best DX for building a new design system.
  • #2 Front-end things and not only
    4 projects | dev.to | 8 Jun 2022
    ✅ nx.dev - generation build system with first-class monorepo support and powerful integrations ✅ styled-system - style props for rapid UI development ✅ thefuck - magnificent app which corrects your previous console command.
  • Are libraries like Chakra UI, Material UI used these days commonly for professional React Projects?
    6 projects | reddit.com/r/reactjs | 18 Mar 2022
    AFAIK, most of the style props come from a library called styled-system.
  • TaskEz: Design to Code - Chapter 1
    3 projects | dev.to | 27 Nov 2021
    You can read more about styled system here, https://styled-system.com/.
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    www.influxdata.com | 3 Feb 2023
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