How to remove the space between inline/inline-block elements? [Answered]

Problem:

Given this HTML and CSS:

span {
    display:inline-block;
    width:100px;
    background-color:palevioletred;
}
<p>
    <span> Foo </span>
    <span> Bar </span>
</p>

As a result, there will be a 4 pixel wide space between the SPAN elements.

I understand why this happens, and I also know that I could get rid of that space by removing the white-space between the SPAN elements in the HTML source code, like so:

<p>
    <span> Foo </span><span> Bar </span>
</p>

However, I was hoping for a CSS solution that doesn’t require the HTML source code to be tampered with.

I know how to solve this with JavaScript – by removing the text nodes from the container element (the paragraph), like so:

// jQuery
$('p').contents().filter(function() { return this.nodeType === 3; }).remove();

But can this issue be solved with CSS alone?

Remove the space between inline-block elements: Answer #1:

Since this answer has become rather popular, I’m rewriting it significantly.

Let’s not forget the actual question that was asked:

How to remove the space between inline-block elements? I was hoping for a CSS solution that doesn’t require the HTML source code to be tampered with. Can this issue be solved with CSS alone?

It is possible to solve this problem with CSS alone, but there are no completely robust CSS fixes.

The solution I had in my initial answer was to add font-size: 0 to the parent element, and then declare a sensible font-size on the children.

This works in recent versions of all modern browsers. It works in IE8. It does not work in Safari 5, but it does work in Safari 6. Safari 5 is nearly a dead browser (0.33%, August 2015).

Most of the possible issues with relative font sizes are not complicated to fix.

However, while this is a reasonable solution if you specifically need a CSS only fix, it’s not what I recommend if you’re free to change your HTML (as most of us are).


This is what I, as a reasonably experienced web developer, actually do to solve this problem:

<p>
    <span>Foo</span><span>Bar</span>
</p>

Yes, that’s right. I remove the whitespace in the HTML between the inline-block elements.

It’s easy. It’s simple. It works everywhere. It’s the pragmatic solution.

You do sometimes have to carefully consider where whitespace will come from. Will appending another element with JavaScript add whitespace? No, not if you do it properly.

Let’s go on a magical journey of different ways to remove the whitespace, with some new HTML:

<ul>
    <li>Item 1</li>
    <li>Item 2</li>
    <li>Item 3</li>
</ul>
  • You can do this, as I usually do:<ul> <li>Item 1</li><li>Item 2</li><li>Item 3</li> </ul>
  • Or, this:<ul> <li>Item 1</li ><li>Item 2</li ><li>Item 3</li> </ul>
  • Or, use comments:<ul> <li>Item 1</li><!-- --><li>Item 2</li><!-- --><li>Item 3</li> </ul>
  • Or, if you are using using PHP or similar:<ul> <li>Item 1</li><? ?><li>Item 2</li><? ?><li>Item 3</li> </ul>
  • Or, you can even skip certain closing tags entirely (all browsers are fine with this):<ul> <li>Item 1 <li>Item 2 <li>Item 3 </ul>

Hopefully, now you’ve forgotten all about font-size: 0.

Remove the space between inline-block elements: Answer #2:

Today, we should just use Flexbox.


OLD ANSWER:

OK, although I’ve upvoted both the font-size: 0; and the not implemented CSS3 feature answers, after trying I found out that none of them is a real solution.

Actually, there is not even one workaround without strong side effects.

Then I decided to remove the spaces (this answers is about this argument) between the inline-block divs from my HTML source (JSP), turning this:

<div class="inlineBlock">
    I'm an inline-block div
</div>
<div class="inlineBlock">
    I'm an inline-block div
</div>

to this

<div class="inlineBlock">
    I'm an inline-block div
</div><div class="inlineBlock">
    I'm an inline-block div
</div>

that is ugly, but working.

But, wait a minute… what if I’m generating my divs inside Taglibs loops (Struts2JSTL, etc…) ?

For example:

<s:iterator begin="0" end="6" status="ctrDay">
    <br/>
    <s:iterator begin="0" end="23" status="ctrHour">
        <s:push value="%{days[#ctrDay.index].hours[#ctrHour.index]}">
            <div class="inlineBlock>
                I'm an inline-block div in a matrix 
                (Do something here with the pushed object...)
           </div>
       </s:push>
    </s:iterator>
</s:iterator>

It is absolutely not thinkable to inline all that stuff, it would mean

<s:iterator begin="0" end="6" status="ctrDay">
    <br/>
    <s:iterator begin="0" end="23" status="ctrHour"><s:push value="%{days[#ctrDay.index].hours[#ctrHour.index]}"><div class="inlineBlock>
                I'm an inline-block div in a matrix             
                (Do something here with the pushed object...)
           </div></s:push></s:iterator>
</s:iterator>

That is not readable, hard to maintain and understand, etc.

The solution I found:

use HTML comments to connect the end of one div to the begin of the next one!

<s:iterator begin="0" end="6" status="ctrDay">
   <br/>
   <s:iterator begin="0" end="23" status="ctrHour"><!--
    --><s:push value="%{days[#ctrDay.index].hours[#ctrHour.index]}"><!--
        --><div class="inlineBlock>
                I'm an inline-block div in a matrix             
                (Do something here with the pushed object...)
           </div><!--
    --></s:push><!--
--></s:iterator>
</s:iterator>

This way you will have a readable and correctly indented code.

And, as a positive side effect, the HTML source, although infested by empty comments, will result correctly indented;

let’s take the first example. In my humble opinion, this:

    <div class="inlineBlock">
        I'm an inline-block div
    </div><!--
 --><div class="inlineBlock">
        I'm an inline-block div
    </div>

is better than this:

    <div class="inlineBlock">
         I'm an inline-block div
    </div><div class="inlineBlock">
         I'm an inline-block div
    </div>

How to remove the space between inline-block elements? Multiple answers:

Answer #3:

For CSS3 conforming browsers there is white-space-collapsing:discard

Answer #4:

Add display: flex; to the parent element. Here is the solution with a prefix:

Simplified version 👇

p {
  display: flex;
}

span {
  width: 100px;
  background: tomato;
  font-size: 30px;
  color: white;
  text-align: center;
}
<p>
  <span> Foo </span>
  <span> Bar </span>
</p>

Fix with prefix 👇

p {
  display: -webkit-box;
  display: -webkit-flex;
  display: -ms-flexbox;
  display: flex;
}
span {
  float: left;
  display: inline-block;
  width: 100px;
  background: blue;
  font-size: 30px;
  color: white;
  text-align: center;
}
<p>
  <span> Foo </span>
  <span> Bar </span>
</p>

Answer #5:

Add comments between elements to NOT have a white space. For me it is easier than resetting font size to zero and then setting it back.

<div>
    Element 1
</div><!--
--><div>
    Element 2
</div>

Answer #6:

There’s actually a really simple way to remove whitespace from inline-block that’s both easy and semantic. It’s called a custom font with zero-width spaces, which allows you to collapse the whitespace (added by the browser for inline elements when they’re on separate lines) at the font level using a very tiny font. Once you declare the font, you just change the font-family on the container and back again on the children, and voila. Like this:

@font-face{ 
    font-family: 'NoSpace';
    src: url('../Fonts/zerowidthspaces.eot');
    src: url('../Fonts/zerowidthspaces.eot?#iefix') format('embedded-opentype'),
         url('../Fonts/zerowidthspaces.woff') format('woff'),
         url('../Fonts/zerowidthspaces.ttf') format('truetype'),
         url('../Fonts/zerowidthspaces.svg#NoSpace') format('svg');
}

body {
    font-face: 'OpenSans', sans-serif;
}

.inline-container {
    font-face: 'NoSpace';
}

.inline-container > * {
    display: inline-block;
    font-face: 'OpenSans', sans-serif;
}

Suit to taste. Here’s a download to the font I just cooked up in font-forge and converted with FontSquirrel webfont generator. Took me all of 5 minutes. The css @font-face declaration is included: zipped zero-width space font. It’s in Google Drive so you’ll need to click File > Download to save it to your computer. You’ll probably need to change the font paths as well if you copy the declaration to your main css file.

Hope this post helped you.

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Linux and Python enthusiast, in love with open source since 2014, Writer at programming-articles.com, India.

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