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Padding, Borders, Outlines, and Margins in CSS by Eric A. Meyer

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Chapter 1. Padding, Borders, Outlines, and Margins

Way back in the 1990s, pretty much all web pages were designed using tables for layout. There were a lot of reasons for this, but one of the most common was the desire to put a box around a bit of text, like a callout. Of course, this was a ridiculously complicated way to put a border around a paragraph or sidebar. Shouldn’t it be easier than that?

The authors of CSS felt it should, indeed, be easier, so they devoted a great deal of attention to allowing you to define borders for paragraphs, headings, divs, anchors, images—darned near everything a web page can contain. These borders can set an element apart from others, accentuate its appearance, mark certain kinds of data as having been changed, or any number of other things.

CSS also lets you define regions around an element that control how the border is placed in relation to the content and how close other elements can get to that border. Between the content of an element and its border, we find the padding of an element, and beyond the border, there are outlines and then the margins. These properties affect how the entire document is laid out, of course, but more importantly, they very deeply affect the appearance of a given element.

Basic Element Boxes

As you’re likely aware, all document elements generate a rectangular box called the element box, which describes the amount of space that an element occupies in the layout of the document. Therefore, each box influences the ...

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