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Ordering CSS Properties A-Z

by Chris Smith

How do you order your CSS properties? There are a few different possible ways that spring to mind:

  1. Sort all properties alphabetically, listing them A-Z
  2. Group properties by their meanings, e.g. typographical properties first, then sizing, then shadows, then animations, etc.
  3. Random - just added as they occur to the developer.
I started off with them just logged randomly. Then, as I started writing longer style rules, I tried to bring similar items together. Gradually, over a long time, I've realised that the point of this grouping was to make the properties easier to find quickly. These days I always list them A-Z.

Going A-Z

At first it seems a bit obsessive-compulsive to order them in this way but it does make a real difference. I think things probably changed for me when I started working with JavaScript objects and JSON and the browser dev tools naturally ordered the object properties alphabetically. I got used to them being listed this way and learnt to scan these lists in a logical way. With CSS I'm convinced that in a list of 10 or more properties that being able to scan them in order and focus on the makes a huge difference when doing it every few minutes.

CSS Property Naming

Using A-Z ordering has made me realise how much of an opportunity has been missed with the property naming. For example, 'border-top-right-radius' would have been so much better as 'border-radius-top-right' as it would keep all of the 'border-radius' properties together in an alphabetical list. Also, some typographical properties being prefixed with 'font-' and others 'text-' means that they don't get naturally grouped and 'color' seems stranded out on its own. Hopefully, some future incarnation of CSS will allow some aliasing of property names.

Code Editor Property Sorting

I use different code editors for different projects but my main day-to-day one is Visual Studio. The ReSharper tool, a paid extension, offers some code clean-up options, one of which is to order all CSS properties A-Z. This enables me to go back to code I worked on pre-A-Z and quickly kick it into shape in a couple of clicks. I don't know of any other tools that do this but I'm sure they must exist, my guess would be as extensions/plugins rather than a core feature.