Forcing scrollbars (now even better)

17 Aug 2004

The massive trend of centering content horizontally brings with it a small problem. When moving from pages with short to long content, a nasty shift happens in Opera, Mozilla and Safari as the window makes room for the scrollbars. The only way to avoid this is to force scrollbars to appear all the time.

Here are a few solutions, and as you would expect, they each have their own pros and cons:

html>body { height: 800px; }

For: Simple, and works in most situations. This is the one I tend to use. The First-child selector hides the rule from IE windows that always adds a vertical scrollbar gutter anyway.
Against: Doesn’t work on large resolution monitors. Also, where it does add scrollbars constantly, there may be no content to see. Possibly confusing for users.

html>body { overflow:scroll; }

For: This does a better job at being less confusing. In Safari, this just adds scrollbar gutters, in others it adds scrollbars, but with a very small overflow length. Therefore, doesn’t confuse users with scrollbars for no content.
Against: It looks damn ugly as it adds horizontal scrollbars as well as vertical.

#Content p.bstext {

This technique was found at the Web Standards Awards. I haven’t tried this one out yet, but on the face of it, it looks like an over-complication.


Thanks to Patrick Lauke who came up with this genius solution:

html { height: 100%; margin-bottom: 1px; }

This adds a tiny amount of vertical scroll (1px no less), so users won’t think that there is content that they’re missing. This will also work on any resolution screen. I’ve tested this in Safari, Omniweb 5, Firefox on OS X, and it works like a dream! The only browser I could find that had a problem with it was (guess!) IE 5 Mac.

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