IE7 measuring sprites from bottom up?

I’m doing some IE7 hacking and was wondering what was going on with some of my sprites. They look fine in all of the browsers except IE7. For that lovely browser, I say with my teeth clinched, I’m getting really strange results. At first I thought it was a hasLayout issue, that I needed to do some messing around with the position:relative, or that it just didn’t like me.

However, while doing some troubleshooting, it looks like, please tell me I’m wrong, lE7 is measuring the sprite from the bottom up instead of the bottom down.

Here’s an example on Yahoo! Tech. You should see in the top product header 4 out of 5 blue stars for Pro Reviews and 5 out of 5 red stars for User Reviews. In IE7b, there are tiny nubbins from the tips of stars.

Here’s the background image (.png) for the pro stars and the normal CSS for 4/5 stars:

.bigprostars4 span {width:100px; height:20px; top:0; background:url(/images/bg-pro-ratings.png) no-repeat 0 -50px;}

I began looking at the numbers, thinking they were off by a few pixels. After doing some testing of the positions, I realized that it was not measuring 50px down from the top, as other browsers handle sprites, but starting at the bottom of the image and measuring 50px up! Hence, displaying the tips of the small stars.

To fix this I added this style to the IE7.css (currently not live!) file:
.bigprostars4 span {width:100px; height:20px; top:0; background-position: 0 -400px;}

This is not a small issue. If you use sprites as extensively as I do, this involves opening every image and re-calculating the distance from the bottom up and inserting these numbers in an IE7 only style sheet. Please, please tell me that I need to get another cup of coffee and I’m just dreaming this.

Update (05-02): Is this a position:absolute issue in IE7?

I’m still seeing this bizarre activity in the sprites of absolutely positioned elements. The sprites of links and other objects that are not positioned are working fine. sigh…

Update: IE7 passes sprite test (05-07)

I’ve created a test page to see if I could narrow down the issues with IE7 and sprites. I was surprised to find IE7 passed my initial tests. It must be a unique combination of styles causing my problem.

Background image for visited links

Visited and unvisited screenshots on
I’ve been a recent convert to Design Meltdown. The site disects a visual theme and gives examples on how to use them and where they are being used. While exploring the latest post about sketches for the web, I noticed an interesting approach to the visited pages.

The Breakdown

The site has a series of floated divs to display the screenshots. The screenshot is applied as the background image of the div with an inline style. Inside the div is a link that is given display:block and a transparent background image.

Great idea – room for improvement?

While I think the visual design for these screenshots is well thought-out. I don’t like the underlying code. The screenshots are content; miniature representations of other sites. Adding them to the CSS is treating them as decorative elements. The text for each link is: “SCREENSHOT, ” making the page unusable with the styles disabled. To give this page more structure and semantic strength, I would modify the underlying code as such:


CSS Code

.screenshotlist {float:left; list-style-type:none;}
.screenshotlist li {float:left; margin:9px; }
.screenshotlist a {display:block; width:146px; height:130px; position:relative; }
.screenshotlist a strong {text-indent:-1000em; z-index:20; position: absolute; top:0; left:0; width:100%; height:100%; background:url(screenshot.png) no-repeat -154px 0; }
.screenshotlist a:visited strong {background-position:0 0;}
.screenshotlist a img {margin:5px 0 0 5px; border:none; z-index:1;}

Benefits of the new code

screenshot mask
The screenshots now have some structure; an unordered list with links full of good, crunchy content. Screenreaders and those without CSS will have access to the information. Javascript can be used to target links within the screenshotthumb div to open a new window without the need of inline scripting.

Cavaets: I haven’t tested this code yet. It’s very possible the z-index styles are not required. As an alternative, remove the margin on the image and replace it with a border. Add a rule to change the border color on hover and visited.

Design Meltdown is a great site for learning about design concepts. I’ve gleaned a number of nice ideas from them and would love to say I gave a bit of help back to them.

Hacking to fix for IE7

I’ve played around with IE7 for a while, but haven’t really started debugging with it until now. Fortunately, I’ve already set up the site to use conditional comments and deliver an IE6.css file and a separate IE7.css file. This has made it much easier to target the offending areas of the site.

IE7 has had a couple surprising problems for me. I have a topnav section that completely disappeared. The container div only has position:relative and inside are a number of floated elements. This actuall works great in all browsers… but IE7! No hacks for IE6, but hack for IE7! I went with the old adage, I think from Andy Budd, when all else fails float, if it’s already floated, unfloat. I added float:left to the container div and the topnav re-appeared from the IE7 void.

Munged Background Images

I’m using a series of positioning, text-indent, and background images on the site. Here’s a simplified version:

.targetdl dd {position:relative;}
.targetdl dd span {text-indent:-1000em; width:66px; display:block; position:absolute; top:5px; right:20px;}
.happy0 span {background:url(/images/happy0.png) no-repeat 0 -650px;}

IE7 shows the background image ok on some pages and on other pages, it shrinks the background image. I tried adding zoom:1 and font-size:100% to no avail. I’ll try line-height next. This is an odd bug, but not the first time I noticed it on IE7 betas. It certainly seems to be buggy with positioning.

De-bugging Strategy

Since I’ve already got a fairly solid ie6.css file, I’m going to use that as the basis of my IE7 CSS construction. After fixing the topnav, the rest of the ie6.css file is going into the IE7 css and rules will be removed one at a time. This should help me figure out what is still needed.

I’ll keep notes on this site as I find it a convenient place to remember them. Has anyone else come across some positioning bugs in IE7? Sorry, no screen shots or details at this time, we’re still pre-alpha stage.

Attribute selectors to provide language information

Attribute Selectors for International Web Sites

Sébastien Guillon, recently wrote a post about using the CSS2 attribute selector and content rule
to let visitors know what to expect when clicking on a link to an international web site. Inspired by his approach, I’ve simplified some of the code and added background images to
represent the countries.

Guillon’s original project focused on adding a text description after the link in the site’s native language. To do this, he used a set of descending selectors to look at the page’s language declaration and the link’s hreflang attribute. I am assuming the site that hosts this CSS is in english. However, it would not be difficult for you to simply change the generated content if your site is written in French, Spanish,
Swahili, etc.

Sample list of international Yahoo sites


Now look at the final version with new CSS. Internet Explorer users will not see a difference, try Firefox or Opera. Internet Explorer 7 beta 2 shows the flags but does not show the generated content.

The hreflang Attribute

The hreflang allows the user/browser to define the language of a link’s targeted page to avoid presenting
unreadable information:

The hreflang attribute provides user agents with information about the language of a resource at the end of a link, just as the lang attribute provides information about the language of an element’s content or attribute values.

The hreflang attribute defines the language of the web site you are sending someone to. The language is defined with a two letter abbreviation, such as en, fr, sp… You can also define the locality of this language by adding the country code to this language. This is particularly helpful for languages that have dialects. A Mexican site would have this attribute: hreflang=”sp-mx”.

The Attribute Selector

CSS2 allows us to look for tags that contain specific attributes. We can look for blockquotes with cite attributes, tables with summaries, table cells with header attributes,
and our little friend, the link with an hreflang attribute.

/*English */
a[hreflang="en"]:after, a[hreflang|="en"]:after {content:"\A0(In English)";}

Breaking it down

This rule uses a combination of attribute selector and pseudo-class to transform the link from common to fabulous.

Look for a link with an attribute
The hreflang attribute must include the letters “en”. This allows the CSS to work on links that do not define a country variation
This pseudoselector defines the space after the link
{content:”\A0(In English)”;}
After the link, place the following text: (In English)
The hreflang attribute must include the letters “en” within a hyphenated set, i.e. en-us, en-ca, …

Adding the flag

Now that we’ve notified the user about what language the link will be in, let’s tell them the country the site is from. Once again, we will look at the hreflang attribute for this information. This rule is not as neat and tidy. For each country, we are going to look for all of the possible language attributes. For instance, Canadian links could have hreflang=”fr-ca” and hreflang=”en-ca”.

/*Canada */
a[hreflang="en-ca"], a[hreflang="fr-ca"] {background:URL(flag-sprite.png) no-repeat 0 0; padding-left:35px;}

This time, we will give links that have Canadian country codes 35px padding to the left side and a background image of the Canadian flag that sits to the
left edge of the link’s text. This style sheet is using an image sprite to keep the server requests to a minimum. See the article about using
image sprites for more information on this technique.

Et Voilà

There we have it. A set of international links with the country of origin and language clearly defined. All of this has been made possible by our friends, the
attribute selector, the pseudo-class, and the content style. Tune in next week as we learn how to make a cruise ship out of two
shoe-boxes and an XML schema.

Fine Print

This has not been tested in Safari, but it shouldn’t be a problem. The pretty and useful presentation elements will not appear in IE6, NN4, and probably
most alternative devices (My Treo shows the flags but not the added content). I do not know how assistive devices would render these styles, more than likely they would be ignored. This project falls under
the “build for the best, don’t hurt the rest™” protocol.