Css Display: Inline VS Inline-Block

CSS display: inline vs inline-block

Inline elements:

  1. respect left & right margins and padding, but not top & bottom
  2. cannot have a width and height set
  3. allow other elements to sit to their left and right.
  4. see very important side notes on this here.

Block elements:

  1. respect all of those
  2. force a line break after the block element
  3. acquires full-width if width not defined

Inline-block elements:

  1. allow other elements to sit to their left and right
  2. respect top & bottom margins and padding
  3. respect height and width

From W3Schools:

  • An inline element has no line break before or after it, and it tolerates HTML elements next to it.

  • A block element has some whitespace above and below it and does not tolerate any HTML elements next to it.

  • An inline-block element is placed as an inline element (on the same line as adjacent content), but it behaves as a block element.

When you visualize this, it looks like this:

CSS block vs inline vs inline-block

The image is taken from this page, which also talks some more about this subject.

What is the difference between display: inline and display: inline-block?

A visual answer

Imagine a <span> element inside a <div>. If you give the <span> element a height of 100px and a red border for example, it will look like this with

display: inline

display: inline

display: inline-block

display: inline-block

display: block

enter image description here

Code: http://jsfiddle.net/Mta2b/

Elements with display:inline-block are like display:inline elements, but they can have a width and a height. That means that you can use an inline-block element as a block while flowing it within text or other elements.

Difference of supported styles as summary:

  • inline: only margin-left, margin-right, padding-left, padding-right
  • inline-block: margin, padding, height, width

display:inline vs display:block

display: block means that the element is displayed as a block, as paragraphs and headers have always been. A block has some whitespace above and below it and tolerates no HTML elements next to it, except when ordered otherwise (by adding a float declaration to another element, for instance).

display: inline means that the element is displayed inline, inside the current block on the same line. Only when it's between two blocks does the element form an 'anonymous block', that however has the smallest possible width.

Read more about display options : http://www.quirksmode.org/css/display.html

pseudo-elements display: block vs display: inline

Then use display: inline-block

Elements with display: inline can't have explicit dimensions set on them - it will have no effect. And so, because the pseudo element has no non-empty content, it will appear with 0 dimensions and thus invisible.

Inline-block vs inline elements in terms of line-breaks

The line break happens because the the inline block cannot be split across multiple lines like a normal inline element. It is simply one entire "block unit" that is displayed inline. If that entire unit does not fit, then it will all be wrapped down to the next line.

display: inline vs inline-block vs block for non-nav elements

You want to give your container that is holding your elements text-align:center;

You're then going to want to give your inside elements: display:inline-block;

Here's an example I whipped up for you.


<div id="container">
<div class="element">
<img src="http://lorempixel.com/100/100/"/>
<p>Lorum Ipsum Pixel</p>
<div class="element">
<img src="http://lorempixel.com/100/100/"/>
<p>Lorum Ipsum Pixel</p>
<div class="element">
<img src="http://lorempixel.com/100/100/"/>
<p>Lorum Ipsum Pixel</p>



Update: added images.

Why inline and inline-block have different height with the same text content

This is related to how line-height works and how the height of each element is calculated.

Let's start with a trivial example to highlight the effect of line-height

span {
border:1px solid red;
<span>some text</span> <span style="display:inline-block">some text</span>

What is the difference between display: inline-block and float: left

The purpose of float is to allow text to wrap around it. So it's moved to the left or right side and taken out of the page flow. Line boxes containing the other text then avoid overlapping with the floated element. It forms a block-level, block container. It is not vertically aligned with any other content.