CSS filter

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This article is about a CSS technique. Not to be confused with the proprietary Microsoft-specific CSS property.

A CSS filter is a coding technique used to hide or show CSS markup depending on the browser, version number, or capabilities. Browsers have different interpretations of CSS behavior and different levels of support for the W3C standards. CSS filters are sometimes used to achieve consistent layout appearance in multiple browsers that do not have compatible rendering.

Prefix filters[edit]

Vendor Prefix In Use Layout Engine Created by Used by
-ah- yes Formatter Antenna House Antenna House Formatter
-apple- yes WebKit Apple Inc. Apple Safari 2.0, Opera Widgets, WebKit-Based Browsers (as legacy prefix)
-atsc- Advanced Television Systems Committee standards
-epub- yes WebKit EPUB Working Group Chromium / Google Chrome, WebKit-Based Browsers
-hp- Hewlett-Packard
-khtml- yes / yes KHTML / WebKit KDE KDE Konqueror / Apple Safari 1.1 through Safari 2.0, WebKit-Based Browsers (as a legacy prefix)
-moz- yes Gecko Mozilla Foundation Gecko-Based Browsers[?], Mozilla Firefox
-ms- yes Trident / MSHTML Microsoft Corporation Microsoft Internet Explorer
mso- Office Microsoft Corporation Microsoft Office[?]
-o- yes Presto Opera Software Opera desktop Browser up to version 12.16, Opera Mini, and Opera Mobile up to version 12.1, Nintendo DS & Nintendo DSi Browser, Nintendo Wii Internet Channel
prince- yes Prince YesLogic YesLogic Prince
-rim- WebKit BlackBerry Limited RIM Blackberry Browser
-ro- yes MARTHA Real Objects Real Objects PDFreactor
-tc- TallComponents TallComponents
-wap- yes Presto The WAP Forum Opera Desktop Browser and Opera Mobile, The WAP Forum
-webkit- yes WebKit/Blink Apple Inc. (WebKit)/Google Inc. (Blink) Apple Safari & Safari for iOS (WebKit), Chromium / Google Chrome desktop and mobile (Blink), Opera desktop and mobile from version 14 (Blink), Android browser (Blink), Nokia MeeGo Browser 8.5, Nokia Symbian Browser 7.0 and later (WebKit), Blackberry Browser 6.0 and later (WebKit).
-xv- no Presto Opera Software Opera Desktop Browser for Windows 2000/XP

Most browsers have CSS properties that apply in that browser only, or at least in the underlying render engine.[1] The prefix on these properties is specific to each rendering engine.[2] Here is an example.

/* Cross-browser css3 linear-gradient */
.linear-gradient {

  /* Gecko browser (Firefox) */
  background-image: -moz-linear-gradient(top, #D7D 0%, #068 100%);

  /* Opera */
  background-image: -o-linear-gradient(top, #D7D 0%, #068 100%);

  /* older Webkit syntax */
  background-image: -webkit-gradient(linear, left top, left bottom,
    color-stop(0, #D7D), color-stop(1, #068));

  /* Webkit (Safari, Chrome, iOS, Android) */
  background-image: -webkit-linear-gradient(top, #D7D 0%, #068 100%);

  /* W3C */
  background-image: linear-gradient(to bottom, #D7D 0%, #068 100%);


Trident -ms- — All experimental properties are prefixed with "-ms-", e.g. -ms-interpolation-mode instead of interpolation-mode.

Gecko -moz- — All experimental selectors, properties and values are prefixed with "-moz-", e.g. ::-moz-selection instead of ::selection.

WebKit -webkit- — All experimental selectors, properties and values are prefixed with "-webkit-", e.g. -webkit-box-shadow instead of box-shadow.

KHTML -khtml- — All experimental selectors, properties and values are prefixed with "-khtml-", e.g. -khtml-opacity instead of opacity.


  1. -xv- — All new selectors, properties and values introduced by CSS3 Speech Module are prefixed with "-xv-" (but not found in CSS2 aural style sheets), e.g. -xv-voice-rate instead of voice-rate.
  2. -o- — All experimental properties are prefixed with "-o-", e.g. -o-transition-property instead of transition-property.

The DOM properties corresponding to vendor-specific experimental CSS properties are prefixed with the vendor-prefix, without any hyphens.

Commented backslash[edit]

This hack exploits a bug in Internet Explorer for Mac related to comment parsing. A comment ending in \*/ is not properly closed in IE Mac, so rules that need to be ignored in IE Mac can be placed after such a comment. Another comment is needed after the rule to close the comment for IE Mac.[3]

/* Ignore the next rule in IE mac \*/
selector { ...styles... }
/* Stop ignoring in IE mac */

Box model hack[edit]

Called the "box model hack" because the bug it is most often used to work around is the Internet Explorer box model bug, this hack provides a different set of properties to Internet Explorer and other browsers. As of version 6, IE has corrected the box model bug in documents which include certain Document Type Declarations (required by the HTML specifications) in certain ways.

#elem {
  width: [IE width];
  voice-family: "\"}\"";
  voice-family: inherit;
  width: [Other browser width];
html>body #elem {
  width: [Other browser width];

The first voice-family statement is set to the string "}", but an IE parser bug will interpret it as a string with a single backslash followed by a closing brace for the end of the rule. voice-family is chosen because it will not affect rendering on a screen style sheet. The second rule uses the html>body hack for browsers such as Opera 5 that have the parsing bug but do not have the box model bug (and, additionally, which support the child selector).[4]

Underscore hack[edit]

Versions 6 and below of Internet Explorer recognized properties with this prefix (after discarding the prefix). All other browsers ignore such properties as invalid. Therefore, a property that is preceded by an underscore or a hyphen was applied exclusively in Internet Explorer 6 and below.

#elem {
  width: [W3C Model Width];
  _width: [BorderBox Model];

This hack uses invalid CSS[5] and there are valid CSS directives to accomplish a similar result. Thus some people do not recommend using it.[6][7] On the other hand, this hack does not change the specificity of a selector making maintenance and extension of a CSS file easier.

Star hack[edit]

Versions 7 and below of Internet Explorer recognized properties which were preceded by non-alphanumeric characters except an underscore or a hyphen (after discarding the prefix). All other browsers ignore such properties as invalid. Therefore, a property that was preceded by an non-alphanumeric character other than an underscore or a hyphen, such as an asterisk, was applied exclusively in Internet Explorer 7 and below.

#elem {
  width: [W3C Model Width];
  *width: [BorderBox Model];

This hack used invalid CSS[5] and there were valid CSS directives to accomplish a similar result. On the other hand, this hack didn't change the specificity of a selector making maintenance and extension of a CSS file easier.

Star HTML hack[edit]

The html element is the root element of the W3C standard DOM, but Internet Explorer versions 4 through 6 included a mysterious parent element.[8] Fully compliant browsers will ignore the * html selector, while IE4-6 used to process it normally. This enabled rules to be specified for these versions of Internet Explorer which are ignored by all other browsers. For example, this rule specified text size in Internet Explorer 4-6, but not in any other browsers.

* html p {font-size: 5em; }

This hack uses fully valid CSS.[5]

Star plus hack[edit]

Although Internet Explorer 7 no longer recognized the classic star HTML hack,[9] it introduced a similar hack using selectors new to IE7:

*:first-child+html p { font-size: 5em; }


*+html p { font-size: 5em; }

This code would be applied in Internet Explorer 7, but not in any other browser. Note that this hack only worked in IE7 standards mode; it did not work in quirks mode. This hack was also supported by Internet Explorer 8's compatibility view (IE7 standards mode), but not in IE8 standards mode. Like the star HTML hack, this used valid CSS.[5]

Child selector hack[edit]

Internet Explorer 6 and earlier did not support the "child selector" (>), allowing rules to be specified for all other browsers. For example, this rule would turn paragraph text blue in Firefox, but not in IE before version 7.[5]

html > body p { color: blue; }

Although IE7 added support for the child selector, a variation of the hack has been discovered which allows Internet Explorer 7 to be excluded as well. When an empty comment occurs immediately after the child selector, IE7 will drop the rule that follows, as will earlier versions of IE.

html >/**/ body p { color: blue; }

Negation pseudo-class hack[edit]

Internet Explorer 8 and below did not support the CSS3 :not() negation pseudo-class.[10] Internet Explorer 9 added support for CSS3 pseudo-classes including the negation pseudo-class.[11]

.yourSelector {
  color: black; /* value for IE 8 and below */

html:not([ie8andbelow]) .yourSelector {
  color: red; /* value for Chrome, Safari, Opera, Firefox, and IE9+ */

The negation pseudo-class accepts any simple selector: A type selector, universal selector, attribute selector, class selector, ID selector, or pseudo-class. (excluding pseudo-elements and the negation pseudo-class itself). [12] It then applies the following properties to all elements which do not match this argument. Note that the ie8andbelow selector has no meaning, it is simply a string that will never match an actual selector. The string dummy would work equally as well.

A variation of this hack uses the :root pseudo-class, which is also unrecognized by Internet Explorer 8 and below.

body:empty hack[edit]

The :empty pseudo-class, introduced in CSS3, is supposed to select only elements which do not contain any content. However, Gecko 1.8.1 and below (used in Firefox 2.0.x and below) incorrectly selects body:empty even when the body element contains content (which it usually should). This can be taken advantage of to feed exclusive CSS rules to Firefox 2.0.x and below, along with other browsers using the same rendering engine.[5]

/* Make p elements disappear in Firefox 2.0.x and below */
body:empty p {
  display: none;

This hack uses valid CSS.

!important quirks[edit]

Internet Explorer 7 and below had a few quirks related to the !important declaration, which was supposed to give a value higher importance than normal.[5] IE7 and earlier accepted virtually any string in place of important and process the value normally, while other browsers ignore it. This could be used to specify values exclusively for these browsers.

/* Make text blue in IE7 and below, black in all other browsers */
body {
  color: black;
  color: blue !ie;

Similarly, IE7 and earlier accepted non-alphanumeric characters after an !important declaration, while other browsers ignore it.

body {
  color: black;
  color: blue !important!;

Both of these hacks used invalid CSS. Internet Explorer 6 and below also had a problem with !important declarations when the same property of the same element has another value specified within the same code block, without another !important declaration. This should result in the second value being overridden by the first, but IE6 and lower do not honor this.

/* Make text blue in IE6 and lower */
body {
  color: black !important;
  color: blue;

This hack uses valid CSS.

Dynamic properties[edit]

Between versions 5 and 7, Internet Explorer supported a proprietary syntax for applying CSS properties which change dynamically, sometimes referred to as CSS expressions.[13] Dynamic properties are typically combined with other hacks to compensate for unsupported properties in older versions of Internet Explorer.

div {
  min-height: 300px;

  /* simulates min-height in IE6 */
  _height: expression(document.body.clientHeight < 300 ? "300px" : "auto");

Conditional comment[edit]

Main article: Conditional comment

Conditional comments are conditional statements interpreted by Microsoft Internet Explorer in HTML source code.

  <link href="all_browsers.css" rel="stylesheet" type="text/css">
  <!--[if IE]> <link href="ie_only.css" rel="stylesheet" type="text/css"> <![endif]-->
  <!--[if lt IE 7]> <link href="ie_6_and_below.css" rel="stylesheet" type="text/css"> <![endif]-->
  <!--[if !lt IE 7]> <![IGNORE[--><![IGNORE[]]> <link href="recent.css" rel="stylesheet" type="text/css"> <!--<![endif]-->
  <!--[if !IE]--> <link href="not_ie.css" rel="stylesheet" type="text/css"> <!--<![endif]-->


Hiding code using hacks often leads to pages being incorrectly displayed when browsers are updated. Many hacks that used to hide CSS from Internet Explorer 6 and lower no longer work in version 7 due to its improved support for CSS standards. The Microsoft Internet Explorer development team have asked that people use conditional comments instead of hacks.[14] Unfortunately, Microsoft removed support for Conditional Comments after Internet Explorer 9.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ - WebKit CSS Styles
  2. ^ Render Engine Prefixes
  3. ^ QuirksMode - CSS Hacks
  4. ^ "Box Model Hack". 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "WebDevout - CSS Hacks". WebDevout. 
  6. ^ http://www.javascriptkit.com/dhtmltutors/csshacks3.shtml#unrecommended-vendor_prefix
  7. ^ https://stackoverflow.com/questions/15641506/css-underscore-hack-for-ie-still-relevant
  8. ^ "IEBlog". Improving the CSS 2.1 strict parser for IE 7. Microsoft. 
  9. ^ The IEBlog
  10. ^ "Sitepoint CSS Reference". SitePoint. Retrieved 2009-01-07. 
  11. ^ MSDN. "CSS Compatibility and Internet Explorer". Retrieved 19 March 2011. 
  12. ^ "Simple selectors". World Wide Web Consortium. Retrieved 2011-07-04. 
  13. ^ About Dynamic Properties
  14. ^ IEBlog – Call to action: The demise of CSS hacks and broken pages
  15. ^ Conditional comments are no longer supported

External links[edit]

  • Browser Strangeness - Jeff Clayton's Live CSS hacks and tests to filter for mainstream browsers, including the only known CSS Hacks for Safari 7 and 8
  • browserhacks.com - Multiple browser filter methods and tests (Hugo Giraudel, Joshua Hibbert, Tim Pietrusky, Fabrice Weinberg, Jeff Clayton)
  • Safari/Webkit (webkit) prefix filters refix filters]
  • Mozilla (moz) prefix filters
  • Opera (wap) prefix filters - This page has all of Opera's CSS selectors.
  • CSS Filters – A fairly complete table of CSS hacks which show and hide rules from specific browsers.
  • [ CSS Filters – CSS-only Filters Summary] – More CSS filters.
  • Filters and Cross-Over – CSS filters. Parsing errors marked red.
  • - CSS Browser Selector - Allows to combine browser specific CSS in single stylesheet (using JavaScript).
  • - #IEroot - Targeting IE with a single stylesheet containing all CSS (without using JavaScript, but using conditional comments to assign browser-specific tag to arbitrary content root [div])