TechTip: A Primer to Bootstrap 4, Part 2

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In this second and final part of this short series about mobile app dev, let’s talk about grids and glyphicons.

In a previous article, I covered how the grid system in Bootstrap works, so in order not to bore you I will try not to repeat myself.

The grid system in version 4 is still based on a maximum of 12 columns! But even though the grid system seems the same from version 3 to 4, something has changed under the hood. In Bootstrap 3, the grid system was based on floats, but that changed in Bootstrap 4; it is now based on flexbox.

Flexbox is far more responsive. For example, you can define your grid columns without a specified width and it will automatically spread the layout with equal width and height over the viewpoint. I won’t go into details about flexbox, simply because I’m just happy that it works in Bootstrap and there are people more clever than I who can explain it much better. If you want a good introduction, point your browser here and read all about it.

Let’s jump right into an example.

To create a grid with three columns in version 3, you would write something like this:

   <div class="row">

     <div class="col-md-4" style="background-color:gray;">Column 1</div>

     <div class="col-md-4" style="background-color:red;">Column 2</div>

     <div class="col-md-4" style="background-color:yellow;">Column 3</div>    

   </div>

You’d get this:

TechTip: A Primer to Bootstrap 4, Part 2 - Figure 1

Figure 1: Grid layout vertical

When resizing the screen, the grid would stack when it came below md-breakpoint and look like this:

TechTip: A Primer to Bootstrap 4, Part 2 - Figure 2

Figure 2: Grid layout stacked below md-breakpoint

In version 4, you can do this:

<div class="row">

     <div class="col" style="background-color:gray;">Column 1</div>

     <div class="col" style="background-color:red;">Column 2</div>

     <div class="col" style="background-color:yellow;">Column 3</div>    

   </div>

You get the same result as in Figure 1, but flexbox automatically calculates the width to 33.33 percent. When you resize the window, the layout doesn’t break and get stacked, because there are no breakpoints added.

The next example shows the same thing but adds some breakpoints to see stacking in various situations. You can see the code here. Now try to resize the window to see it work.

Well, you ask, is that it? It might not look much, but I can promise that when you start working with it, you will very soon like the newer, simpler way, and your users will really like the improved responsivness that version 4 provides.

One last thing about the grid system before I move on to something else: There’s a new breakpoint in v4 called “xl” that applies to extra-large screens (>1200px), which has long been missing.

At first, the grid system might seem a bit overwhelming, but if you want to work with Bootstrap and make responsive web pages, I really encourage you to embrace it as it will save you a lot of headaches when everybody is screaming for seeing data on mobile phones.

To get more in-depth knowledge of the grid system, I recommend the following websites:

https://getbootstrap.com/docs/4.1/layout/grid/

https://www.w3schools.com/bootstrap4/bootstrap_grid_system.asp

Glyphicons Are Gone!

If you have worked with Bootstrap before, you might have used glyphicons. These small icons that you used to spice up your elements are being dropped in version 4. Bootstrap now points you in other directions. You can see them here.

A long time ago, I started to use Font Awesome. I have been very happy with that option, but of couse the choice is yours. I’ll share a few examples of Font Awesome with you below.

Let’s say you have a three buttoms on your page, something like this:

TechTip: A Primer to Bootstrap 4, Part 2 - Figure 3

Figure 3: Some buttons on a website

Wouldn’t it be nice to spice these up to make them easier to understand and more cool-looking? Font Awesome can help you with that. Look at the example in Figure 4.

TechTip: A Primer to Bootstrap 4, Part 2 - Figure 4

Figure 4: Pumped up buttons on a website

To use Font Awesome, just add some code like the following to your HTML element. This example gives you the “Sign out/Log off” logo.

<i class="fas fa-sign-out-alt"></i>

See the code in action here.

You can also animate and change the size of the icons.

The free version offers 1,264 ready-to-use icons, and the paid version adds 2,000 more, so R.I.P. glyphicons. Welcome to Font Awesome (or something like it).

And finally, a few other things have gone into version 4:

  • Panels, wells, and thumbnails have been replaced by cards. Read about it here and here.
  • Support for IE 8.0 is dropped, so if you still need it, Bootstrap 3 is the one for you.

I hope I’ve covered things that are interesting to you. These are the new features I’ve found most useful so far. But have a look at the Bootstrap website and dig into the documentation. I’m sure you’ll find other things to make your programming life even easier.

This ends the short TechTip series about Bootstrap 4. Till next time, keep thinking mobile and get your data into a browser!

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