tailwindcss-multi
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0.4.6 • Public • Published

Multi for Tailwind CSS

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tailwindcss-multi is a plugin for Tailwind CSS that introduces the multi directive, a utility that allows you to group utility classes together. This simplifies your HTML and improves readability of your Tailwind CSS code.

Table of Contents

[!IMPORTANT] Update to @latest to ensure compatibility with newer versions of Tailwind CSS.

Syntax change: If you use a value inside multi-[...] that includes a colon :, the value between the brackets must be quoted, due to a breaking change introduced in Tailwind CSS v3.3.6.

✅ hover:multi-[bg-red-500;text-white] // no `:`, so quotes are NOT NEEDED

❌ hover:multi-[hover:bg-red-500;text-white] // using `:`, so quotes are NEEDED 🚨
✅ hover:multi-['hover:bg-red-500;text-white']
                ^                           ^

See the Quoted values explanation section for more information.

Installation

You can install the plugin via npm:

npm install tailwindcss-multi

Then, include it in your tailwind.config.js:

module.exports = {
  plugins: [
    require('tailwindcss-multi'),
  ]
}

Usage

The plugin provides a multi directive, allowing you to group multiple utility classes:

<div class="hover:multi-[bg-red-500;text-white]">
  When hovered, this text is white and the background is red.
</div>

View this example on Tailwind Play

The directive accepts a semicolon-delimited list of utility classes and applies them to the selected element. A key feature of tailwindcss-multi is its support for arbitrary values, which are not limited to predefined classes in Tailwind CSS.

Nested variants (quoted values)

When a value includes a colon :, the value must be quoted to ensure compatibility with newer versions of Tailwind CSS. This is due to a breaking change introduced in Tailwind CSS v3.3.6 (explanation).

[!NOTE]
One exception to this : rule is if the colon is used for a CSS property-value pair, like multi-[[font-family:times]]. In this case, quotes are not needed, as this is the expected case for using a colon :, which is actually what warranted the breaking change in the first place.

So this is valid:

<div class="multi-[[font-family:times]]">...</div>

Quotes

Valid quotes include single ', double ", and backticks `. The choice of quote is up to you, per usage. Quotes chosen must be kept consistent within the same value.

<!-- ✅ All valid -->
<div class="multi-['hover:font-bold']">...</div>
<div class='multi-["hover:font-bold"]'>...</div>
<div class="multi-[`hover:font-bold`]">...</div>

<!-- ❌ Invalid mix of quotes -->
<div class="multi-['hover:font-bold"]">...</div>
<div class="multi-["hover:font-bold`]">...</div>
<!-- etc. -->

Why use tailwindcss-multi

In some cases, you may need to apply several utilities to a long or convoluted variant or even chain of variants, which can start to look like this:

<div class="hover:font-bold hover:text-[red] hover:[font-family:times]">
  When hovered, this text will appear bold, red, and in `times` font.
</div>

View this example on Tailwind Play

This can be difficult to read and understand, especially when the number of utilities increases.

By employing the multi directive, you can group related utility classes by variant, providing clearer insights into your code's function. Below is an example that demonstrates the flexibility of the multi directive, demonstrating its ability to support not only multiple utilities, but partially and fully arbitrary values:

<div class="hover:multi-[font-bold;text-[red];[font-family:times]]">
  When hovered, this text will appear bold, red, and in `times` font.
</div>

View this example on Tailwind Play

This is…

✨ GREAT for consolidating utilities under long & ideally unique variants 👏🏼

😬 NOT great for keeping the compile size small if you use it with commonly used variants 👀

Quoted values explanation

⚫️ `:` not present -> quotes OPTIONAL
✅ <div class="hover:multi-[font-bold;text-red-500]">...</div>

⚫️ `:` used in property-value pair -> quotes OPTIONAL
✅ <div class="hover:multi-[font-bold;[color:red]]">...</div>

⚫️ `:` used in nested variant -> quotes REQUIRED 🚨
❌ <div class="hover:multi-[hover:font-bold;text-red-500]">...</div><div class="hover:multi-['hover:font-bold;text-red-500']">...</div>

View a similar example on Tailwind Play

The release of Tailwind CSS v3.3.6 (on Dec 4, 2023) introduced breaking changes that made the original syntax of Multi for Tailwind CSS incompatible with newer versions of Tailwind CSS.

See tailwindlabs/tailwindcss#13473 for the discussion that led to this new syntax.

This change required a slight tweak to the syntax of the multi directive. When using a value that includes a colon :, instead of using multi-[...], use multi-['...'] (with a quoted value between the brackets) to pass the grouped utilities together as a string.

[!NOTE]
One exception to this : rule is if the colon is used for a CSS property-value pair, like multi-[[font-family:times]]. In this case, quotes are not needed, as this is the expected case for using a colon :, which is actually what warranted the breaking change in the first place.

So this is valid:

<div class="multi-[[font-family:times]]">...</div>

Versions of Tailwind CSS thereafter (v3.3.6+) are now incompatible with versions of the original unquoted syntax for this plugin (pre-v0.2.0) for values that contain a colon :. Update to @latest to ensure compatibility. This new version syntax is reverse-compatible with versions of Tailwind CSS prior to v3.3.6 as well.

Passing the joined strings together as a string allows the Tailwind CSS parser (again, in Tailwind CSS v3.3.6+) to see the value as a valid CSS value and process it as expected.

What's next?

I think the next natural step in the evolution of Multi for Tailwind CSS is to refactor the plugin as a vite/postcss plugin, as either a supplementary or alternate version of the current Tailwind plugin.

This would allow the plugin to…

  • once again use a custom syntax, without ever needing quotes
  • split any joined utilities into separate classes before the Tailwind CSS parser processes them

If such a plugin could effectively split classes used with the multi directive, it would radically reduce the compile size of the CSS output, as the Tailwind CSS parser would only process the classes used within the multi, not the multi itself.

For example, consider the following markup:

<div class="sm:hover:bg-red-500 sm:hover:text-white">...</div>
<div class="sm:hover:multi-[bg-red-500;text-white]">...</div>
<div class="sm:hover:multi-[text-white;bg-red-500]">...</div>

This generates all of these rules:

@media (min-width: 640px) {
  .sm\:hover\:bg-red-500:hover { /* 2 lines */ }
  .sm\:hover\:text-white:hover { /* 2 lines */ }
  .sm\:hover\:multi-\[bg-red-500\;text-white\]:hover { /* 4 lines */ }
  .sm\:hover\:multi-\[text-white\;bg-red-500\]:hover { /* 4 lines */ }
}

As a vite plugin, that markup would be split into individual utilities like this:

<div class="sm:hover:bg-red-500 sm:hover:text-white">...</div>
<div class="sm:hover:bg-red-500 sm:hover:text-white">...</div>
<div class="sm:hover:text-white sm:hover:bg-red-500">...</div>

This post-split example would only generates these rules:

@media (min-width: 640px) {
  .sm\:hover\:bg-red-500:hover { /* 2 lines */ }
  .sm\:hover\:text-white:hover { /* 2 lines */ }
}

That's down from 22 lines of output CSS to 10 lines of code, and the same minimal output that would be generated without using the multi directive at all.

The strongest argument against using multi is output CSS bloat. This is I caution strongly against throughout this README and provide tips for avoiding.

It's also something @adamwathan, the creator of Tailwind CSS, discussed at length in this legendary thread when he and his team explored the same problem space from a different angle.

Notice the nicer syntax in that linked thread. Something like that might be possible with a vite/postcss plugin.

This…

<div class="hover:multi-['text-black;dark:text-white']">...</div>

…could become something like this:

<div class="hover:(text-black,dark:text-white)">...</div>

I hope you find tailwindcss-multi a valuable addition to your projects. If you have any issues or suggestions, don't hesitate to open an issue or pull request.

If you liked this, you might also like my other Tailwind CSS plugins:

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npm i tailwindcss-multi

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Version

0.4.6

License

MIT

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  • brandonmcconnell