Treehouse: Grow your CSS skills. Land your dream job.

direction

Last updated on:

The direction property in CSS sets the direction of of content flow within a block-level element. This applies to text, inline, and inline-block elements. It also sets the default alignment of text and the direction that table cells flow within a table row.

.main-content {
  direction: rtl;  /* Right to Left */
}

The valid values are:

  • ltr - Left to Right, the default
  • rtl - Right to Left
  • inherit - inherits its value from the parent element

The text on this page is set in the default ltr direction. The most common use case to set rtl is for web pages with Hebrew or Arabic text. Here is an example of Arabic set in rtl:

طهيس يس تآخت تهات يس وريتتآن فروم ريغت تو لآفت تهات يس وسآد

There is an HTML attribute for setting the direction as well:

<body dir="rtl">

Both the CSS property and the HTML attribute will cascade the direction to descendent elements. It is recommended you use the HTML attribute, as that will work even if CSS fails or doesn't affect the page for any reason.

There is also a specific HTML tag that can be used for changing the direction of text: <bdo> the bidirectional override element. This exists so there is a semantics-free element to use just for this purpose. For instance:

<p>This text will go left to right.</p>
<p><bdo dir="rtl">This text will go right to left.</bdo></p>

To pair all this with CSS...

*[dir="ltr"] { direction: ltr; unicode-bidi: embed; }

*[dir="rtl"] { direction: rtl; unicode-bidi: embed; }

bdo[dir="ltr"] { direction: ltr; unicode-bidi: bidi-override; }

bdo[dir="rtl"] { direction: rtl; unicode-bidi: bidi-override; }

"bidi" = "bi-directional"

When creating layouts in a pre-flexbox pre-grid world, people often chose between floats and inline-block to create columns. One advantage to inline-block, other than removing the need to clear the float, is that changing the direction property reverses the layout as well. This isn't true for floats, which would need to be reset if a webpage supports multiple languages and the language direction changed from ltr to rtl or vice versa.

If you need to change the direction of an inline element (against what its parent block level element is), you'll either need to use the element, or ensure the inline element sets the unicode-bidi property properly:

<p>Some regular text <bdo dir="rtl">reverse direction</bdo> text text <span dir="rtl">reverse direction</span></p>
span[dir] {
  unicode-bidi: bidi-override;
}

Related Properties

Other Resources

Browser Support

Chrome Safari Firefox Opera IE Android iOS
2.0+ 1.3+ Any 9.2+ 5.5+ Any 3.1+

Comments

  1. Tyson Matanich
    Permalink to comment#

    I recently wrote a short article on using SASS to simplify creating CSS for RTL/LTR sites and posted the code on GitHub.

  2. Ahmed Khattab
    Permalink to comment#

    Hello,

    I have developed an Arabic online tool to switch all horizontal directions in an input CSS code: LTR to RTL CSS online

  3. Layal
    Permalink to comment#

    Check “RTL This” for tutorials and tips on front-end web development for LTR/RTL sites.

  4. aol blog list
    Permalink to comment#

    I’ve been surfing online more than three hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours.
    It’s pretty worth enough for me. In my view, if all web owners and bloggers made good content as you did,
    the internet will be much more useful than evera before.

    aol blog list

  5. aqarGroup
    Permalink to comment#

    how to make it in blog.com ?

    thank you :)

  6. Ronald
    Permalink to comment#

    Please tell me the CSS code to remove permenently Left-to-Right tool and Right-to-Left tool on my blogspot. That default blogger code is below:

    <

    div dir=”ltr” style=”text-align: left;” trbidi=”on”>
    It happens everytime when I do one new post
    Thank you so much

  7. Honey Designs

    where am i suppose to place this code ?

    {
    direction:rtl;
    unicode-bidi:embed;
    }

  8. Flimm

    There is a new HTML5 accepted value for dir, and that is auto, it is very useful for input elements where you can’t predict whether the user is going to enter right-to-left or left-to-right text. It automatically sets the direction based on the first character the user enters. Pretty cool. Try it in this CodePen.

    I found this article very useful too: http://www.w3.org/International/questions/qa-html-dir

Leave a Comment

Posting Code

We highly encourage you to post problematic HTML/CSS/JavaScript over on CodePen and include the link in your post. It's much easier to see, understand, and help with when you do that.

Markdown is supported, so you can write inline code like `<div>this</div>` or multiline blocks of code in in triple backtick fences like this:

```
<script>
  function example() {
    element.innerHTML = "<div>code</div>";
  }
</script>
```