used value

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The used value of any CSS property is the final value of that property after all calculations have been performed. For some properties, used values can be retrieved by calling window.getComputedStyle. Dimensions (e.g., width, line-height) are all in pixels, shorthand properties (e.g., background) are consistent with their component properties (e.g., background-colordisplay) and consistent with position and float, and every CSS property has a value.


There are three steps to calculating any CSS property's final value. First, the specified value is the result of cascading (choosing the most specific stylesheet rule that changes the property), inheritance (using the same computed value as a parent if the property is inheritable), or using the default. Then, the computed value is calculated according to the specification (for example, a span with position: absolute will have its computed display changed to block). Finally, layout is calculated (dimensions that are auto or percentages relative to a parent are replaced with pixel values), and the result is the used value. These steps are calculated internally; a script can read only the final used values with window.getComputedStyle (though this method may instead return computed values, depending on the property; the values it returns are generically called resolved values).


No explicit width. Specified width: auto (default). Computed width: auto. Used width: 998px (for example).
Explicit width: 50%. Specified width: 50%. Computed width: 50%. Used width: 447px (for example).
Explicit width: inherit. Specified width: 50%. Computed width: 50%. Used width: 221px (for example).

Difference from computed values

CSS 2.0 defined only computed value as the last step in a property's calculation. Then, CSS 2.1 introduced the distinct definition of used value so that an element could explicitly inherit a width/height of a parent whose computed value is a percentage. For CSS properties that don't depend on layout (e.g., display, font-size, line-height), the computed values and used values are the same. These are the CSS 2.1 properties that do depend on layout, so they have a different computed value and used value: (taken from CSS 2.1 Changes: Specified, computed, and actual values):

  • background-position
  • bottom, left, right, top
  • height, width
  • margin-bottom, margin-left, margin-right, margin-top,
  • min-height, min-width
  • padding-bottom, padding-left, padding-right, padding-top
  • text-indent


CSS Level 2: Used Values

See also

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 Contributors to this page: Syle91, kscarfone, phil_nist, Kritz, Dholbert, teoli, ethertank, Sheppy, FredB, yonathan
 Last updated by: Syle91,