Wrapping Code Samples on Mobile Devices

By  on  

One part of being a technical blogger that I've had to come to grips with is code samples and small mobile device screens.  I was amazed when I saw a double-digit percentage of visits to this blog were from mobile phones -- mental!  I started paying more attention to detail on said devices and I realized that code samples required loads of horizontal scrolling:  yuck.  By utilizing CSS white-space, we can make code wrap and avoid arm-numbing scrolling on small screens:

pre {
	white-space: pre-line;

I like using PrismJS so that requires a different selector:

pre[class*='language-'], code[class*='language-'] {
	white-space: pre-line;

Thankfully white-space lets me help you all avoid horizontal scrolling on mobiles. Of course you'll need to choose which media query you want to apply that to, but I'll let you do that.  In some cases it may be difficult to read the line-broken code, but that's surely better than all that crazy scrolling.

Recent Features

  • By
    JavaScript Promise API

    While synchronous code is easier to follow and debug, async is generally better for performance and flexibility. Why "hold up the show" when you can trigger numerous requests at once and then handle them when each is ready?  Promises are becoming a big part of the JavaScript world...

  • By
    fetch API

    One of the worst kept secrets about AJAX on the web is that the underlying API for it, XMLHttpRequest, wasn't really made for what we've been using it for.  We've done well to create elegant APIs around XHR but we know we can do better.  Our effort to...

Incredible Demos

  • By
    Create Keyboard Shortcuts with Mousetrap

    Some of the finest parts of web apps are hidden in the little things.  These "small details" can often add up to big, big gains.  One of those small gains can be found in keyboard shortcuts.  Awesome web apps like Gmail and GitHub use loads of...

  • By
    MooTools HTML Police: dwMarkupMarine

    We've all inherited rubbish websites from webmasters that couldn't master valid HTML. You know the horrid markup: paragraph tags with align attributes and body tags with background attributes. It's almost a sin what they do. That's where dwMarkupMarine comes in.


  1. I’m also using PrismJS. Any tips to get the line-numbers to adjust?

  2. Also, by default tab size is about 4 i believe, this snippet brings it back a little…

    // @media query here for small screens...
          webkit-tab-size: 2;
          -moz-tab-size: 2;
          -ms-tab-size: 2;
          -o-tab-size: 2;
          tab-size: 2;

    That is, assuming you’ve got tabs over spaces (which you should of course).

  3. Interesting post. I have thought about this for quite some time. The thing is that code is much more readable, in my opinion, when not wrapping it like this.

    Since we are used to large screens, reading wrapped code like this is hard and unfamiliar. We do not code on small screens and therefor it makes more sense to scroll horizontally when viewing code then to force line breaking/wrapping.

  4. No offense, but I would rather go with all the crazy scrolling. I honestly think it looks nicer than the broken up code, and it is easier to read and understand code samples.

Wrap your code in <pre class="{language}"></pre> tags, link to a GitHub gist, JSFiddle fiddle, or CodePen pen to embed!