Fixed sidebar with fixed header and footer

These are a couple of ways of constructing a layout that consist of a fixed footer, header, and sidebar. The application we were building had a preview to the left and the fixed sidebar to the right to tweak that preview. The problem to solve is how to give the sidebar the proper height so it will scroll its content correctly.

The first solution makes use of CSS's calc. We want our sidebar's height to be 100% MINUS the header and footer's height. It's not uncommon for the header's height to be fixed; and given that the footer in this case is fixed too, it probably will also have a fixed height. For this example they are 40px each, so it's as simple as giving the sidebar a height: calc(100% - 80px).

See the Pen by (@julioolvr) on CodePen.

One important advantage of this approach is that, since the sidebar's real height is what it's supposed to be (and not bigger as in the following approaches). This is nice because that way, you see the whole scrollbar.

If calc can't be used, another approach is add a padding to the sidebar. Again, very simple, just add a top and bottom padding that are equal to the header and footer's height, 40px in this example:

See the Pen by (@julioolvr) on CodePen.

This works in most browsers, although you can see the cropped scrollbar.

Now, let's say you need it to work on another browser. Let's say that browser is, for instance, IE8. I'd usually rant about IE, but in this case they are not THAT wrong. As mentioned in this StackOverflow answer, the spec only says that the browser should scroll to show the clipped CONTENT. It makes sense not to consider a padding as content. The result? IE8 won't scroll to show the "padding" (that would end up behind the footer anyway), and the last of the sidebar's content ends up hidden by the footer.

To solve that problem, the third and final solution involves adding :before and :after elements with the height of the header and footer, and THOSE will be the ones that end up hidden. This has the same issue with the scrollbar as the previous solution, but supports IE8:

See the Pen by (@julioolvr) on CodePen.

And that's it, I hope this saves someone some time :)

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