Hamed Asghari


Rails and the Stylesheet Rule Limitation in Internet Explorer

14 Nov 2014

It is a well-known problem that in order to be compatible with Internet Explorer 6 through 9, a single stylesheet may contain up to 4095 rules. If you exceed that limit, the styles on the page will break and it could be hard to track down the issue if you're not familiar with this limitation.

Not too long ago at my workplace, we encountered this very same problem. Our application.css file had far too many rules for IE's liking. Fortunately for us, our experienced designer had encountered this problem before so we didn't spend a lot of time debugging the source of the problem.

I don't want to get into all the different solutions for splitting up your stylesheets but instead outline what worked best for us and how we can prevent this from happening moving forward.

Controller-specific Stylesheets

By convention, the Rails scaffold generator will create a separate stylesheet per controller. Instead of including each controller-specific stylesheet in the application.css file that is globally included on all of our pages, we decided to dynamically include the stylesheets based on which controller handles the request:

  1. Move all controller stylesheets to the app/assets/stylesheets/pages directory.

  2. Define a helper method in ApplicationHelper:

    def controller_stylesheet
      if Rails.application.assets.find_asset("pages/#{params[:controller]}")
        stylesheet_link_tag "pages/#{params[:controller]}", media: :all
  3. Include the controller stylesheet in your application.html layout:

    <%= stylesheet_link_tag 'application', media: 'all' %>
    <%= controller_stylesheet %>

By taking this approach, we were able to get under the imposed limit on all of our stylesheets but how do we detect this problem before deployment in the future?

Validate Stylesheets

With the help of the css_splitter gem, we created a rake task to run as a post build step:

namespace :stylesheets do
  task validate: :environment do
    require 'css_splitter'

    manifest = ActionView::Base.assets_manifest
    limit = 4095
    message = "%{key} has %{count} selectors which exceeds the limit of #{limit}"

    manifest.assets.select do |key, _|
      File.extname(key) == '.css'
    end.each do |key, value|
      count = CssSplitter::Splitter.count_selectors File.join(manifest.dir, value)
      puts "#{key}: #{count}"
      fail message % { key: key, count: count} if count > limit

The task above requires that the assets be precompiled so to put it all together, we run the following commands as a post build step and should we exceed the limit, the task will fail with a message pointing to the offending file.

bundle exec rake assets:precompile
bundle exec rake stylesheets:validate

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