Flex Shorthand Notation

In this lesson, we will look at how the flex CSS property gives us a compact way to control the flex-grow, flex-shrink, and flex-basis values in one rule.


The flex property is a shorthand notation for specifying the flex-grow, flex-shrink, and flex-basis properties in one rule.

The format of flex looks as follows:

.flex-item {
  flex: <flex-grow> <flex-shrink> <flex-basis>;


.flex-item {
  flex: 2 3 400px;

The above example is equivalent with the following properties:

.flex-item {
  flex-grow: 2;
  flex-shrink: 3;
  flex-basis: 400px;

It is important to note that similar to flex-grow, flex-shrink, and flex-basis, flex is also applied on individual flex-items.

The flex property can take one, two, or three values. We have already examined the version with three values. We will now get to know flex rules with one or two property values.

One value after flex

When only one value is present, most of the time, we influence flex-grow only.

In precise terms, whenever the only flex property value is one number, then we only specify the flex-grow rate with default flex-shrink and flex-basis. The default value of flex-shrink is 1, while the default value of flex-basis is 0:

.flex-item {
  flex: 2;

is equivalent to:

.flex-item {
  flex: 2 1 0;

There are a few other flex values that are worth noting:

  • flex: auto; is fully flexible with a flex-grow and flex-shrink ratio of 1. It also takes the flex-basis: auto; value that sets the basis according to the width and the height of the component.
  • flex: initial; is equivalent to flex: 0 1 auto;. The difference between initial and auto is that flex: initial does not grow with the container. It only shrinks to fit in the container.
  • flex: none; is fully inflexible. This implies a flex-grow and flex-shrink of 0, while the flex-basis is auto.

For example: Suppose we have a Flex-container with variable width, and three flex-items with a base width of 150px. Let’s see how the elements with different flex properties react.

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