GSS fixes the fundamental flaws of CSS

Viewed as an alternative to the ballyhooed JavaScript framework, GSS is geared toward boosting Web UI development by fixing CSS's inherent layout issues

Looking to improve Web UI development, a company called The Grid is launching GSS (Grid Style Sheets) this week with the goal of overcoming issues with CSS (Cascading Style Sheets).

GSS is an open source library that leverages JavaScript and HTML5 and is intended to solve UI layout issues, which The Grid describes as one of the most frustrating problems with the Web as a platform. "Bottom line, it's [intended] to really fix the fundamental problems with CSS, particularly with the layout mechanisms within CSS," said Dan Tocchini, main developer of GSS and president/CEO of The Grid. Tasks like centering an element with CSS can be difficult, so companies have to hire persons specialized in dealing with the nuances of positioning and layout with CSS, Tocchini noted. "It's really frustrating. And that's why you see a lot of websites that look the same."

Developers can choose GSS as an alternative to the JavaScript framework, according to Tocchini. While treats the browser more like a game engine to get around issues with CSS, GSS takes care of CSS shortcomings. GSS is based on constraint programming, a paradigm where developers focus on declaring the "what" in a program and rely on a mathematical solver to figure out "how." Constraint programming is a natural fit for declarative languages such as CSS, the company said.

GSS extends CSS with new layout languages and replaces the browser's layout engine, using the Cassowary Constraint Solver algorithm that is used by Apple to compute native layout. "It's a linear arithmetic constraint solver that solves cyclic dependencies in your layout logic," Tocchini said.

The Cassowary engine behind GSS improves on the CSS layout model, said Alex Russell, a Google software engineer on the Chrome team who helped develop this  engine. "[GSS] adds incredible power for developers" to express relationships between visual elements that would have been difficult to do in CSS, Russell said.

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