The HTML <pre> tag explained

Posted on Jul 26, 2021

Learn how the HTML <pre> tag works

Photo from Unsplash

The HTML <pre> tag is used to render a preformatted text on the browser page.

A preformatted text is a text that preserves the way it’s written in the source file when displayed on web browsers.

For example, the following <p> element text will be displayed as one line on the browser page:

  Hello, World!
    This is Nathan from
      Hope you have a nice day!

The rendered text will be as shown below:

The result above shows that the spacing and line breaks inside the <p> tag is ignored by the browser.

However, when you write the same text using the <pre> tag:

  Hello, World!
    This is Nathan from
      Hope you have a nice day!

Then the result will be as follows:

As you can see from the above comparison, any text you wrap using <pre> tag will be rendered as it’s written in the source HTML file.

The default font for the text will be a monospace font, and any space or line breaks you add inside the <pre> tag will be rendered on the browser.

A <pre> tag content width and height is always fixed. If your container element is smaller than the <pre> element, then the <pre> tag will ignore the container element size.

To wrap the <pre> tag content, you need to specify the overflow:auto CSS property in the container element.

The following example:

<div style="width:150px;height:50px;overflow:auto;">
  <pre >
    Hello, World!
      This is Nathan from
        Hope you have a nice day!

Will be rendered as follows:

The browser automatically creates a horizontal and/or a vertical scrollbar(s) for <pre> tag content that is bigger than its container.

When to use the pre tag

In the past, the <pre> tag is used by web designers and developers to display a certain part of a website with unique visual styling.

Today, CSS does a much better job in empowering webmasters to customize the visual style of their websites.

The use of <pre> tag is less popular nowadays except for programming tutorial websites where the <pre> tag is used together with the <code> tag to display multi-line code block examples.

Level up your programming skills

I'm sending out an occasional email with the latest programming tutorials. Drop your email in the box below and I'll send new stuff straight into your inbox!

No spam. Unsubscribe anytime.