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How to Use MUI Box: Impress Users with Great User Interface

As a software developer, it is crucial to have a solid understanding of the fundamental components. Especially a library or framework you use for building your applications. It allows you to effectively utilize the features and capabilities of the library or framework to build robust and efficient applications while still not losing efficiency and functionality in a fast-paced work environment.

One such component is the Box component in Material-UI v5. The Box component serves as a versatile building block that allows you to structure and organize your application’s layout with ease. It provides a wrapper element for creating containers, applying styling, managing spacing, and ensuring responsiveness.

By learning the Box component, you can create visually appealing and responsive user interfaces that will impress both users and fellow developers.

What is Material UI?

Material UI is a widely-used UI component library for building user interfaces in React applications, adhering to the principles of Google’s Material Design. It offers a collection of reusable and customizable components that enable developers to create modern and visually appealing UIs.

It offers reusable, customizable components for building modern and visually appealing user interfaces. Material-UI v5 introduces numerous enhancements and new features, making it an excellent choice for front-end development.

By leveraging the latest version of Material UI (v5), developers can take advantage of its enhanced features and improvements.

Material UI logo

MUI was started in 2014 by Hai Nguyen and since then, it has experienced significant growth, boasting 89k+ stars on GitHub, 1.5M+ weekly downloads, with a small bundle size of 93.7kB (Minified + Gzipped).

The chart below from NPM trends shows a comparison of the number of downloads of Material UI over the last year.

NPM Trends of MUI

If you use MUI for your project, consider using Purecode.ai. You’ll access over 10000+ AI-generated ready-made templates and components to speed up your development process.

Let’s Get Started!

In this article, we will dive deep into the Box component and explore its purpose, usage, and capabilities. We will start by understanding the importance of Material-UI v5 and how it revolutionizes front-end development using MUI. Then, we will introduce the Box component and explain its role as a foundation for constructing visually responsive user interfaces. Next, we will explore the various ways to use the Box component, including basic usage and applying styling with the sx prop.

Finally, we will demonstrate how to create responsive layouts using the Box component, ensuring your UI adapts seamlessly to different screen sizes.

If you are new to Material-UI or looking to enhance your existing MUI skills, this article will provide you with the knowledge and hands-on examples you need to master the Box component.

By the end of this article, you will have the confidence to leverage the power of the Box component to create stunning and responsive user interfaces in your React applications.

Introduction to the Box Component

The Box component is a generic building block that serves as a wrapper component for grouping other components. It’s a fundamental building block when building with MUI component libraries. You can think of it as a <div> with special features (like access to your app’s theme and the sx prop).

The Box component serves as a wrapper element for structuring and organizing your application’s layout. With the Box component, you can create containers, apply styling, manage spacing, and ensure responsiveness, making it a foundation for constructing visually appealing user interfaces.

The Box component in Material UI is a crucial tool for styling elements in a React application. It provides a convenient way to apply styling, manage spacing, and ensure responsiveness without the need for separate CSS files or the `makeStyles` hook commonly used in React development.

Implementing Material UI Box Component

Now you understand what Material UI library is, its significance, and why it is a preferred choice for most developers. Let’s learn how to install React and the MUI library.

Prerequisites

Before creating MUI tabs, you need to have the following:

  • NPM is installed on your machine.

  • Basic knowledge of JavaScript and React.

If you need help getting started with React, please check out the video tutorial below.

Setting up a React App

In your terminal, enter the following command to create a new React application:

npx create-react-app my-app && cd my-app

Once your app is set up, run the application by entering either of these commands in your terminal:

yarn start

Or using npm:

npm start

Your server should launch in your browser at http://localhost:3000/, as shown below:

React app

How to Install Material UI

To get set up with MUI we can install it as an NPM package or use Yarn.

npm install @material-ui/core

or

yarn add @material-ui/core

Once the MUI library is successfully installed, you are all set to start using the Material UI components in your React application.

Importing Material-UI Box Component

The Box component is a crucial component for creating boxes in your application. By default, it renders as a <div>, but you can use the component prop to replace it with any other valid HTML tag or React component. The following example demonstrates how to replace the default <div> with a <section> element:

import { Box } from '@mui/system';

export default function BoxExample() {
  return (
    <Box component="section" m={1}>
      This is a box
    </Box>
  );
}

import React from "react";
import ReactDOM from "react-dom";
import { Box } from "@material-ui/core";
import "./styles.css";

function App() {
  return (
    <Box component="section" sx={{ p: 20, border: "1px dashed grey" }}>
      This is a section container
    </Box>
  );
}

const rootElement = document.getElementById("root");
ReactDOM.render(<App />, rootElement);

Example showing MUI Box

Applying Custom Stylings with the sx Prop

The Box component allows you to apply to style using the sx prop, offering a range of CSS-in-JS capabilities. This example demonstrates how to style a Box and nested Typography component.

import React from "react";
import ReactDOM from "react-dom";
import { Box, Typography } from "@material-ui/core";
import "./styles.css";

function App() {
  return (
    <Box
      component="section"
      sx={{
        p: 6,
        border: "1px dashed grey",
        backgroundColor: "#9966ff",
        backgroundImage: "url(<https://play.tailwindcss.com/img/beams.jpg>)",
        backgroundRepeat: "no-repeat",
        backgroundSize: "cover",
        height: "200px",
        width: "500px",
        display: "flex"
      }}
    >
      <Typography color="primary" align="center">
        With Purecode.ai, you gain access to over 10,000 AI-generated custom
        components. Our cutting-edge technology allows you to effortlessly
        search through this vast library to find the perfect components for your
        nav tabs project. No more hours wasted on coding from scratch; we
        provide you with a wealth of resources to accelerate your development
        process.
      </Typography>
    </Box>
  );
}

const rootElement = document.getElementById("root");
ReactDOM.render(<App />, rootElement);

Example showing MUI Box with Typography

In the code above ⬆, we use the Box component to build a container, and then we use the Typography component from MUI to include texts in the container. Notice how the sx prop allowed us to add more stylings such as width, height, paddings, margins, etc

Creating Responsive Layouts

The Box component is highly effective in creating responsive layouts. It provides a wide range of properties such as display, flexDirection, alignItems, and justifyContent that enable developers to design adaptive layouts for various screen sizes. By leveraging these properties, developers can ensure that their UI components dynamically adjust and respond to different devices and orientations, delivering an optimal user experience.

In the code below, we make use of the sx prop and then pass in some style properties such as display, flexDirection, alignItems, and justifyContent to create responsive boxes that stack well irrespective of the width of the parent container.

import * as React from 'react';
import ReactDOM from "react-dom";
import { Box, Typography } from "@material-ui/core";
import "./styles.css";

function App() {
  return (
    <Box
      mt={6}
      sx={{
        display: "flex",
        justifyContent: "center",
        alignItems: "center",
        gap: "12px"
      }}
    >
      <Box
        component="section"
        sx={{
          p: 6,
          border: "2px solid #9966ff",
          backgroundColor: "#9966ff",
          backgroundImage: "url(<https://play.tailwindcss.com/img/beams.jpg>)",
          backgroundRepeat: "no-repeat",
          backgroundSize: "cover",
          height: "100px",
          width: "100%",
          display: "flex"
        }}
      >
        <Typography color="primary" variant="h1">
          1
        </Typography>
      </Box>

      <Box
        component="section"
        sx={{
          p: 6,
          border: "2px solid #9966ff",
          backgroundColor: "#9966ff",
          backgroundImage: "url(<https://play.tailwindcss.com/img/beams.jpg>)",
          backgroundRepeat: "no-repeat",
          backgroundSize: "cover",
          height: "100px",
          width: "100%",
          display: "flex"
        }}
      >
        <Typography color="primary" variant="h1">
          2
        </Typography>
      </Box>

      <Box
        component="section"
        sx={{
          p: 6,
          border: "2px solid #9966ff",
          backgroundColor: "#9966ff",
          backgroundImage: "url(<https://play.tailwindcss.com/img/beams.jpg>)",
          backgroundRepeat: "no-repeat",
          backgroundSize: "cover",
          height: "100px",
          width: "100%",
          display: "flex"
        }}
      >
        <Typography color="primary" variant="h1">
          3
        </Typography>
      </Box>
    </Box>
  );
}

const rootElement = document.getElementById("root");
ReactDOM.render(<App />, rootElement);

Example showing MUI Box Responsive Layouts

Dimensions and Spacing

In MUI, the Box component provides a flexible way to have control over the dimensions, spacing, and layout of elements. This allows you to set the size of an element using the width and height properties. These properties can be specified in different units such as pixels (px), percentages (%), or other valid CSS length units.

Here’s an example of how to use the Box component to set the width and height of an element:

<Box width="200px" height="100px" />

When using the Box component to define dimensions, it’s important to consider best practices for responsive and scalable layouts. Here are some recommendations:

  1. Utilize Relative Units: It is advisable to utilize relative units such as percentages (%) or the em unit instead of fixed units like pixels (px). By using relative units, the Box component can dynamically adjust and scale based on the size of the parent container or the viewport, resulting in a more responsive and adaptable design.

    For example, you can set the width and height of a Box component using relative units:

    <Box width="100%" height="50%" />
    
    
  2. Avoid Fixed Width and Height: Unless there is a specific requirement for fixed dimensions, it’s basically recommended to avoid using fixed values for width and height. Fixed dimensions can restrict flexibility and responsiveness, particularly when the application is accessed on various screen sizes or devices.

Overriding Material UI components

The Box component provides a wrapper element for your component. By default, it creates a new DOM element, a <div>. However, you can change this default behavior by using the component prop. For example, if you want to use a <span> instead, you can do so by setting the component prop to “span”:

import * as React from 'react';
import Box from '@mui/material/Box';
import Button from '@mui/material/Button';

export default function BoxComponent() {
  return (
    <Box component="span" sx={{ p: 2, border: '1px dashed grey' }}>
      <Button>Save</Button>
    </Box>
  );
}

Example showing Overriding Material UI components

In the code snippet above, the Box component is used to wrap the Button component. The component prop is set to “span”, which changes the underlying DOM element from a <div> to a <span>. This allows you to override the default behavior of the Box component and use a different element for wrapping your content.

This approach is useful when you need to modify the style of the underlying DOM element. For example, if you want to change the border of the Box component, you can use the sx prop directly on the Box component itself. This allows you to override the default style defined by the Box component and apply your custom styles.

FAQs

What Is the Difference Between the MUI Box Component and the MUI Stack Component?

The MUI Box component and the MUI Stack component are both layout components provided by Material-UI. However, they have some key differences in terms of their functionality and usage.

It allows you to define the size of an element using properties like width and height. The Box component is highly customizable and can be used to create responsive layouts and adaptive UI components for different screen sizes.

On the other hand, the Stack component is a higher-level layout component that simplifies the process of stacking elements vertically or horizontally. It provides a convenient way to create layouts with stacked elements, such as columns or rows. The Stack component automatically handles spacing between elements and adjusts the layout based on the available space.

How Do I Choose Between the MUI Box Component and the MUI Stack Component?

The choice between the MUI Box component and the MUI Stack component depends on the specific requirements of your layout and the level of control you need over the elements. Here are some considerations to help you make a decision:

  1. Flexibility and Customization: If you need fine-grained control over the dimensions, spacing, and layout of elements, the Box component is a better choice. It allows you to define the size of an element using properties like width and height and provides extensive customization options through props like sx and css.

  2. Simplified Stacking: If your layout primarily involves stacking elements vertically or horizontally, the Stack component can simplify the process. It automatically handles spacing between elements and adjusts the layout based on the available space, making it easier to create responsive and visually appealing layouts.

  3. Combination of Both: In some cases, you may need to use both the Box component and the Stack component together to achieve the desired layout. For example, you can use the Box component to define the dimensions and spacing of individual elements, and then use the Stack component to stack those elements vertically or horizontally.

In general, it’s recommended to start with the Box component and use the Stack component when you need a simplified way to stack elements. Experiment with both components to find the best approach for your specific layout requirements.

How Do I Handle Responsive Layouts with the MUI Box Component and the MUI Stack Component?

The MUI Box component and the MUI Stack component both provide features and props that allow you to create responsive layouts. To handle responsive layouts, you can use properties like width and height with relative units like percentages (%) or the em unit. This allows the components to adapt and scale based on the size of the parent container or the viewport, ensuring a more responsive design.

Also, you can use media queries and breakpoints provided by Material-UI to conditionally apply different styles or layouts based on the screen size. This can be done by using the sx prop or CSS-in-JS libraries like styled components or emotion to define responsive styles for the Box and Stack components.

Can I Nest the MUI Box Component and the MUI Stack Component?

Yes, you can nest the MUI Box component and the MUI Stack component to create complex layouts. By nesting these components, you can combine their features and props to achieve the desired layout structure. For example, you can use the Box component to define the dimensions and spacing of individual elements, and then use the Stack component to stack those elements vertically or horizontally.

When nesting these components, it’s important to consider the order and hierarchy of the components. The outermost component will be the parent container, and the inner components will be the child elements. Make sure to apply the appropriate props and styles to each component to achieve the desired layout and behavior.

What You Have Learned

By reading this article, you have learned how to use the Box component from Material UI to create responsive layouts and design adaptive UI components for different screen sizes. You also learned about the flexibility provided by the Box component in controlling dimensions, spacing, and layout.

In our example above, you saw how to override Material UI components using the Box component and the component prop, allowing you to change the underlying DOM element. We looked at the use of the sx prop to directly style child components if they are Material UI components and the ability to build responsive layouts and card grids using the Box component, following step-by-step instructions provided in hands-on examples.

By applying the knowledge gained from this article, you will be able to create visually appealing and responsive user interfaces for your React applications using Material UI.

However, if you wish to be more efficient and cut down the time to build your own MUI components, consider using or pre-generated custom MUI components of more than 10, 000+ examples to choose from. Try it out now 🚀

Happy building 💻

Emmanuel Uchenna

Emmanuel Uchenna

Emmanuel is an experienced and enthusiastic software developer and technical writer with 4+ proven years of professional experience. He focuses on full-stack web development. He is fluent in React, TypeScript, VueJS, and NodeJS and familiar with industry-standard technologies such as version control, headless CMS, and JAMstack. He is passionate about knowledge sharing.