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Everything You Need to Know About MUI Stack: A Simple Guide

Mui stack illustration

You’ve come to the correct spot if you’re interested in learning about and using the MUI Stack component. This guide provides you with a thorough understanding of MUI Stack and all of its features. But before we go in, it’s important to make sure you have a basic understanding of the subject. In order to fully understand and benefit from this essay, make sure you are familiar with the following prerequisites.

Prerequisites

  1. Basic JavaScript Knowledge: Understanding of variables, functions, and objects in JavaScript.

  2. React Fundamentals: Familiarity with React components, props, and state.

  3. Material-UI Basics: A general idea about Material-UI and its components.

Getting to Know MUI Stack

MUI is a well-liked React UI framework, originally known as Material-UI and inspired by Google’s Material Design. The Stack component shines out as a flexible layout management tool within the MUI extensive library. Then why is such a component needed? Developers looked for simpler, more effective ways to organize UI elements without resorting to complicated old approaches as web design progressed. Now, whether you’re creating a static webpage or a dynamic web application, the MUI Stack component offers a way to simplify layouts.

More importantly, with the rapid growth of AI, an AI tool called PureCode can generate custom components across Material UI components, TailwindCss, and more using AI. This means that we can generate our MUI component with a single command. Do you want to give it a shot? PureCode can be found here.

In essence, MUI Stack is all about organization. It’s like having a virtual box where you can perfectly arrange and align your web elements, whether they’re buttons, photos, or text. To really harness its power, however, one must first understand its fundamental functions and qualities.

MUI Stack vs. Grid: What’s the Difference?

Within the Material-UI library, MUI Stack and Grid are two components intended to assist with UI element layout and arrangement. But they have different use cases and fulfill different functions. However, let us discuss these comparisons in detail;

  1. Dimensionality:

    • MUI Stack: Mostly used for one-dimensional layouts. This means that it arranges items in a single row or column. When you only need to stack elements vertically or horizontally, this tool is ideal.

    • MUI Grid: It is for two-dimensional layouts. It enables the arrangement of items in both rows and columns, providing greater flexibility for complex designs.

  2. Use Cases:

    • MUI Stack: Ideal for scenarios displaying a list of items in a linear fashion, such as a list of buttons or icons.
    • MUI Grid: Ideal for more complex designs such as card layouts, image galleries, or any situation where a grid format is required.

  3. Properties:

    • MUI Stack: Offers properties like direction (to set vertical or horizontal axis or alignment) and spacing (to set the gap between items).

    • MUI Grid: It has a more extensive set of properties that allow for more precise control over item placement, alignment, and responsiveness.

  4. Simplicity vs. Flexibility:

    • MUI Stack: Provides a simpler API that is easier for beginners to understand. Stack is the way to go if you need a quick solution for linear layouts.

      MUI Grid: While its extensive properties may result in a steeper learning curve, it provides greater flexibility for intricate designs.

  5. Performance:

    • MUI Stack: Being a simpler component, it might offer slightly better performance for straightforward layouts.

    • MUI Grid: While highly efficient, using Grid for very basic layouts might be overkill.

Summary of MUI Stack vs. Grid

To summarize, the decision between MUI Stack and Grid ultimately depends on the particular requirements of your project. Stack works well for one-dimensional, basic layouts. Nonetheless, the Grid provides the necessary flexibility and control for more intricate grid-based designs. However, this video tutorial explains more about the MUI Grid if you want to know more.

The Basics of MUI Stack

Now that MUI Stack has been explained, let’s get practical. The Stack component functions fundamentally as a container. Consider it a defined area where you can orderly assemble different components.

To start using the MUI stack. Firstly, we would need to install the MUI’s dependencies using the following commands that would be run in a terminal;

npm install @mui/material @emotion/react @emotion/styled @mui/lab @mui/icons-material

or 

yarn add @mui/material @emotion/react @emotion/styled @mui/lab @mui/icons-material

After a successful installation of the required dependencies. We would directly import the MUI Stack into our project with the following line of code:

import Stack from '@mui/material/Stack';

Now, we can include any element inside the <Stack> component after it has been imported. We control the appearance of these elements, their spacing, and alignment by changing certain properties. The direction prop decides whether items are aligned horizontally or vertically, for example, whereas the spacing prop establishes the distance between stacked items.

We’ll explore these attributes in-depth in this article, offering advice, suggestions, and best practices to improve our MUI Stack experience.

Arranging Items on a Vertical or Horizontal Axis with MUI Stack

MUI Stack provides a simple method for organizing UI elements on a vertical or horizontal axis. This adaptability ensures that designs remain clean and user-friendly regardless of the content presented. For a visual demonstration of how to effectively arrange items on a vertical or horizontal axis using MUI Stack, check out this comprehensive video tutorial.

Vertical Arrangement:

MUI Stack has a default direction or arrangement, which means that on default, the MUI Stack arranges items vertically. Also the direction=" column" can be used to ensure the MUI Stack arranges items vertically. Here’s a simple example:

import Stack from '@mui/material/Stack';

function VerticalStack() { 
 return ( 
   <Stack direction="column">
      <div>Item 1</div> 
      <div>Item 2</div> 
      <div>Item 3</div> 
   </Stack> 

    <Stack>
      <div>Item 1</div> 
      <div>Item 2</div> 
      <div>Item 3</div> 
   </Stack> 
   ); 
}

The above lines of code have a `column` value passed to the `direction` prop, which basically ensures that the elements appear vertically in a column. We can examine the result in the image below:

Mui vertical stack illustration

Horizontal Arrangement:

The MUI Stack `direction` prop accepts a `row` value which performs the logic position items horizontally. To achieve this programmatically, modify the `direction` prop to row:

function HorizontalStack() { 
 return ( 
   <Stack direction="row"> 
      <div>Item 1</div> 
      <div>Item 2</div> 
      <div>Item 3</div> 
   </Stack> 
  );
}

The above lines of code ensure that the elements are horizontally in a row. The visual representation of this can be seen in the image below;

Mui horizontal stack illustration

Spacing Between Items:

MUI Stack provides the `spacing` prop to adjust the gap between items. For instance, to set a gap of 2 (based on the theme’s spacing scale) between each item:

function SpacedStack() { 
  return ( 
     <Stack direction="row" spacing={2}> 
        <div>Item 1</div> 
        <div>Item 2</div> 
        <div>Item 3</div> 
    </Stack> 
  ); 
}

This approach ensures that the layout remains organized and visually appealing, regardless of the number of items or their content. See the result below:

Mui spacing in stack illustration

Adding Dividers in MUI Stack

Following your understanding of how to arrange items vertically or horizontally using MUI Stack, another important feature to investigate is the use of dividers. Dividers are essential for segmenting content, providing visual clarity, and assisting users in distinguishing between different sections or items.

Using the divider Prop:

One of the most straightforward ways to add dividers in MUI Stack is by utilizing the divider prop.

In the lines of code below, we start by importing the necessary components from MUI: Stack and Divider. The Stack component is our primary container, while the Divider component represents the visual line we’ll use to separate items.

import Stack from '@mui/material/Stack';
import Divider from '@mui/material/Divider';

function StackWithDividers() {
  return (
     <Stack
        spacing={2}
        direction="column"
        divider={<Divider orientation="horizontal" />}
      >
        <div>Item 1</div>
        <div>Item 2</div>
        <div>Item 3</div>
      </Stack>
  );
}

In this case, a horizontal Divider is selected as the Stack component’s divider prop which acts as a css utility. By doing this, the stack’s items are guaranteed to have horizontal lines between them. It is important to note that you can also set your optional spacing.

See the result below;

Mui stack dividers

Customizing Dividers

The MUI Divider component is very versatile. As discussed earlier the Divider creates dividers between each child in the stack or div or section, this basically means the children along the vertical or horizontal axis of which you can have optional spacing would appear with an underlined element between each child or element. Allowing for various customizations. For instance, if we want to introduce a unique visual touch, we can opt for dashed dividers.

In the following code, we adjust the style of the Divider to have a dashed border:

function DashedDividerStack() {
  return (
    <Stack 
      direction="column" 
      divider={<Divider orientation="horizontal" style={{borderStyle: 'dashed'}} />}
    >
      <div>Item 1</div>
      <div>Item 2</div>
      <div>Item 3</div>
    </Stack>
  );
}

This simple modification enhances the visual appeal of the layout, making it stand out. More information about the Divider component and API can be accessed here.

Making MUI Stack Look Good on All Screens

Users access websites and applications from a variety of devices in the modern digital age, including tablets, smartphones, laptops, and desktop computers or any device with an active breakpoint. It is our responsibility as developers to make sure that our user interface elements adjust smoothly to these different screen sizes. This task is significantly simplified by MUI Stack, thanks to its built-in responsive capabilities.

Responsive Direction:

The orientation of the items in the stack is one of the most important factors to take into account for responsiveness. On a widescreen, a horizontal arrangement might look fantastic, but it might be confined to a mobile device. We can set the direction based on breakpoints with MUI Stack.

We show how to change the direction depending on screen size in the code below:

import Stack from '@mui/material/Stack';

function ResponsiveDirectionStack() {
  return (
    <Stack direction={{ xs: 'column', md: 'row' }}>
      <div>Item 1</div>
      <div>Item 2</div>
      <div>Item 3</div>
    </Stack>
  );
}

Here, on extra-small (xs) screens, items are stacked vertically. However, starting from medium (md) screens and larger ones, the immediate children are arranged horizontally.

Responsive Spacing:

The direction and the distance between items can both be adjusted according to the size of the screen. This guarantees that irrespective of the device being utilized, the distance between items is reasonable.

Here is an illustration of how to set responsive spacing:

function ResponsiveSpacingStack() {
  return (
    <Stack direction="column" spacing={{ xs: 1, md: 3 }}>
      <div>Item 1</div>
      <div>Item 2</div>
      <div>Item 3</div>
    </Stack>
  );
}

In this instance, the spacing is set to one unit on extremely small screens. On medium screens, though, it rises to three units, giving the items more room to breathe.

By using these methods, we can make the most of MUI Stack and produce layouts that are both aesthetically pleasing and responsive on all platforms.

Personalizing MUI Stack with Themes

Material-UI (MUI) is a powerful theming solution that enables developers to define a consistent look and feel across all of their applications. We can personalize the appearance and behavior of the MUI Stack component by leveraging this theming capability to better align with our design preferences and branding.

Understanding MUI Theming:

The ThemeProvider component is at the heart of MUI theming. It enables us to define a theme while also ensuring that every MUI component within its context can access and apply the theme’s properties.

import { ThemeProvider, createTheme } from '@mui/material/styles';

const theme = createTheme({
  // Define your theme properties here
});

Customizing Stack Spacing:

Changing the default spacing is one of the most common Stack component customizations. We can set a default spacing value for all Stack instances in our application using the theme.

const theme = createTheme({
  components: {
    MuiStack: {
      defaultProps: {
        spacing: 3,
      },
    },
  },
});

With this theme enabled, unless explicitly overridden, every Stack component will have a default spacing of 3 units.

Styling Dividers:

If we use dividers within our Stack, we may want them to have a specific style that corresponds to our branding. We can set default styles for the Divider component using the theme.

This ensures that every Divider within our Stack has a consistent appearance.

Applying the Theme:

Once we’ve defined our theme, we must wrap our application (or a portion of it) in the ‘ThemeProvider’ to apply the customizations.

import React from 'react';
import { ThemeProvider, createTheme } from '@mui/material/styles';
import Stack from '@mui/material/Stack';

const theme = createTheme({
  // Your theme customizations here
});

function App() {
  return (
    <ThemeProvider theme={theme}>
      <Stack>
        {/* Your Stack items here */}
      </Stack>
    </ThemeProvider>
  );
}

export default App;

We can ensure that the Stack component (and other MUI components) aligns with our design guidelines and brand identity by leveraging MUI’s theming capabilities. This method not only improves the visual appeal but also ensures consistency throughout our application. Please let me know if you have any further questions or require any additional information!

Things to Watch Out for with MUI Stack

MUI Stack is a versatile and powerful component that makes it easier to arrange UI elements. However, as with any tool, it is critical to be aware of certain nuances and potential pitfalls in order to get the most out of it. Here are some things to remember:

1. Overdependence on Stack:

While the Stack component is extremely useful for quickly arranging elements, it should not be overused. Using Stack alone for complex layouts can result in nested structures that are difficult to maintain and understand. Consider using other layout components or CSS techniques in such cases.

2. Combining spacing and Custom Margins:

The spacing prop in Stack makes it easy to create consistent gaps between items. Individual children’s margins, on the other hand, can result in unexpected spacing. To avoid visual discrepancies, always ensure that the children within a Stack have consistent margin settings.

3. Assumptions about responsiveness:

While MUI Stack includes responsive features, it is critical to test layouts on actual devices. What looks good on a desktop computer may not translate well to a mobile device. The Stack is tested on a regular basis to ensure that it behaves as expected across all screen sizes.

4. Overhead with Dividers:

Dividers with Overhead: The divider prop can be used to quickly add separators between items. However, for large lists, this can introduce a lot of Divider elements, which can hurt performance. Consider alternative methods of displaying dividers or optimizing rendering in such cases.

5. Conflicts with Custom Theming:

If you’re using MUI’s theming capabilities, be wary of global theme settings that may have an unintended effect on the Stack component. To ensure the desired appearance and behavior, always check the combined effect of local props and global theme settings.

6. Considerations for Accessibility:

While MUI components, such as Stack, are designed to be accessible, it is the developer’s responsibility to ensure that the final implementation is accessible. This includes assigning ARIA roles, ensuring keyboard navigation, and testing with screen readers.

7. Updates and Breaking Changes:

MUI is an actively maintained library with frequent updates. While this implies that new features and improvements are added on a regular basis, it also implies the possibility of breaking changes. When updating, always consult the official documentation and migration guides to ensure that the Stack component continues to function as expected.

To summarise, while MUI Stack is a valuable tool in a developer’s toolbox, it is critical to use it wisely and be aware of its nuances. We can effectively harness the power of Stack by keeping these considerations in mind, creating intuitive and efficient layouts.

Conclusion

Finally, MUI Stack is more than a component; it is a testament to the evolution of web design, providing modern solutions to age-old problems. As you progress through MUI’s vast library of components, always refer back to the official documentation to stay up to date on the latest features and best practices. You’ll be well-equipped to create user-friendly, responsive, and aesthetically pleasing web applications as a result. Also, we should keep in mind that with PureCode’s AI tool, we can generate our MUI stack component and other MUi components easily. Sign Up Now.

Ola Boluwatife

Ola Boluwatife