CSS Counters Implementing multi-level numbering using CSS counters


Example

CSS

ul {
  list-style: none;
  counter-reset: list-item-number; /* self nesting counter as name is same for all levels */
}
li {
  counter-increment: list-item-number;
}
li:before {
  content: counters(list-item-number, ".") " "; /* usage of counters() function means value of counters at all higher levels are combined before printing */
}

HTML

<ul>
  <li>Level 1
    <ul>
      <li>Level 1.1
        <ul>
          <li>Level 1.1.1</li>
        </ul>
      </li>
    </ul>
  </li>
  <li>Level 2
    <ul>
      <li>Level 2.1
        <ul>
          <li>Level 2.1.1</li>
          <li>Level 2.1.2</li>
        </ul>
      </li>
    </ul>
  </li>
  <li>Level 3</li>
</ul>

The above is an example of multi-level numbering using CSS counters. It makes use of the self-nesting concept of counters. Self nesting is a concept where if an element already has a counter with the given name but is having to create another then it creates it as a child of the existing counter. Here, the second level ul already inherits the list-item-number counter from its parent but then has to create its own list-item-number (for its children li) and so creates list-item-number[1] (counter for second level) and nests it under list-item-number[0] (counter for first level). Thus it achieves the multi-level numbering.

The output is printed using the counters() function instead of the counter() function because the counters() function is designed to prefix the value of all higher level counters (parent) when printing the output.