CSS counters let you adjust the appearance of content based on its location in a document. For example, you can use counters to automatically number the headings in a webpage. Counters are, in essence, variables maintained by CSS whose values may be incremented by CSS rules to track how many times they're used.

Using counters

Manipulating a counter's value

To use a CSS counter, it must first be initialized to a value with the counter-reset property (0 by default). The same property can also be used to change its value to any specific number. Once initialized, a counter's value can be increased or decreased with counter-increment. The counter's name must not be "none", "inherit", or "initial"; otherwise the declaration is ignored.

Displaying a counter

The value of a counter can be displayed using either the counter() or counters() function in a content property.

The counter() function has two forms: 'counter(name)' or 'counter(name, style)'. The generated text is the value of the innermost counter of the given name in scope at the given pseudo-element. It is formatted in the specified style (decimal by default).

The counters() function also has two forms: 'counters(name, string)' or 'counters(name, string, style)'. The generated text is the value of all counters with the given name in scope at the given pseudo-element, from outermost to innermost, separated by the specified string. The counters are rendered in the indicated style (decimal by default).

Basic example

This example adds "Section [the value of the counter]:" to the beginning of each heading.

CSS

body {
  counter-reset: section;                     /* Set a counter named 'section', and it`s initial value is 0. */
}

h3::before {
  counter-increment: section;                 /* Increment the value of section counter by 1 */
  content: counter(section);                  /* Display the value of section counter */
}

HTML

<h3>Introduction</h3>
<h3>Body</h3>
<h3>Conclusion</h3>

Result

Nesting counters

A CSS counter can be especially useful for making outlined lists, because a new instance of the counter is automatically created in child elements. Using the counters() function, separating text can be inserted between different levels of nested counters.

Example of a nested counter

CSS

ol {
  counter-reset: section;                /* Creates a new instance of the
                                            section counter with each ol
                                            element */
  list-style-type: none;
}

li::before {
  counter-increment: section;            /* Increments only this instance
                                            of the section counter */
  content: counters(section, ".") " ";   /* Combines the values of all instances
                                            of the section counter, separated
                                            by a period */
}

HTML

<ol>
  <li>item</li>          <!-- 1     -->
  <li>item               <!-- 2     -->
    <ol>
      <li>item</li>      <!-- 2.1   -->
      <li>item</li>      <!-- 2.2   -->
      <li>item           <!-- 2.3   -->
        <ol>
          <li>item</li>  <!-- 2.3.1 -->
          <li>item</li>  <!-- 2.3.2 -->
        </ol>
        <ol>
          <li>item</li>  <!-- 2.3.1 -->
          <li>item</li>  <!-- 2.3.2 -->
          <li>item</li>  <!-- 2.3.3 -->
        </ol>
      </li>
      <li>item</li>      <!-- 2.4   -->
    </ol>
  </li>
  <li>item</li>          <!-- 3     -->
  <li>item</li>          <!-- 4     -->
</ol>
<ol>
  <li>item</li>          <!-- 1     -->
  <li>item</li>          <!-- 2     -->
</ol>

Result

Specifications

Specification Status Comment
CSS Lists Module Level 3
The definition of 'CSS Counters' in that specification.
Working Draft No change
CSS Level 2 (Revision 1)
The definition of 'CSS Counters' in that specification.
Recommendation Initial definition

See also