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Bootstrap 4 vs. Bootstrap 5: What is the Difference?

This article discusses the differences between Bootstrap 4 and Bootstrap 5 and helps you understand which version you should use for your projects.

Rutam Prita Mishra
Rutam Prita Mishra
October 21, 2021
8 min read

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Introduction

Bootstrap is an open-source tool collection for creating responsive web pages and web apps. It is the combination of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript framework that makes it easy to develop responsive, mobile-first websites. It mainly aims to resolve the cross-browser compatibility issue. Bootstrap is at the core of every website that is perfect for all screen sizes and looks perfect in every modern browser.

Getting Started with Bootstrap

In order to start using Bootstrap in your web pages, you need to add a few CSS and JS tags in your template file.

CSS Link tag

<link rel="stylesheet" href="https://maxcdn.bootstrapcdn.com/bootstrap/4.0.0/css/bootstrap.min.css" integrity="sha384-Gn5384xqQ1aoWXA+058RXPxPg6fy4IWvTNh0E263XmFcJlSAwiGgFAW/dAiS6JXm" crossorigin="anonymous">
JS Link tag

<script src="https://code.jquery.com/jquery-3.2.1.slim.min.js" integrity="sha384-KJ3o2DKtIkvYIK3UENzmM7KCkRr/rE9/Qpg6aAZGJwFDMVNA/GpGFF93hXpG5KkN" crossorigin="anonymous"></script>

<script src="https://cdnjs.cloudflare.com/ajax/libs/popper.js/1.12.9/umd/popper.min.js" integrity="sha384-ApNbgh9B+Y1QKtv3Rn7W3mgPxhU9K/ScQsAP7hUibX39j7fakFPskvXusvfa0b4Q" crossorigin="anonymous"></script>

<script src="https://maxcdn.bootstrapcdn.com/bootstrap/4.0.0/js/bootstrap.min.js" integrity="sha384-JZR6Spejh4U02d8jOt6vLEHfe/JQGiRRSQQxSfFWpi1MquVdAyjUar5+76PVCmYl" crossorigin="anonymous"></script>

NOTE: Always add the jquery script first, followed by the popper and bootstrap scripts. Then you can add any of your custom scripts below them.

Bootstrap Versions

The developers have been working continuously to enrich the developer experience of using Bootstrap for customizing the web pages quite easily. They've released many minor and major versions. But the major releases that are the most popular are the Bootstrap v4.x and Bootstrap v5.x. Let's look at what all v4.x offered and how those things evolved in the v5.x release with additional features.

Bootstrap v4.x

Bootstrap 4 was launched back in January 2018, and it was a great improvement over the existing previous versions. However, the most loved features included the following.

  • Flexbox Grid

    Flexbox grids gave the power to web developers to align the columns with ease. Now, you could position the columns at any part of the view simply by using classes like justify-content-center or align-items-end, and so on. You can also change the direction of rows which makes the vertical layouts much easier to implement and maintains responsiveness at the same time.

  • Grid Tiers

    Bootstrap 3 had only four tiers, but Bootstrap 4 has provided improvements by providing new device-width to enhance the support from phablets to smaller devices. The new grid tiers specified the following device widths.

    • sm: 576px and up
    • md: 768px and up
    • lg: 992px and up
    • xl: 1200px and up
  • Syntactically Awesome Style Sheets (Sass)

    Bootstrap 4 added the support for Sass, which is a widely-used and very popular CSS preprocessor. A Sass style sheet offers better control and customization and enables defining how you exactly want to use Bootstrap.

  • Cards

    You no longer need to design multiple elements and combine them to provide a card view to the users. With the introduction of Cards component, you can directly use this component and further customize it using newly available bootstrap classes to redefine the look and feel of card structures, like profile cards or information tiles. Card component also doesn't have a fixed width and dissolves into the container it is placed into.

  • Spacing Utilities

    Spacing utilities make your life easier by providing ready-made utility margin and padding classes that you can simply apply to each visual component. The margin classes are like mt-2 or mx-2, and the padding classes are like pt-2 or px-2, where m stands for margin, p stands for padding, the t for top or x for both left and right side, and the number says the amount you need.

Bootstrap v5.x

Bootstrap 5 came into play back in May 2021. This release was launched after several iterations of alpha and beta releases and hence had a stack of major additions and new features. Some of the most talked about features are listed below.

  • Enhanced Grid System

  • Enhanced Form elements

  • Utilities API

  • Support for IE

  • Extended Colors

  • Bootstrap Icons

Let's dive into its features by comparing how things changed in Bootstrap 5 and understanding what better design perspectives it offers for developers.

Bootstrap 5 vs. Bootstrap 4

The above section talked about the features of both Bootstrap 4 and Bootstrap 5. This section talks about the upgrades that Bootstrap 5 provides over Bootstrap 4.

Enhanced Grid System

The grid system is retained in Bootstrap 5. However, an extra grid tier xxl has been introduced to minimize the effort in making the pages responsive on higher resolution displays.

Columns don't have a default relative position in Bootstrap 5.

Classes have been added to address vertical spacing.

Enhanced Form Elements

The form elements in Bootstrap 4 have defaulted to the browser-provided view. However, in Bootstrap 5, the form elements have a custom design that enables them to have a consistent look and feel in all browsers.

The new form controls are based on completely semantic, standard form controls. This helps developers to avoid adding extra markups for form controls.

Utilities API

Unlike Bootstrap 4, Bootstrap 5 enables the developers to modify and create their own utilities.

You can simply use sass to create your own utilities.

You can use the state option to generate dummy class variations like hover and focus.

$utilities: (
  "opacity": (
    property: opacity,
    class: opacity,
    state: hover,
    values: (
      0: 0,
      25: .25,
      50: .5,
      75: .75,
      100: 1,
    )
  )
);

Support for IE

Bootstrap 5 no longer supports Internet Explorer 10 and 11 like its predecessor, Bootstrap 4.

Extended Colors

Bootstrap 4 had limited color options. But Bootstrap 5 has included many new color options to its color palette, enabling you to choose from the various shades available. You can find some of the color shades below.

Bootstrap 5 Color

Bootstrap Icons

Bootstrap 4 didn't have an SVG icon library. You had to use other third-Party libraries like Font Awesome to use icons in your applications. But Bootstrap 5 has taken care of this issue by introducing its own SVG library with 1000+ icons.

It also includes a web font version in the stable version release of the icon library.

Bootstrap 5 Icons

Site Generation Strategy

Bootstrap 5 has moved to Hugo for its static site generation over Jekyll. Hugo is a fast static site generator implemented in Go and is quite popular. You can learn more about Hugo here.

Popper.js Update

Bootstrap 5 update brings in an update for Popper.js as well, Popper.js v2. Popper.js generally helps to design the tooltips and popovers. With v2, the following changes come in:

  • fallbackPlacement option becomes fallbackPlacements
  • offset option is no longer available. However, you can use the popperConfig parameter to achieve this.

Placeholder Components

Bootstrap 5 allows loading placeholders in your pages. This means that you can utilize the space of the components by showing placeholders in their place while they're still loading the actual content.

Placeholder Components

Floating Labels

Bootstrap 5 adds support for floating labels in forms for the input fields. You can simply use the form-floating class to enable a floating label. When you enter some value into the input fields, they automatically adjust their position to their floated area.

Floating Labels

RTL Support

Bootstrap 5 has added support for RTL (Right-to-Left), which means you can develop content that needs writing from the right side of the page and continues to the left. As a result, websites in languages like Arabic, Sindhi, and Urdu can easily be developed.

RTL Dashboard Example

jQuery Deprecation

Bootstrap used jQuery from the very beginning as a dependency to offer dynamic features. With Bootstrap 5, jQuery is dropped, and Vanilla JS is introduced as its replacement.

NOTE: There are still JS dependencies that depend on Popper and Vanilla JS modules. However, jQuery is optional and can be added based on the requirement of the project.

Other Significant Changes

  • Bootstrap 5 introduces a new data attribute naming structure. data-* attribute has been renamed to data-bs-*.
  • Bootstrap 5 now provides easier customizations on the v4 theming pages and provides code snippets to build using Bootstrap's Sass files.
  • Bootstrap 5 has added a new accordion component that includes icons that have a state and can be clicked. The accordion-flush class can be used to remove the default background color, borders, or corners to possibly render accordions edge-to-edge with the parent element.
  • Bootstrap 5 documentation site is now enhanced to improve the user readability, and new examples have been added with code snippets.
  • The inline-block property is removed in Bootstrap 5, and the dropdown-menu-dark class now loads with a default black dropdown.
  • The support for jumbotron has been terminated in Bootstrap 5.
  • With vertical classes in Bootstrap 5, the columns can be positioned relative.
  • Gutters can now be applied using g* class instead of gutter. The font size is now set to rem instead of px.
  • Lastly, Bootstrap 5 also adds a new offcanvas component that enables you to create hidden view panes that would pop out when you interact with component tied to it -- e.g., side navigation bars, shopping carts, etc. Here is an example of the bottom offcanvas component.

Offcanvas Bottom Bar

Summary

Bootstrap 4 used to do a great job providing all the flexibility and responsiveness for designing the web pages. However, Bootstrap 5 adds several new aspects that help to reduce the effort to do the same. But still, you need to keep certain parameters in mind before choosing either of these two.

If you have an existing project that needs to support IE 10 and 11 or depends on jQuery, you should probably stick to Bootstrap 4. Bootstrap 5 can be overwhelming but might break your project structure if not migrated properly.

But if you're starting a new project and want to provide a more immersive UI for the users, definitely opt for Bootstrap 5 to use its modern components, which this article discussed above.

This is all for this blog post at the moment. I hope you had a great time reading this and learned something new. Do let me know in the comments if you liked the content.

NOTE: All the images used in this blog post are taken from the official Bootstrap website and are used here for reference purposes only.



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Rutam Prita Mishra

Rutam Prita Mishra

He is a full-stack Java developer and a passionate tech geek who is currently exploring the open source world. He loves writing technical documentation and articles in his free time. He is also an avid traveller and loves to explore different places and their cuisines.

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