You can do a lot with JS on its own. But today, we’ll be taking a look at two popular resources that can make JS programming easier and help us develop interactive web applications: Angular and React. We'll briefly introduce JS, then compare these two tools at a high level.
- Libraries vs frameworks
- What is Angular?
- What is React?
- Angular vs React: Which to choose for your app development?
- Wrapping up and next steps
In web applications, JS enables us to:
- Animate graphics on a web page
- Build interactive games
- Implement scrolling functionalities
- Input validation on the client side
- Control streaming of audio and video
- Insert dynamic text into HTML
- Create a variety of other complex features
JS libraries and frameworks both use reusable, prewritten code to make programmers’ jobs easier. Reusing code to perform common functions prevents potential errors, reduces program size, and saves time.
A JS framework provides more structure than a library. Rather than supplying you with blocks of prewritten functions, frameworks provide a structured template that you plug your code into. Due to the additional structure, frameworks provide stability but can lack flexibility.
To understand what Angular can do, let’s look at some well-known websites built with the framework:
Some popular websites built using React include:
Angular and React are both powerful JS resources with their own advantages and use cases. But which is better, and which should you use for your projects?
Angular and React can both be used for mobile app development with additional frameworks: NativeScript for Angular, and React Native and Cordova for React.
For structure, TypeScript helps to eliminate errors and provides other features such as auto-completion, giving Angular an edge. And the tool Angular CLI can help with setting up a project promptly. However, coding within a full-fledged framework like Angular sacrifices some of the flexibility that a library such as React offers.
Angular and React use different approaches for data flow, and each has its strong points. Angular supports two-way (bidirectional) data binding, which synchronizes changes between an application's data model and its view (the HTML container where the application is displayed, called the DOM). This means that the model automatically changes when any change is made to the view and vice versa. This bidirectional data binding may be initially easier to work with, but it can get harder to manage as applications scale up.
On the other hand, React supports one-way (unidirectional) data binding. After you change the model state, the change will be rendered in the view. But changing something in the view does not automatically alter the model. When you augment React with Redux, a library used for state management, you get a unidirectional data flow that is more scalable, which helps with debugging larger projects.
In terms of responsiveness, React has an edge because of its virtual DOM (Document Object Model).
What is the DOM? The DOM is an interface for web documents. It represents a web page in a tree-like data structure. Using the DOM, a program can easily change a document's structure, style, and content.
As noted, React uses a virtual DOM, whereas Angular uses a real DOM. A virtual DOM facilitates making minor data changes to one element of a web app without having to update an entire tree structure, which makes it more efficient. In contrast, in a real DOM, every change to an app’s backend requires refreshing the whole tree structure. This is considered slower and less effective. Thus, React is more responsive compared to Angular.
Angular is a larger framework, providing an entire ecosystem with more built-in functionality. You don’t need to add modules to an Angular app to handle things like data binding, routing, and API interactions, so developers often prefer it for larger corporate projects. React is a smaller library, making it optimal for smaller projects. A React app sometimes requires third-party modules or libraries for tasks not built into the library. These can include data binding, component-based routing, project generation, and dependency injection.
Let's briefly review and summarize the pros and cons of Angular and React.
- Provides structure
- Highly valued for corporate projects
- Best suited for larger projects
- Extensive built-in functionality
- Mostly open-source framework
- Supports mobile development, with NativeScript
- Supports two-way (bidirectional) data binding, which can be easier to work with
- More flexible structure than Angular
- Easier to learn than Angular
- Best suited for smaller projects without the addition of third-party modules
- Capability to access additional functionality from third-party modules
- Fully open-source library
- Supports mobile development, with React Native and Cordova
- Supports one-way (unidirectional) data binding for code stability and easier debugging
- Uses a virtual DOM, which provides advantages over a real DOM
- Less flexible structure than React
- Steeper learning curve than React
- Bidirectional data binding can make debugging harder as apps scale
- Uses a real DOM, which can be slower than a virtual DOM
- Lacks the structure of Angular
- Less built-in functionality
- Unidirectional data binding can be more complicated to work with
In summary, React might be better for you if you are working on a smaller project because it is more accessible and can still perform many tasks with built-in functions and third-party modules. If you are looking for a more structured framework with massive built-in functionality or are working on a larger corporate project, Angular might be the best option for you. The optimal tool for you depends on what you’re trying to build.
We introduced a lot today, but there’s much more to learn about JS, Angular, and React. If you want to get started with React, our Become a React Developer learning path is a great place to get hands-on with building interactive web applications. Alternatively, if you’re interested in learning Angular, our TypeScript for Front-End Developers and Become an Angular JS Developer learning paths are great places to start.
Whether you decide to learn React or Angular, either will ultimately prove to be a useful tool for your programming arsenal.
- Angular routing guide: How to optimize app navigation
- Five best practices for React developers
- Angular vs Vue vs React: Choose the best framework
Where do you see React and Angular in action? was this article helpful? Let us know in the comments below!