React and Angular are on everyone’s lips when it comes to the hottest front-end development trends of 2018. In the recent years, the two technologies have been dueling in popularity, not just among developers, but also among business project owners that are looking to build their software product by running away from the obsolete technologies by choosing the most modern and reliable ones as possible. Why and when choose one technology over another while each of them has their own advantages and drawbacks? And why even compare apples and oranges, while Angular is a framework and React is a library? In order to answer these questions, in this article, we are looking to deep dive a little into the issue by doing an in-depth analysis of each one’s features and functionalities. So let’s the React vs. Angular battle get started!
Disclaimer about comparing apples and oranges
In order to clear things first, let’s start with a disclaimer: we are not comparing a framework with a library. React is a library that deals with views, angular is a full-fledged framework. In practice, most React developers will add a few libraries to turn React into a complete framework.
When you’re using a library, it’s just one part of your application. In this case, as a developer, the learning curve is small as well, and you can blend in some other libraries they might wanna use.
A Framework, on the other hand, it’s a big thing to learn to deals with. Developers are constrained to do everything their way.
Most important things about React
- The library is strongly supported by Facebook;
- Solutions based on React are SEO-friendly and perform well;
- React is a flexible library;
And also some of its main features and dependencies with other technologies that function as enhancements:
- React is a library for building user interfaces;
- Uses a JSX syntax to compile into JS, which resembles HTML but is more flexible in use;
- Redux is a library that helps manage state changes in a clear manner;
- Virtual DOM is one of the key features associated with the library;
- Reusable code components – all components are isolated and any change in one does not cause a chain reaction;
- It provides a short learning curve for the developers.
Most important things about Angular
AngularJS was created for enterprise-scale applications and it is one of the most popular front-end software development frameworks used today. AngularJS 1.x was introduced by Google in 2009 and was enthusiastically embraced by the development community. In 2016 and 2017 respectively, Google released Angular 2, Angular 4 and Angular 5 versions, matching the growing requirements of the modern web.
According to the 2017 StackOverflow survey, 44.3 percent of software engineers now apply AngularJS and the new versions Angular 2 and 4 to create dynamic user interfaces. Google announced Long-Term Support (LTS) for the technology.
In the context of our analysis, we will be referring to Angular 2 version to find out why use React over Angular or vice versa.
Angular enjoys huge popularity not only among software engineers but also among famous companies like Upwork, Freelancer, Udemy, YouTube, Paypal, Nike, Google, Telegram, Weather, iStockphoto, AWS, Crunchbase.
Among the reasons for Angular popularity are:
- It’s Google’s product, this is associated with trustworthiness
- Developers can easily learn it;
- The code looks clean;
- Apps developed with Angular are highly customizable and interactive;
- Angular ensures advanced testing features and Model-View-Controller balance.
AS for its main features, we can list:
- The framework uses a single code for both web and mobile apps.
- Improved two-way binding structure.
- Dependency injection.
- Built-in routing support.
- Steep learning curve.
- Component CSS encapsulation
Evolution trend in popularity
The graphics below from Google Trends depicts the technologies dynamics in popularity over the last 5 years in the US. We can witness an ascending trend for React, which outpaced Angular at the end of 2017.
Worldwide, we can observe the same rising trend for React, which it seems to have caught up Angular. Nevertheless, at the moment, they seem equally popular.
Actual comparison between React and Angular
In the actual comparison, we will refer to the latest versions of React and to Angular 2 and beyond.
Angular has more features out of the box than React. This can be both a good and a bad thing, depending on how you look at it. Some developers prefer a minimalistic approach, which is inherent to React. On the contrary, Angular can boast multiple features that are necessary for building an out-of-the-box web app. Both frameworks share some key features in common: component-based approach, cross-site scripting protection, data binding, utilities for unit-testing components, and platform-independent rendering.
For Angular, some of the standard features are:
- Dependency injection
- Templates, based on an extended version of HTML
- Routing, provided by @angular/router
- Ajax requests by @angular/http
- @angular/forms for building forms
- Component CSS encapsulation
- XSS protection
- Utilities for unit-testing components.
With React we’ve got less:
- No dependency injection
- XSS protection
- Utilities for unit-testing components.
But the good thing is that you can choose your own libraries. This gives us the developers the ability to tailor the stack to particular requirements of each project, while the cost of learning new libraries isn’t that high.
Angular and React are build around the concept of components, where each component is a UI building unit. However, components in React are just JS functions, while the Angular’s component hierarchy is sophisticated, i.e. functionality and structure act as an integral whole.
Data binding is used to sync data between the model and view. React is based on unidirectional option involves an automatic view update through any app state modification, while AngularJS functions on a bidirectional option, which implies the modification of both the view and model due to the integration of properties and events. This means that Angular can boast a more advanced approach to data binding since it supports both unidirectional and bidirectional binding, as well as property and event binding. Nevertheless, this approach affects performance since a watcher is created for each binding to track all the changes in DOM. React’s data binding approach makes it much easier to debug the project when it comes to large apps.
There can be two ways of rendering: client-side and server-side rendering. Client-side rendering negatively affects pages loading and the first version of Angular had such a problem. However, it was fixed and now both Angular and React have server-side rendering possibilities.
Languages, Paradigms, and Patterns
On the side, Angular has a few interesting things up its sleeve as well, namely TypeScript and RxJS. TypeScript features an extremely powerful typing system that can statically analyze your code by using a combination of annotations and type inference. TypeScript has been heavily influenced by Java and .NET, so it helps developers with this background. Nonetheless, although Angular has been the first major framework to actively adopt TypeScript, it’s also possible to use it together with React.
Flow is often compared with TypeScript, although as we’ve seen, both tools serve the same purpose but work differently. Flow is “closer” to JS as it’s based on comparing a subset of object properties, while TypeScript is more strict and requires not only shape but exact type.
Ecosystem and tooling
React and Angular and all the other technologies mentioned above, cannot exist on their own. Each solution’s ecosystem is enhanced by multiple libraries, frameworks, and miscellaneous tools, that sometimes are excelling the functionality of the actual technology.
Angular has Angular CLI, a tool that helps developers to bootstrap the project without having to configure the build their self. It allows developers to generate and run a project with just a couple of commands and generate new code during development. With this tool, you can start a development server, create a bundle, run test, etc. The same options are available for React users with Create React App. Create React App is a CLI utility for React to quickly set up new projects. Similar to Angular CLI it allows you to generate a new project, start a development server and create a bundle.
For React we have React-Redux and MobX. Redux is a library that helps manage state changes in a clear manner. The key idea of Redux is that the whole state of the application is represented by a single object, which is mutated by functions called reducers. If you’re working on a simple project, then introducing Redux might be an over complication, but for medium- and large-scale projects, it’s a solid choice. By the way, some Angular-based projects opt for Redux as well. MobX is an alternative to Redux does not encourage keeping the state permanent but storing the minimal required state.
On the red corner, for Angular we’ve got RxJS and @ngrx/store. RxJS is a reactive programming library that allows for more flexible handling of asynchronous operations and events. It allows developers to treat anything as a continuous stream of values and perform various operations on it such as mapping, filtering, splitting or merging. Although this library is extremely powerful, it’s also quite complex. RxJS is useful in cases when you work a lot with continuous data streams such as web sockets, however, it seems overly complex for anything else. @ngrx/store is a state management library for Angular inspired by Redux, being based on state mutated by pure reducers. Its integration with RxJS allows developers to utilize the push change detection strategy for better performance.
With Ionic 2 open-source framework, it is possible to build cross-platform mobile apps with Angular. If you prefer a hybrid app over a native one, this is a good choice. Otherwise, go to the blue corner! React Native is a platform developed by Facebook for creating native mobile applications using React. Unlike Ionic, which produces a hybrid application, React Native produces a truly native UI.
Comparison table React vs Angular
|Release date||2013 (1 version)||3 versions: 2010 (Angular 1.x), 2016 (Angular 2), 2017 (Angular 4), 2018 (Angular 5)|
|Rendering||Client/Server side||Client/Server side|
|MVC||View Layer Only||Yes|
Pros and Cons of React and Angular
To sum up all the features and all the aspects we described in detail above, we created an infographic which depicts on short the pros and cons of each technology. Give it a look to keep in mind the big picture.
Wile we have reached the bottom line of our improper comparison, we can state (all over again) that one cannot compare a mature feature-rich framework and a dynamic JS library. Nevertheless, both technologies are key players on the battlefield of front-end development, while both are robust technologies widely used in the web app development industry. You might have already noticed that each technology has its own set of capabilities, both with their good and bad sides. According to your project needs, you can browse through the features, libraries, and frameworks around each one’s environment in order to opt-in for the tools that are the most appropriate ones for your project. For example, if you wanna accelerate your product’s time to market, AmgularJS might be the best optionm, while it provides out-of-the-box features. If your goal is a strong, rich user interface you’d better use React, instead.
To get started, try answering these questions about your project and when you do, confront your the answers against what you’ve noted about the two technologies.
- How big is the project?
- How long are you going to support it?
- Do you have all your functionalities clearly defined in advance or do you expect them to change over time?
- If you have all the features defines, have you thought about what capabilities your project will require, based on these features?
- Are your business logic and domain complex in logic and architecture?
- What platforms are you targeting? Web, mobile, desktop?
- Do you need server-side rendering? Is SEO an issue for you?
- Will you be handling a lot of real-time event streams?
- Do you already have a team? If yes, how big is your team?
- How experienced are your developers and what technologies do they handle?
- Would you particularly like to use any ready-made component libraries?
At Clarisoft Technologies, we have experience of working with both technologies, while serving different client needs and request. For more details visit our Angular Development Page and React Page. If you wanna work with us or are still confused about these issues, don’t hesitate to CONTACT US.