ReactJS or AngularJS for front-end development? That is the question. Both are extremely popular and widely used among developers worldwide - but what are the main differences between AngularJS and ReactJS?
The biggest difference between the two is that React.JS is a library and not a framework per se. Imagine it like an actual library: a huge place with wonderful books, aka “coding pieces” in software development, that you can use to add new functions to a website or app. If you want to know more, we have a whole article about the Pros and Cons of React.JS Development.
AngularJS is a framework: picture it as an actual frame. To fit a certain picture into that frame you have to cut it, meaning you can’t go back. In software development, a framework comes with a specific standard for an app or website. It is limited, setting an unchangeable project architecture. Once cut, you can’t uncut it.
ReactJS gives you more coding freedom because it enables you to use the library and add new functions to an existing website or app. With AngularJS, you must always abide by the rules of the initial framework.
Of course, that’s only a very top-level overview of the differences. Let’s take a look at the differences in more depth. Oh, and if you’re looking for support on your next project, we can pair you up with AngularJS and ReactJS development teams who perfectly match your project. Just tell us what you need. We can do the work for you and connect you with up to 5 companies within 72h that match your need- all for free.
Because it is based on three layers (Model-View-Controller), AngularJS comes with a fixed, complex structure. It provides numerous directives, standard services, controllers, and additional components that require time for a developer to master.
When coding in AngularJS, the application code is broken into files. When creating a reusable component, each piece of code must be described in a separate file. AngularJS directives are your application’s template logic written as attributes/tags.
There’s no right or wrong structure for apps developed using ReactJS. As a library and not a framework, the community has built many libraries on top of React to help with data flow such as Flux, Redux, Mobx, ReactN, React-hooks. This way, component trees are much easier to build given the functional programming style with declarative component definitions.
React-based code is more readable and more logically structured due to better component availability. The beauty of it is that it doesn’t have specific writing demands, allowing developers to make their applications adaptable. As opposed to AngularJS, coding in ReactJS feels easier - although, prior to getting started developers should dedicate some time to designing an initial application structure.
AngularJS uses two-way data binding, connecting DOM values to model data to enable perfect synchronisation between the view and the model. Whenever data in the model changes, it reflects on the view as well. The benefit is that it helps developers change between logic and UI automatically, saving them from manually managing complex rendering.
On the downside, the two-way data binding model has a negative effect on performance. For each binding, AngularJS creates an automatic watcher. In development, too many watchers in an app may pose challenges related to performance issues. Almost every HTML element has a watcher on it, and for every change, AngularJS checks all watchers to see what needs to be updated. The more watchers you have, the higher the risk for the app to freeze.
An additional shortcoming of AngularJS is connected to the way it handles the DOM. As opposed to ReactJS, AngularJS makes changes in the browser, in the real DOM directly. When this happens, numerous changes to internal values must be applied to the browser, thus impacting application performance.
On the other hand, we have React’s one-way data binding model that enables data flows in one direction only. The main benefit is that it helps developers know which specific parts of the data were modified. For this implementation to happen, Facebook crafted its very own architecture - Flux. Its aim is to control data flow to components via one control point, aka the dispatcher, to improve code base effectiveness.
“React’s one-way data flow eases code complexity. For us, it’s a lot simpler to debug components that are self-contained using React.JS rather than Angular.JS when managing large applications.”
- Paula Clapon, Marketing & Employer Branding Specialist at Thinslices
Angular.JS leverages TypeScript, an open-source programming language to handle larger development projects. It’s compact and enables developers to spot mistakes while typing.
From a visual perspective, JSX makes the code simpler, allowing developers to create independent components that manage both their own UI and logic in the same file, thus helping React give more useful error prompts.
But then again, it does take some time to get the feel of it given the absence of a predefined project structure. As for AngularJS, the library itself is massive. In simple terms, you’ll never stop learning because the framework constantly updates itself. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but you need to be prepared to accept the complexity and put in some extra learning effort.
Speaking of being prepared, remember we can make sure you are prepared to start your project if you need help selecting the right company, just tell us what you need. We can do the work for you and connect you with up to 5 companies within 72h that match your need- all for free. And be sure to check out our article on The Do's & Don'ts of Managing an Outsourced React.JS Development Team for more content in this vein!
Some software engineers fancy the Material Design Language with pre-built design components. If that’s you, then Angular.JS might be your cup of tea. Angular Material comes with a range of interaction patterns like pop-ups, indicators and buttons, form controls, layout, data table, and more. The purpose of pre-built elements is to speed the whole UI process.
React.JS, on the other hand, features UI tools made by its community. Material UI, for example, pledges to be one of the world’s most popular UI libraries for React. Backed by over 1M developers in 180+ countries, Material UI’s mission is to make developing UIs efficient, fun, and accessible. The vision is to help developers build experiences that are easy to use on any type of device. Its biggest selling point is that it doesn’t offer tools to help you develop a website, but a list of themes for you to select from; this comes in handy when you feel challenged by the design part of front-end development.
When it comes to performance, Angular.JS can divide tasks into chunks due to its MVC structure which reduces webpage loading time. The MVC model of Angular enables concern separation due to the presence of the view part on the side of the client. It can instantly and intuitively replicate changes done to the model into the views.
However, because the framework is packed with numerous features, it is sometimes difficult to decide which ones suit your project best. A rockstar front-end developer at Thinslices gives some pointers on both Angular.ss and React.JS to help you decide:
“As a front-end developer with 5 years experience, I had the chance to work with both Angular.JS and React.JS. One particular project I’ve been working on for the past two years greeted me with a legacy web application written in Angular.JS. After some time, I and my team realised that things weren’t quite going in the right direction and we needed a way to catch up with the new tech stack available. Therefore, we started to make a progressive transition from Angular.JS to React.JS. What helped us make this decision?
The code became very rigid and the dependencies used weren’t as flexible as we hoped. The number of watchers slowed our app, the compatibility between third-party packages became a big issue, and the solutions to our problems were pretty limited by the existing implementation.
React.JS brought us to speed in rendering complex UI, easiness in managing data fetched from the API, minimum to none of the boilerplate and third party dependencies, flexibility, and more stable architecture. Also, the support of the React.JS community is way more generous than that of Angular.JS, so you can hardly get the feeling that you’re alone in a pool of development issues.”
- Malina, front-end developer at Thinslices
The mission of React.JS is to be fast, user-friendly, and scalable. Additional performance benefits are linked to the virtual DOM creating a technology that can attain maximum efficiency via node re-rendering when needed.
Using the virtual DOM also helps with app workload optimisation. The one-way data binding provides better project control because the data only flows in one direction when coding in React.JS.
Last but not least, monitoring action output and testing components make the whole development process a lot easier.
Both React.JS and Angular.JS are excellent at coding single-page applications. However, they are different instruments. We at Thinslices believe it’s a matter of personal preference. At the end of the day, it should be about which of the two suits best a given project.
As for Angular.JS, the approach is different in solutions and syntax At first sight, expect to feel a little confused. Regardless, the vast library of tools will come in handy as you understand the feel of the framework.
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