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Angular vs React: Feature Comparison of JS Tools

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Modern web applications developers are armed with a variety of app development tools and frameworks to accelerate their work. More experienced programmers develop the pure JavaScript. That certainly is logical, because JS applications are more efficient. Though may lack in support. As they say, everything has its pros and cons. We’ve tried to comprehend it all and compare culprits of Angular vs React.

To be honest, it is not entirely a fair comparison, because we do not compare equivalent products. If you look on the internet – you’ll find lots of hot debates around these two popular frameworks. From our standpoint, and after some analysis, we can argue that currently AngularJS development is more popular. While ReactJS makes a developer more skilled in JavaScript, as it requires more knowledge of it.

Angular vs React: highlights

Actually, ReactJS is an open-source, isomorphic JavaScript library but not a framework. It provides the possibility to create apps that are updated from time to time without the need to reload the page. The main purpose is high performance. This is very convenient to create single page apps. React uses one-way data binding and gives us both server-side and client-side rendering. As a result, an edge over competing technologies.

The highlight of the ReactJS is working with a virtual DOM instead of a regular one. DOM stands for the document object model, a programming interface. It should not be confused with web components like a Shadow DOM. Virtual DOM is completely is different, it helps achieve quicker rendering. Since ReactJS is working with the virtual DOM, it updates a regular interface only when the data has actually been changed. AngularJS uses a real DOM.

Angular js and React js comparison

Reviewing the Angular vs React topic we should say we have more experience with Angular (1.x) compared to React. Yet, we know that React is preferable for projects with big amounts of data. To be reasonable, we’ll conduct a comparative analysis and present detailed results. Buckle up 🙂

Video with JS tools basics

So far, the top version that is Angular JS2 has been left without attention. But let’s leave it for another time, and focus on Angular vs React issue. Before turning to specific numbers, consider what constitutes the AngularJS. Check a small overview of Angular technology in video here:

what is Angular JS

Now, let’s make ourselves familiar with basics of React JS:

what is React JS

 

Regarding AngularJS, it is a very popular and robust framework. It’s open source code suits for web applications that consist of HTML and CSS JavaScript. In fact, AngularJS is a monolithic framework that includes 3 core paradigms:

  1. Models
  2. Views
  3. Controllers

Those elements constitute the MVC design pattern. But Angular and some ReactJS developers say it is actually more of MVVM in nature. Although Views in AngularJS are very compact (in terms of data), in our view, it loses to ReactJS in Angular vs React fight.

Read more on MVC & MVVM patterns compared.

HTML samples

Creating applications with AngularJS, develop your own or use the existing structural elements. Called directives, they consist of HTML, JavaScript and CSS. Unlike those, in ReactJS you can easily create similar elements (components) using only JavaScript. Well, not really a pure JavaScript but a syntactic tool combining  HTML and JavaScript, it is called JSX.

As we know, learning any programming language starts from “Hello world” lines. In regard to our Angular vs React topic here, let us do it as well. First, ReactJS:

HTML:

Angular vs React - angular vs react, html sample

JS:

Angular vs React - javascript sample

And now, AngularJS:

Angular vs React - AngularJS sample

Let’s also write this in our libraries to demonstrate more sides to Angular vs React issue. We have mentioned the possibility of developing individual components for subsequent reuse in our code. Let’s consider the following example, which displays the list of products in the page. For example, we have 10 products initially.

First, HTML in React JS:

Angular vs React - html sample for React

JS:

Angular vs React - JS sample for React

And same with Angular JS. Here is HTML:

Angular vs React - html sample for Angular

JS:

Angular vs React - angular-js

And in this chart, the vertical axis shows time in mile-seconds and horizontal axis shows the number of rendered elements (in our case it was HTML list).

Angular vs React - Angular VS React table

Let’s talk about some attributes of each libraries to get more insights of Angular vs React.

Churn reduction

In 2016, although it started much earlier in the end of 2014, this aspect had been fatigued by various JavaScript libraries and frameworks. Thus, a new developer who wanted to start learning JavaScript was confused. Before recommending a framework, be it Angular vs React, we should ensure it will stand the test of time. Why? Because most frameworks are made to save time for product creation.

This issue, though, fades in comparison with the cost of further support and maintenance. As for ReactJS, it is now more stable in this regard. Reacts JS developers know that this ecosystem has reduced the churn, especially around the huge list of Redux/Flux flavors and routing. So anything you build with React could be out of date or require serious amendments.

In contrast to ReactJS, Angular is a comprehensive, methodical and mature framework. It is less likely to churn in painful ways after release. With AngularJS as framework, you can make proper decisions for future. With ReactJS you are free to choose any libraries. Often you have to see whether they work properly with each other first. And frankly, all of them are somewhat an unfinished job.

Learning curve

Since AngularJS contains numerous concepts inside, the learning curve is quite high. Meaning, that training could be long and tough. Many will disagree, but this comes purely from our personal experiences. At first, everything seems straightforward, but later you face directives, services, etc.

With ReactJS, it is possible to study it for 1 week and then just enhance the skill using a particular design pattern (Redux, Flux). Although as mentioned earlier, you’d have to monitor different kinds of libraries. Yet, the learning curve for React is less steep compared to Angular. So, in the Angular vs React challenge in relation to learning curve React holds a higher ground.

Packaging

By packaging we mean managing your application: downloading and concentrating the code in one file. To improve the response system, it is advisable to download just the minimum required to run your app at first. Download the other stuff when necessary – we know it as a “lazy load”.

This approach allows to add new functionality in the future with less pain. Unfortunately, in our Angular vs React comparison AngularJS loses here. It does not  provide such possibility for a wide range of features and algorithms. Since ReactJS is plain JavaScript, we can achieve the aforementioned objectives using RequireJS, pack and use Browserify or Webpack for module design.

Abstraction

By ‘abstraction’ we mean the ability to organize blocks of code in separate units, and use it for another tasks later on. A good abstraction is extremely important. If we take into account our Angular vs React, we can say that:

  • AngularJS has leaky abstraction. To use AngularJS in a nontrivial project, you have to get deep into. You have to understand models, scopes and how they work within the framework of the prototype inheritance. We talk about digest loop; $watch, $watchCollection, and $apply; and lots of other pieces. And directives, of course!
  • The surprise in your application may come from a virtual DOM. This is a key piece in ReactJS, but it can come with leaky abstraction too. As soon as you see a new or advanced feature in DOM, you risk to run into trouble with ReactJS. For example, CSS animation has been problematic, and focus control is still hard. Though, it seems that ReactJS team is fixing all issues well.

Debugging

Each of us in the development faces a situation when something doesn’t work. And we begin a long and sometimes bumpy ride of debugging and fixing.  The issue may be in the main logic or HTML code. As AngularJS belongs to the event driven frameworks, it is easier to develop but harder to monitor errors. However, AngularJS perfectly organizes multiple structures (services, controllers) and if used properly, it is easy to test individual modules in it.

But if the problem lies in the directive, it can be better to rewrite it. With AngularJS, what is happening in directives is sometimes hard to explain. Another option is to debug a code. When you make mistakes in JSX, it will not compile – which is great. In fact, JSX compiler will indicate the line number where a mistake is. This clearly increases the speed of AngularJS software development.

When we talk about HTML generated by ReactJS, and debugging in it, it’s the opposite story. It is quite tough to compare a code with the resulting HTML. Even using JSX. Sorry, React 🙁

Binding

The aim of AngularJS is to reinforce the HTML. Therefore, you have to use a special syntax for AngularJS tasks, like loops or conditionals. For example, AngularJS offers different syntaxes for one-way and two-way data binding. In Angular, you can only bind to scope and you’ll have to deal with AngularJS $digest.

Unlike AngularJS, ReactJS has a syntactic sugar syntax, called ValueLink. It is a single attribute for both “value” and “onChange” properties. In the React, binding does not change the syntax. The syntax is processed in a different place, purposefully.

Templating

As we mentioned earlier, AngularJS conducts data binding using HTML elements. This makes the process fairly short and not overloaded with code templates. AngularJS uses all DOM capabilities, allowing to create  well-structured templates, and reducing the code required to build the final page.

So, what are AngularJs templates? This is HTML complete with variables, expressions and directives. ReactJS template, on the other hand, is a native JavaScript. A HTML-like syntax is converted to native calls in the first call. In production, the conversion should be done on the server.

Lets look at the simple ReactJS component written with JSX.

Angular vs React - ReactJS template
Whereas in Angular it would look like:

Angular vs React - Angular template

We have tried to analyze some of the attributes of our frameworks. Though it is not the whole list. Below you can find the table of consolidated attributes.

Pros Cons
AngularJS  Perfect documentation;
Big community;
2-Way data binding, which simplify some processes;
Good HTML debugging;
Quick scaffold and develop small and middle projects
 2-Way data binding may reduce application productivity (performance);
Difficulty in learning and code debugging (JavaScript);
ReactJS  Comfortable support isolated components;
Easy to develop;
Handy architecture (Redux, Flux)
Light-weighted
 Having trouble manipulating DOM using third-party libraries;
Large data set and frequent re-render should slow down the application as a whole

Let’s get into more specific details:

Title Angular React
 Version (latest stable)  1.5.9  15.4.1
 Author  Google  Facebook
 Language  JavaScript/HTML  JSX or JavaScript/HTML
 Size  163k  21k(React)/124k (ReactDom)
 Github Stars  53.8k  55.6k
 Github Contributors  1,549  878
 Churn  Reduced  High
 Tooling  Low  High
 Code Design  JS into HTML  JavaScript centric
 JavaScript “Fatigue”  Less (Declarative Programming)  More
 DOM  Regular DOM  Virtual DOM
 Learning Curve  High  Low
 Packaging  Weak  Strong
 Abstraction  Weak  Strong
Debugging  Good HTML / Bad JS  Good JS / Bad HTML
 Fails When?  Run time  Compile-Time
 Binding  2 Way  1 Way
 Templating  In HTML  In JSX Files
 Design Pattern  MV*  V (View Only)
 Rendering  Client-side  Isomorphic

Summary

First point, although Angular vs React differences, with both you can build a client interface. For web development geeks what is most interesting is AngularJS approach to HTML. With large community and Google behind it, it works well for prototyping and middle production.

Second point, Angular JS is really a framework, while ReactJS is a library. Though React JS offers better performance due to the virtual DOM. In our opinion, you should use Angular when:

  • you plan to carry out lots unit tests during development
  • you want a comprehensive solution for your application

Thirdly, 2-way data binding is mostly seen as the higher hand of AngularJS. Adding too much complexity for certain functions may lead to deterioration in performance of your applications. Thus, ReactJS is good for applications with high traffic, that are long-term projects.

And finally, the more complex an application is, the more third-party plugins you’d have to use. In this regard, applications written in a ReactJS are more scalable. This, of course, can be achieved using both frameworks. Though with Angular JS just it takes more effort. Each approach to building the application architecture has its own pros and cons. The choice is yours.

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3 comments

Avatar
Jessica Barnes
07:14
13.09.2017

How many times can the same comparisons get repeated, thanks for your effort.

Avatar
Jukka-Pekka Keisala
14:57
01.06.2017

Please notice that the name “Angular” is commonly referred as new Angular platform version 2.x/4.x and beyond where as AngularJS is classic version 1.x JavaScript library. Therefore I think it would be less confusing to call this comparison React vs. AngularJS.

    Avatar
    Yana Gusti
    14:39
    04.06.2017

    Agree 100%. What wkse would you improve?