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React vs Angular: The Simplest Guide [2020]

Designing a great front-end is a challenge.

It is especially challenging given the fact that today’s modern web applications are quite complex due to high interactivity. Front-end frameworks and libraries have pushed things along a bit by simplifying development.

Two of the most widely used front-end frameworks today and the choice you need to make is: React vs Angular.

While React was developed by Facebook, Angular was developed by Google – two of the largest technology giants across the globe.

In this blog post, we will analyze both these tools in-depth and finally put an end to the React vs Angular debate by summarizing the key differences. That way you can feel confident in making an informed decision when deciding between the two for your next web application.

React vs Angular comparison

Development history

The Github repository of React has about 13,000 commits with more than 140,000 stars. Angular’s Github repository, on the other hand, has close to 17,000 commits but just 57,000 stars. While the number of commits is almost the same, the stars differ by an order of magnitude. This suggests that the community prefers React over Angular.

Certainly there are reasons for that. Angular is older and has been on the market for a while. Its first version was released in 2010. Today it’s called just Angular, but before 2016 there was a suffix ‘JS’ to its name (AngularJS), which eventually was dropped after the release of the new version of Angular in 2016.

On the other hand, React is relatively new but got quickly picked up by the market. Nowadays, more developers are inclined towards React in the juxtaposition of React vs Angular.

 

React vs Angular – the learning curve

An important parameter in the comparison of React vs Angular is the Learning curve. Angular is known to be slightly difficult to learn compared to React despite having a detailed documentation available. However, it is a well-known fact that learning Angular isn’t straightforward and it takes a lot of time to pick up.

Learning curve should be an important factor to consider while choosing the frontend framework for your web app. If you have a tight deadline, your development team might not want to spend too much time learning the ins and outs of Angular.

The primary reason that Angular is difficult to learn is due to its dependency on TypeScript (an open source programming language). The result is that the developers have to additionally learn that language before they’re able to use it. Although the usage of TypeScript brings some value, it can be an additional burden and complicate the learning process.

React vs Angular – mode of operation

React vs Angular qualities.

React and Angular are fundamentally different in their modes of operation. While React provides HTML functionality inside of JavaScript, Angular does the exact opposite – it provides JavaScript functionality inside of HTML.

Moreover, Angular is a framework while React is a library. Angular as a framework is more structured compared to React. While React leaves the developers with plenty of choices, Angular as a framework is more constrained.

Using a framework vs using a library has its pros and cons. Experienced developers may prefer a library since it gives them more flexibility. Moreover, integrating libraries with an existing code-base is far easier when compared to integrating an entire framework.

On the other hand, for new programmers, frameworks are quite helpful as they provide a pre-structured application and so, the programmers don’t have to get overwhelmed with creating a large number of files on their own – the framework does a lot of that by itself.

React vs Angular – size of the package files

The Angular framework is quite heavy in size compared to React. To put some numbers to it, the file size is approximately 349 kB (gzip) for Angular, which is more than eight times the size of React – 42 kB (gzip). It is worth noting though that Angular includes not only the source code, but also tools, for example, to compile code from TypeScript to browser-friendly JavaScript. And that might be heavy.

Integration with your application

React is a JavaScript library. So, importing it into your existing project is a piece of cake – you just have to plugin the library. Angular, however, uses TypeScript. For that reason, you can’t just “plugin” Angular into your project. Integrating Angular in your existing web application requires some effort.

React vs Angular – Rendering

Both Angular and React render content in the browser. Although modern search engines (like Google and Yahoo) are ready to crawl and index pages rendered using JavaScript, some exotic ones (e.g. Baidu which is not so exotic in China) may pose SEO issues.

That’s why you may consider adding SSR (server-side rendering) to your project to enable those search engines to index your page. It also shortens the time needed for the user to see the page content.

Both Angular and React allow you to render the page on the server end, although the process does vary a bit, in both cases the amount of time needed to make it work is similar, so no big differences there.

React vs Angular data binding

React provides uni-directional data binding. Angular, alternatively, provides both unidirectional and bi-directional data binding. Basically, in Angular, the data and the User Interface (UI) are coupled more tightly – changing one changes the other – that’s why it is bi-directional.

In React, the coupling isn’t that tight. Bi-directional data binding complicates the process of debugging the application. React’s one-way data flow, on the other hand, makes it easy to comprehend what the code actually does and to find and fix bugs.

One-way data binding and 2-way data binding have their own advantages and disadvantages. You should analyze your requirement carefully to see which one you need for your particular use-case.

Usage and debugging

Undoubtedly, Angular is quite difficult when it comes to writing code and debugging it. React is far easier in these aspects. You can easily reuse your React code and, also, since it is a standalone library, debugging is quite easy. This is not as straightforward in Angular, which unlike React, is a framework. It has its own data flow, which makes debugging a bit more challenging.

Type of DOM (Document Object Model)

Virtual DOM in React vs Angular.

It is a well-known fact that the DOM calls are expensive and time-consuming compared to other operations since they require going through the vast HTML document structure. React minimizes the number of DOM calls by using a concept called “Virtual DOM”. Virtual DOMs are faster and therefore, at times, the performance observed in the case of React is better.

React vs Angular – Quick summary

Here is a quick table that summarizes the key differences and presents a simplified comparison of React vs Angular. The purpose of this table is to establish some key differences between the 2 frameworks that you should certainly consider for your use-case.

React vs Angular – Conclusion

React and Angular are both excellent tools for developing a fantastic frontend. Of course, both have their advantages and disadvantages. The choice of the web framework depends entirely on your requirements, your team’s existing knowledge and the time available at your disposal.

The purpose of the above React vs Angular comparison was to give you a roadmap to help decide which one suits you best.

There isn’t really a rule of thumb here. Rather, the right way to choose would be to analyze each of these parameters and then carefully check which one best matches your requirements. An advantage for you might be a disadvantage for someone else since the requirements may greatly vary.

Resources:

  • https://www.rigelnetworks.com/using-virtual-dom-react-js-top-5-benefits (image)
  • http://xpgraph.com/react-is-the-new-black (image)

Marcin Dryka

Marcin Dryka is a CTO at Brainhub - a software house building awesome JavaScript web and mobile apps.

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