React vs. Angular Compared: Which One Suits Your Project Better?
Angular and ReactJS: a brief description
Watch our video explaining main Angular concepts
The Angular framework allows developers to create dynamic, single-page web applications (SPAs). When Angular was first released, its main benefit was its ability to turn HTML-based documents into dynamic content. The most recent version of Angular is Angular 7, but Google still supports the first version Angular 1x, now known as AngularJS. In this article we focus on the newer versions of Angular, commonly referred to as Angular 2+ to address its distinction from AngularJS. Angular is used by Forbes, WhatsApp, Instagram, healthcare.gov, HBO, Nike.
Toolset – framework vs library
The framework ecosystem defines how seamless the engineering experience will be. Here, we’ll look at the main tools commonly used with Angular and ReactJS. First of all, React is not really a framework; it’s a library: It requires multiple integrations with additional tools and libraries. With Angular you already have everything to start building an app.
ReactJS and Angular in a nutshell
Angular comes with many features out of the box:
RxJS is a library for asynchronous programming that decreases resource consumption by setting multiple channels of data exchange. The main advantage of RxJS is that it allows for simultaneous handling of events independently. But the problem is that while RxJS can operate with many frameworks, you have to learn the library to fully utilize Angular.
Angular CLI is a powerful command-line interface that assists in creating apps, adding files, testing, debugging, and deployment.
Dependency injection. The framework decouples components from dependencies to run them in parallel and alter dependencies without reconfiguring components.
Ivy renderer. Ivy is the new generation of the Angular rendering engine that significantly increases performance.
Angular Universal is a technology for server-side rendering, which allows for rapid rendering of the first app page or displaying apps on devices that may lack resources for browser-side rendering, like mobile devices.
ReactJS requires multiple integrations and supporting tools to run.
Redux is a state container, which accelerates the work of React in large applications. It manages components in applications with many dynamic elements and is also used for rendering. Additionally, React works with a wider Redux toolset, which includes Reselect, a selector library for Redux, and Redux DevTools Profiler Monitor.
Webpack. As all components are written in different files, there’s a need to bundle them for better management. Webpack is considered a standard code bundler.
React Router. The Router is a standard URL routing library commonly used with ReactJS.
Code editors. Similar to Angular, you’re not limited in terms of code choice. The most common editors are Visual Studio Code, Atom, and Sublime Text.
Testing and debugging. Unlike in Angular, in React you can’t test the whole app with a single tool. You must use separate tools for different types of testing. React is compatible with the following tools:
- Enzyme and Unexpected-react – for component testing,
- react-testing-library – for React DOM testing,
- React-unit – for unit testing,
- Skin-deep – for Render testing utils.
This toolset is also supplied by Reselect DevTools for debugging and visualization and React Extension for Chrome React Developer Tools and React Developer Tools for Firefox, and React Sight that visualizes state and prop trees.
Generally, both tools come with robust ecosystems and the user gets to decide which is better. While React is generally easier to grasp, it will require multiple integrations like Redux to fully leverage its capacities.
Component-based architecture – reusable and maintainable components with both tools
Both frameworks have component-based architecture. That means that an app consists of modular, cohesive, and reusable components that are combined to build user interfaces. Component-based architecture is considered to be more maintainable than other architectures used in web development. It speeds up development by creating individual components that let developers adjust and scale applications with little time to market.
DOM – real vs virtual
Document Object Model (DOM) is a programming interface for HTML, XHTML, or XML documents, organized in the form of a tree that enables scripts to dynamically interact with the content and structure of a web document and update them.
There are two types of DOMs: virtual and real. Traditional or real DOM updates the whole tree structure even if the changes take place in one element, while virtual DOM is a representation mapped to a real DOM that tracks changes and updates only specific elements without affecting the other parts of the whole tree.
The HTML DOM tree of objects
ReactJS uses virtual DOM, while Angular operates on real DOM and uses change detection to find which component needs updates.
While Virtual DOM is considered to be faster than real DOM manipulations, the current implementations of change detection in Angular make both approaches comparable in terms of performance.
Data binding – two-way vs downward (one-way)
Data binding is the process of synchronizing data between the model (business logic) and the view (UI). There are two basic implementations of data binding: one-directional and two-directional. The difference between one- and two-way data binding lies in the process of model-view updates.
One- and two-way data binding
Two-way data binding in Angular is similar to the Model-View-Controller architecture, where the Model and the View are synchronized, so changing data impacts view and changing view triggers changes in data.
React uses one-way or downward data binding. One-way data flow doesn’t allow child elements to affect the parent elements when updated, ensuring that only approved components change. This type of data binding makes the code more stable but requires additional work to synchronize model and view. Also, it takes more time to configure updates in parent components triggered by changes in child components.
One-way data binding in ReactJS is generally more predictable, making code more stable and debugging easier. However, traditional two-way data binding in Angular is simpler to work with.
App size and performance – Angular has a slight advantage
AngularJS is famous for its low performance when you deal with complex and dynamic applications. Due to virtual DOM, ReactJS apps perform faster than AngularJS apps of the same size.
However, newer versions of Angular are slightly faster compared to React and Redux, according to Jacek Schae’s research at freeCodeCamp.org. Also, Angular has a smaller app size compared to React with Redux in the same research: Its transfer size is 129 KB, while React + Redux is 193 KB.
The recent updates to Angular made the competition between the two even more tense as Angular no longer falls short in terms of speed or app size.
Pre-built UI design elements – Angular material vs community-backed components
Angular. The Material Design Language is increasingly popular in web applications. So, some engineers may benefit from having the Material toolset out of the box. Angular has pre-built material design components. Angular Material has a range of them that implement common interaction patterns: form controls, navigation, layout, buttons and indicators, pop-ups and modules, and data table. The presence of pre-built elements makes configuring UIs much more pleasant fast.
React. On the other hand, most of the UI tools for ReactJS come from its community. Currently, the UI components section on the React portal provide a wide selection of free components and some paid ones. Using material design with React demands slightly more effort: You must install Material-UI Library & Dependencies to build it. Additionally, you can check Bootstrap components built with React and other packages with UI components and toolsets.
Mobile portability – NativeScript vs React Native
Both frameworks come with additional tools that allow engineers to port the existing web applications to mobile apps. We’ve provided a deep analysis and comparison of both NativeScript (Angular) and React Native. Let’s briefly recap the main points.
Generally, both frameworks are a great choice if you need to run both web and mobile apps with the same business logic. While NativeScript is more focused on code sharing and reducing time-to-market, the ideas behind React Native suggest longer development terms but are eventually closer to a native look and feel of apps.
Documentation and vendor support – insufficient documentation offset by large communities
Angular was created by Google and the company keeps developing the Angular ecosystem. Since January 2018, Google provides the framework with LTS (Long-Term Support) that focuses on bug fixing and active improvements. Due to fast development of the framework, the documentation updates aren’t so fast. To make the Angular developer’s life easier, there’s an interactive service that allows you to define the current version of the framework and the update target to get a checklist of update activities.
Unfortunately, the service doesn’t help with transitioning legacy AngularJS applications to Angular 2+ as there’s no simple way to do this
AngularJS documentation and tutorials are still praised by the developers as they provide a broader coverage than that of Angular 2+. Considering that AngularJS is outdated, this is hardly a benefit. Some developers also express concerns about the pace of SLI documentation updates.
The ReactJS community experiences a similar documentation problem. When working with ReactJS, you have to prepare yourself for changes and constant learning. The ReactJS environment and the ways of operating it update quite often. ReactJS has some documentation for the latest versions, but keeping up with all changes and integrations isn’t a simple task. However, this problem is somewhat neutralized by the community support. ReactJS has a large pool of developers ready to share their knowledge on thematic forums.
Learning curve – much steeper for Angular
The learning curve of Angular is considered to be much steeper than of React. Angular is a complex and verbose framework with many ways to solve a single problem. It has intricate component management that requires many repetitive actions.
Community and acceptance – both are widely used and accepted
React remains more popular than Angular on GitHub. It has 113,719 stars and 6,467 views, while Angular has only 41,978 and 3,267 stars and views. But according to the 2018 StackOverflow Developer Survey, the number of developers working with Angular is slightly larger: 37.6 percent of users compared to 28.3 percent of ReactJS users. It’s worth mentioning that the survey covers both AngularJS and Angular 2+ engineers.
The most popular frameworks
Angular is actively supported by Google. The company keeps developing the Angular ecosystem and since January 2018, it provides the framework with LTS (Long-Term Support).
However, Angular leads in a negative way: According to the same survey, 45.6 percent of developers consider it among the most dreaded frameworks. This negative feedback on Angular is probably impacted by the fact that many developers still use the AngularJS, which has more problems compared to Angular 2+. But still, Angular’s community is larger.
The numbers are more optimistic for React: Just 30.6 percent of professional developers don’t want to work with it.
Final word: Which framework should you choose?
The base idea behind Angular is to provide powerful support and a toolset for holistic front-end development experience. Continuous updates and active support from Google hint that the framework isn’t going anywhere and the engineers behind it will keep on fighting to preserve the existing community and make developers and companies switch from AngularJS to a newer Angular 2+ with high performance and smaller app sizes. TypeScript increases maintainability of code, which becomes increasingly important as you reach enterprise-scale applications. But this comes with the price of a steep learning curve and a pool of developers churning towards React.
React suggests a much more lightweight approach for developers to quickly hop on work without much learning. While the library doesn’t dictate the toolset and approaches, there are multiple instruments, like Redux, that you must learn in addition. Currently, React is comparable in terms of performance to Angular. These aspects make for broader developer appeal.