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React vs Angular – Which One Is Better For Your Front-end?

May 128 min read

Patrycja Mach

Marketing Automation Specialist at Ideamotive

React vs Angular: Which JavaScript Framework Is Better?

Like a number of other battles in the IT industry, the one we will talk about this time is also fuelled up by the industry’s giants. React, a JavaScript library created and maintained by Facebook is often compared to Angular, a Google-driven programming framework. Is there a clear winner in this fight? Which of these two solutions is better for your company? 

We prepared this short guide on React.JS vs Angular to help you find answers to those questions. As a group of experts who do both React web development as well as Angular on a daily basis, we know exactly the main pros and cons one might need to consider when choosing the perfect front-end solution.

The Basic Differences

(If you already have some knowledge about libraries and frameworks you can skip this section.)

Let us start with the basics. As previously mentioned, React.JS is a library, while Angular is a framework.

What is the difference?

A real-life library is a place where books are collected. What is a JavaScript library then? A collection of small pieces of code that allow you to quickly add some new functions to your app or website.

How about the framework? Think of the frame itself first. What is it in real life? It can be, for example, something of a case in which you can put your family photos or a nice painting to hang on a wall. If you have a specific frame and your photo is too big for it, the only thing you can really do quickly is cutting the image — making it small enough to fit the frame.

Framework in the software development world, then, is providing you with a specific standard for your website or application. In other words, it sets up the architecture of your project that you cannot simply change. Just like you cut the photo to fit the frame, you need to make sure you are coding in a way that your framework dictates.

So what does all of it mean to you? That React.JS gives you some more freedom. You can add a function from a React.JS library to your already existing app or website. If you want to use Angular, on the other hand, your product should basically be created with this framework in mind from the beginning.

Getting Deeper

Nevertheless, one of the most important things for both React.JS and Angular are the components. What are those? Sets of pre-written code that allow developers to add new functions to the project much faster than if they would try to write all the code by themselves.

What can a component do? For example, it can provide you with an ABC survey system for your blog or a buying system for your new shopping platform.

There are, however, some clear differences we should consider in the React.JS vs Angular battle. We divide these differences into a few different categories below. Before we proceed with this, though, let’s have a look at a table summarizing the basics of both React.JS and Angular.

 

React

Angular

First release

2013

2016

Introduced by

Facebook

Google

Type of solution

library

framework

Programming language used

JavaScript (+ TypeScript support)

TypeScript

DOM

virtual DOM

regular DOM

Architecture

component-based

component-based

1. Angular vs React performance

One of the key things to consider before starting web development is, of course, the performance of the technology we plan to use in our project. In regards to this, it’s important to note that React.JS - unlike Angular - uses virtual DOM, instead of the regular one. What is the DOM (Document Object Model) itself? An abstract API (application programming interface) presenting parts of the HTML document in the form of a tree. Each of these parts of a document (e.g. a website’s header) has its dedicated node and object. It’s incredibly important because it allows programs to quickly access all the information they need from a document in order to run the app. 

Virtual DOM makes the whole process even faster. Unlike the regular DOM, it only updates the parts of the document’s tree where the changes have happened recently. The regular DOM, on the other hand, updates the whole tree every time. This difference makes React.JS in some cases faster than Angular.

2. Speed of coding in Angular and React

JavaScript is these days known even by people who have never had any history with coding. Most of the basic courses on web development focus on the first three basic steps: learning HTML, learning CSS, and learning JavaScript. This popularity means that finding a JavaScript developer is relatively easy.

Unlike React, Angular is based on a superset of JavaScript, called TypeScript. It is a much newer technology, presented to the world for the first time in 2012 by Microsoft. Compared to this, JavaScript seems to be ancient technology, being launched all the way back in 1995.

TypeScript is less known than JavaScript and it is also commonly called out as a more difficult programming language to learn. This means it may be harder for you to find a TypeScript developer, but if you will find one, they will probably already have some important and useful experience in coding.

Moreover, TypeScript demands from the developer writing clearer code than JavaScript. This may help you when a transition happens and you need to pass a project to other programmers in the team.

For some time, TypeScript has also been praised for its real-life code check, helping to identify common mistakes while in the process of writing the code. However, in 2014, Facebook started to work on a similar solution for JavaScript and React, called Flow. Instead of being a separate programming language one would need to learn to make use of the real-life bug check, Flow is just a static type checker for JavaScript, as Facebook officials call it.

Moreover, it seems that Facebook is slowly abandoning the Flow project altogether. In 2019, they rewritten the testing library Jest to TypeScript. This move has been an answer to the fact that a lot of other popular React tools started to support TypeScript alongside JavaScript. While JS is still often used for creating React apps, the recent move towards TS provides additional flexibility and is gladly welcomed by experienced engineers.

3. Scalability of Angular and React

When it comes to scalability, both solutions have something that makes them stand out and be used by multiple rapidly growing companies. In the case of React, it’s once again a must to mention the virtual DOM. It makes updates to be incorporated faster which is especially crucial in projects that are expected to grow fast.

With Angular, thanks to the clear structure of TypeScript, it’s easier to have new developers join the team on a regular basis. However, you must remember that you need true experts that won’t get confused by the complexity of TypeScript during the development process.

4. Setting up a new project with Angular and React

Starting a new project with all the basics already set up is incredibly simple in both Angular and React. Both have their own Command Line Interface (CLI) — in Angular, the thing you will be looking for on GitHub is called simply Angular CLI, while its React alternative has been named Create React App.

 

Are there any significant differences between the two? As some developers claim, Angular CLI can usually set up a project with more basic functionalities already included than its the case of Create React App. At the same time, however, it’s worth mentioning that the documentation of CRA is much more insightful than the one of Angular CLI. CRA has also recently been hugely updated with new features, including support for templates, TypeScript, and Redux Toolkit.

5. Taking your project mobile with React Native and NativeScript

According to reports, over 50% of online traffic already comes from mobiles — and everything suggests that this number will only rise. Because of this, it’s crucial for your project’s success that the website or app you are building will look great not only on computers but also on phones and tablets of your customers.

Both React and Angular have solutions that allow building a mobile version of your product based on the code of the standard, desktop version of it. In the best possible case, your developers might be able to use up to 90% of the already existing code! 

React Native, a React cross-platform development solution is also developed by Facebook and is currently the most popular way of creating native-like mobile apps without actually using the native technology. In other words, it allows building, for example, an iOS app with JavaScript, instead of Apple’s Swift programming language. NativeScript, a similar solution for Angular, does the same thing with the use of TypeScript.

In this specific battle, React is the clear winner, partly because of the popularity of React Native and a huge community of developers favoring it over other, similar solutions. What’s more, NativeScript is not only less popular, but the builts created in it feel less mobile than when using React Native. This is mostly due to the fact that NativeScript doesn’t incorporate mobile-specific UI for apps and sites, instead of focusing on delivering an experience as similar as possible to the original, desktop version.

(Interestingly, NativeScript works great also with another React and Angular alternative, Vue. You can read our comparison between React and Vue here.)

6. The community behind React and Angular

No framework and no library will be successful without the support of a steadily growing community. At first glance, the battle of React vs Angular seems to be relatively close-fought in this case. But is it really?

Let’s look at some numbers.

Firstly, Google Trends data.

gvhsxCvy1tMZSPqSU18Kx0MT3s-1z_G7Kw4CbpJVBrcf2U9dYQQWlxJS03vwc2A9GJ32kpUi0eTs-rzUtW2v2j0LS12y8qxBR9CuYUL3RbfLBC-PpIXeoqopFmb-HWzmbjDG6RPEWgFGn-sbhg

The blue one is for React, the red is for Angular. As you can see, for some time the Google’s framework was doing better than Facebook’s library. However, in early 2018 this happened to change and now React is being searched more in Google.

Let’s also look at some even more important data - the list of the most popular repositories on GitHub. There, React ranks on the 4th place, overshadowing Angular. The latter has also fewer contributors. On the other hand, Angular has way more commits and releases. This may suggest, however, that the Angular releases are less stable than React ones.

For a broader and more insightful look at the situation on GitHub, have a look at our table below.

 

React

Angular

First release

2013

2016 (its predecessor, Angular.JS, has been released in 2009)

GitHub’s repository ranking

4th place

38th place

No. of stars

144,603

58,426

Contributors

1,364

1,094

Commits

12,885

17,157

Branches

49

86

Releases

125

398

(React vs Angular GitHub data as of 2nd of March 2020)

 

Finally, it may be also useful to have a look at the yearly Stack Overflow survey. According to its 2019 edition, React is currently more often used by developers than Angular (31.3% vs 30.7%). Additionally, React is more loved (74.5% vs 57.6%) as well as more wanted (21.5% vs 12.2%) technology among the developers. Finally, what may be interesting especially for Google, is the fact that Angular is one of the most dreaded technologies on the market (42.6% vs 25.5%). This can be an effect of a few things, including the fact that Angular is more complicated than React (especially for newcomers) due to its use of TypeScript.

It’s also worth noting that React ended up with better results in the 2019 survey than in the 2018 one. Back then, Angular was slightly more popular among developers (36,9% vs React’s 27,8%), and React became even more loved and wanted throughout these past 12 months.

7. Angular vs React market share

Obviously, Facebook and Google have not developed React and Angular only to kindly support the developers around the world. They have also done it to run their own apps and websites on those two systems. Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook itself are powered by React, while tons of Google services are handled using Angular.

But how about everything outside of the world of IT giants? What are some other companies that have signed themselves up for the React.JS vs Angular battle?

There are really tons of them. For example, among React.JS companies, one can find Netflix or the New York Times. Interestingly, codeacademy.com, a popular website dedicated to teaching others to code, is also using React to power their web app.

Angular, on the other hand, is used for example by Microsoft. That should not be that surprising as TypeScript itself has been developed by the creators of Windows. Microsoft uses Angular to power its Office’s and Xbox’s websites. Among other Angular companies, one can find Delta Airlines, Santander Bank, and Forbes.

Angular vs React pros and cons — final comparison

We have covered a lot of information on the React.JS vs Angular, but one question still happened not to be answered: which of these solutions better answers your needs? Which one is a better choice for your project and your company altogether? Should you join the React.JS companies or the Angular ones?

The answer may not be that easy, but we will try to put it as simply as possible. Check the table below that summarizes all the most important concepts we have reviewed in this piece.Zrzut ekranu 2020-05-12 o 11.51.19

Making the Choice

If you are still unsure about the React.JS vs Angular choice, feel free to get in touch with us and discuss your project. Our tech experts are able to help you make the best choice based on your requirements, as well as find the best people for your team. Whether you need web developers (including full-stack developers), project managers, product owners, or other types of IT experts, we can provide you a list of top professionals with experience in your industry and the solutions you have in mind.

Patrycja Mach

IT Marketing Specialist with tech skills. Leads and initiate marketing activities going unconventional. Loves testing new tools and learning new skills.

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