React vs. Angular: A Comparison Between Two Great Options

Robert Rice Angular, Development Technologies, JavaScript, Opinion, React 1 Comment

Attention: The following article was published over 5 years ago, and the information provided may be aged or outdated. Please keep that in mind as you read the post.

Both React and Angular are very popular front end development frameworks. In this post, I will discuss the similarities and differences between the two, and consider when one should be used instead of the other.

React is an open-source JavaScript library introduced by Facebook to build dynamic user interfaces. It is based on JavaScript and JSX (a PHP extension) and is considered widely for developing reusable HTML elements for front-end development.

Angular is an open-source front-end development framework powered by Google. It is a part of the MEAN stack and is compatible with a large number of code editors and is considered for creating dynamic websites and web apps.

In this post, we will begin by going over the benefits of React and Angular, then break down the differences between the two frameworks using thirteen attributes. By comparing each framework side by side, it can help decide which is the best framework for your specific app project.

Benefits of React as a JavaScript Library

Better User Experience
React uses a Virtual DOM (an abstract form of Real DOM) to makes it easier for application developers to update changes performed by the users in the application without affecting other parts of the interface. The result is a highly dynamic UI.

App developers can reuse the code components at distinct levels at any point in time. Additionally, the components are isolated from each other making updates easy to manage.

Quick Development
React supports reuse and hot reloading, accelerating development speed.

Faster Testing
React makes use of Redux (a predictable state container for JS apps) which minimizes the hassle of managing component states. This helps the developers to manage application state in a single location and empowers every component to easily access the application state, facilitating the testing of the app and the logging of data changes.

Code Stability with One-Directional Data Binding
React allows the developers to work directly with the components and employs downward data binding, ensuring that changes in child entities do not affect parent entities. This approach helps stabilize the code and eases future development.

Benefits of Angular as A Front-End Development Framework

Cleaner Code
Angular uses TypeScript programming language, a superset of JavaScript. TypeScript is an OO language and supports static typing. This approach helps the developers to write cleaner and less error-prone code.

Higher Performance
Angular’s hierarchical dependency injection, much better than that of AngularJS, delivers higher performance for mobile applications.

Material Design-like Interface
Angular offers pre-built material design components across navigation elements, form controls, pop-ups, layouts, and data tables, helping mobile application developers to support the Google Material Design’s impact on Mobile app design, providing longevity for the application.

Better Error Handling
The latest version of Angular, Angular 7, features an upgraded error handling process for @Output in scenarios where a property is not initialized.

Seamless Updates Using Angular CLI
The Angular CLI (Command Line Interface) is easy to install and use, and offers innovative testing tools and simpler commands. It is supported by various platforms, making it possible to update even those components that have a third-party dependency.

React Vs. Angular: A Comparison Between The Two Front-End Development Options

Now that we have gone through the benefits of both frameworks, let’s consider the differences between the two, using thirteen attributes:

  1. Popularity
  2. Architecture
  3. Learning Curve
  4. Development Speed and Productivity
  5. Flexibility and Freedom
  6. DOM (Document Object Model)
  7. Data Binding
  8. App Performance and User Experience
  9. Mobile Solutions
  10. Testing
  11. Ease of Update
  12. Documentation
  13. Community Support

1. Popularity

As per Google Trends, React has more searches than Angular. On the other hand, people show more interest in Angular due to availability of ready-made solutions.

According to the State of JavaScript, a web portal that surveys developers; In 2017 they surveyed 20,000 developers, while React and Angular are equally popular frameworks, React leads when it comes to developers’ adoption to the framework

2. Architecture

Both Angular and React have component-based architecture, which means they have cohesive, reusable and modular components. There is, however, a difference where the tech stack is concerned. As mentioned previously, React uses JavaScript while Angular goes with TypeScript, which is more compact and error-free.

3. Learning Curve

Angular has a steep learning curve when compared to React. The Google Angular IO framework offers multiple ways to solve a particular problem, has a complex component management system, and demands familiarity with different concepts and languages like templates, pipes, dependency injection, RxJS, TypeScript, etc.

Additionally, the framework is developing constantly – making it necessary for developers to update their knowledge of the system often.

The same is not true for the React framework. Knowledge of JavaScript facilitates learning React, with many resources available for newcomers.

4. Development Speed and Productivity

Angular offers a better development experience. Its CLI empowers creating a workspace and designing functioning applications swiftly, producing components and services with one-line commands, with built-in processes to solve comprehensive problems and the clean coding feature of TypeScript.

React, on the other hand, involves third-party libraries, requiring developers to determine the right architecture along with the tools.

Additionally, the toolkit for React mobile apps can vary from project to project, possibly requiring more time and effort invested if the project is handed over to new developers for an app update.

Angular is the clear winner here.

5. Flexibility and Freedom

The React framework allows you the freedom to choose the tools, libraries, and architecture for developing an application. This lets you build a highly-customized app using only the features you require. Conversely, Angular offers a limited amount of freedom and flexibility. For example, the latest version of Angular IO, Angular 7, only lets you use Angular components inside other frameworks and embed codes in an HTML-based application.

React offers better flexibility and freedom in comparison to Angular.

6. DOM (Document Object Model)

Angular uses real DOM, where the whole tree data structure is updated even if a single section of it is changed. React uses a virtual DOM, which allows updates without affecting the other parts of the tree.

Since Virtual DOM is considered faster than real DOM, React wins over Angular.

7. Data Binding

React uses one-way data binding in which the UI elements can be changed only after changing the model state. The developers cannot alter the UI elements without updating the corresponding model state.

In the case of Angular, the two-way binding approach is used. This approach ensures that model state changes automatically when any change in a UI element is made, and vice-versa.

While Angular’s approach seems easier and effective, React’s way offers a better and streamlined data overview in the case of a larger app project. Thus, React wins over Angular.

8. App Performance and User Experience

React uses Virtual DOM and Fiber (ongoing re-implementation of React’s core algorithm), which gives it a lead above Angular. However, newer versions of Angular include features like ShadowAPI that have equalized the differences between the two.

9. Mobile Solutions

Angular offers the Ionic framework for mobile app development, which comes with a Cordova container and an engaging UI component library. This results in applications that, when viewed on any device, appear like a web site inside a native web app container.

React offers a truly native UI experience that enables you to make your own components and bind them to native code written in Java, Kotlin, Objective-C, and Kotlin.

So, React wins this battle here.

10. Testing

Angular testing can be achieved with single tools like Jasmine, Protractor, and Karma. React requires different sets of tools for performing different sets of testing. For example, you will require Jest for JavaScript code testing, Enzyme, and Unexpected-React for component testing, Skin-deep for Render testing utils, React-unit for unit testing, and so on. Angular comes out on top here.

11. Ease of Update

Angular has an improved CLI that contains commands like a ng_update which makes it possible to easily upgrade the app to the latest Angular version. This makes Angular app development less painful, provided most of the updating process is automated.

Similarly, React also offers the facility to make seamless transitions between two versions. But, the front-end development library relies heavily on external libraries which make it possible to update and migrate third-party components. Additionally, developers have always check if the third-party libraries are compatible with the recent versions of the JavaScript framework or not.

In this case, React lags behind Angular.

12. Documentation

Angular documentation is slow to keep up with the development updates, and the changes are significant enough to diminish the usefulness of older documentation. However, for React, value can still be found in existing documentation as the framework is updated.

13. Community Support

React has wider community support than Angular on GitHub. But, when it comes to 2018 StackOverflow Developer Survey, the number of developers working with Angular is somewhat higher than those working with React. For community support, the comparison is a wash.

The aforementioned factors will help you to screen out the right front-end development framework for you. But, to ease the process, here are some of the conditions depicting when you should go with React and when to choose Angular.

When to Use?

When to Use React for Developing an App?

React is the right fit for your app project when:

  • Your team has expertise in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.
  • You need a highly customized specific app solution.
  • A myriad of components with different and often variable states – active/inactive navigation items, dynamic inputs, user log in and access permission, buttons enabled/disabled, etc. is involved in the development process.
  • Components are expected to be shared across multiple applications as the app project expands.
  • You wish to spend time on pre-development preparation.

When to Consider Angular for App Development?

Going with the Angular framework in a good choice when:

  • Your team has experience with Java, C# and previous versions of Angular.
  • App complexity lies from Low to Medium level.
  • You embrace ready-to-use solutions and need higher productivity.
  • You wish to embrace Bundle Budgets in CLI option, which informs the developers when the app bundle size exceeds by the pre-decided value. In other words, selecting Angular is the right decision when you want to regulate app size.
  • You need a large-scale feature-rich application.

Though this will give you an idea of what to pick per your given scenario, it is always beneficial to look into the future scope of the two to ensure long-term support – which is covered as follows:

What Does the Future Hold for React and Angular?

The one-line answer is that none of the two frameworks will go out of the picture by the next year or even by 2025. React has come up with major changes empowering the React developers to easily provide feedback on new features, JavaScript syntax improvements, and experimental APIs.

While Angular, on the other hand, has already been witnessing a growth in the usage rate – which will increase significantly when Angular 8 comes out of beta version.

Wrapping Up

We hope that you found this side-by-side comparison helpful in making your own distinctions. The truth of the matter is that you can build a quality application with either of these libraries. Most of the differences come down to personal preferences, app requirements, experience, and what matters most to your organization.

Still evaluating which framework is right for you? Check out this open-source reference application developed three times using three different frameworks, React, Vue & Angular. By seeing the code in action and implementing a solution, it can help determine the type of JavaScript framework that will be best for you and your team.

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