Blog, Software Development
The web is full of articles debating which is better – AngularJS or React (also known as React.js or ReactJS). Both frameworks are very good, but choosing a framework is not always easy, especially when you have so many experts voicing disparate views.

This article explains the shared concepts and differences between AngularJS and React, along with insights based upon our experience.

AngularJS & React Shared Concepts
It is true that you can be successful with AngularJS and/or React and learning one framework makes it easier to learn another. Picking a framework is important for the long term success and scalability of the project, but it is far more important to learn the concepts shared between the two frameworks.

By learning a given framework, you won’t just learn about that particular framework, but you’ll also learn about the following shared concepts:
  • Single-Page Applications (SPAs) ArchitectureSPA is a web app that loads a single HTML page, and then dynamically updates that page as per the user’s interactions with the web application. It eliminates the traditional request-response model upon which the classic web was built. Instead, it requires only that a single page be retrieved from the server.
  • Data Flow through an Application – defines the flow pattern of the data in a Model, View and Controller (MVC) architecture.
  • Templating – a process of creating templates. The templates take simple web applications to the next level, keeping your application logic separate from your presentation.
  • State Management – state is all the information retained by a program, and state management is the technique to manage the states. States can be a difficult part of web application development, especially when there are multiple user interactions to manage. The inherent ability of DOM to manage states helps, but for a complex application, keeping everything organized can become difficult.
  • Design and Development of Components – the concept of components is to make reusable pieces of code, for example Date Pickers, Sliders, etc. Components are important in building larger web applications as they make web application development simple and quick.
  • Client-Side Routing – a client-side routing occurs when the route is handled internally by the JavaScript which is loaded on the page. Clicking a link will change the URL, but a request to the server is prevented. Changes in the URL will result in a change in application state, which will ultimately result in a different view of the webpage.
  • Testing Methodologies – used to test a web application or a webpage.
  • Data Binding – a technique of defining communication between a component and the DOM. The technique makes building interactive web applications easier as the developer does not need to worry about pushing and pulling data.
  • Language Abstractions such as SASS and TypeScript in programming, abstraction is one of the four fundamental principles. It hides certain details and only shows the features that are essential to the object. SASS is a CSS extension, and TypeScript is a superset of JavaScript. They both reduce and factor-out code details and improve understandability and maintainability of the code.

Difference between AngularJS vs. React
AngularJS and React are two titans in a cutthroat industry with significant differences. AngularJS is a full-fledged framework developed and maintained by Google, whereas React is developed by Facebook and a library that deals with views. However, developers can add a few libraries in React and turn it into a complete framework. Then again, the resulting workflow is still very different from AngularJS.

React uses old-school JavaScript and builds HTML around it, which makes it seem easier at the initial phase. However, the use of additional tools makes it ultimately more difficult. On the other hand, AngularJS uses syntax and questions, which makes it challenging for programmers in the beginning, but the features it brings to the table tend to benefit the programmer more than those of React.

The main difference is state management. AngularJS has two-way data flow, whereas React uses one-way data flow. AngularJS has a built-in data binding, whereas React uses Redux to provide unidirectional data flow. Redux is a state management library based on Flux but has lower complexities. It is often used as a solution in React, however, it is not always required in AngularJS.

Also, AngularJS has less dependency on additional tools, utilities, and libraries in order to build applications, whereas in React, the dependency is high. Another key differentiator between AngularJS and React is the methodologies used to handle debugging. AngularJS uses runtime debugging which tends to provide less information than the information provided by React’s compile time debugging. Here’s a quick side-to-side comparison between AngularJS and React.

Learning Curve
At its core AngularJS is focused on building applications, while React is focused on building user interfaces. AngularJS is an easy, well-structured framework; if you have a good knowledge of JavaScript, CSS and HTML, it is quite easy to learn Angular. Besides, developers can refer to the official guide on building complete solutions using AngularJS, which will help in getting familiar with the framework. On the other hand, learning React itself is easy, but because you will never use React alone to build real-life applications, and you will need to learn additional tools, so the overall learning process gets harder. For a complete application development using React, you will need Redux, Axios or Fetch, Webpack or Grunt, etc., which might take some time to learn. Besides, the unidirectional data flow in React is complicated and can present a challenge. 

In addition, React JSX is not really an HTML but is an extension to JavaScript. It is an XML and HTML like syntax that extends ECMAScript, so that the syntax, which is similar to XML/HTML can co-exist with React code. Developers who are not familiar with JSX will find difficulty in transitioning. Furthermore, lack of official documentation may steepen the learning curve for some developers.

Support for Tools
Both, AngularJS and React provide Command Line Interfaces (CLIs), which makes it easier to create new projects, support local deployment, and prepare apps for deployment. They also have great support within code editors like Atom and Visual Studio Code. You will need to install the appropriate editor extensions in order to get the best experience and maximize output.

Performance benchmarking is based on the time needed to complete specific tasks, such as rendering an items list. While performance benchmarks vary in some use cases, both frameworks offer similar performance overall. Therefore, this is not a significant differentiating factor for most developers.

Pros and Cons AngularJS
AngularJS is perfect for building applications and solutions. Its focus on application development—evidenced by the inclusion of features like form validation and routing—makes it popular among developers. AngularJS has a more capable CLI, which is used throughout the development of the app for creating new components, installing packages, and running migration and installation skills. It uses TypeScript, which offers developers with less JavaScript experience an easier transition to client-side development. And although it may take a bit to get used to the AngularJS binding syntax, being able to use the native HTML and CSS for templates and styles is a plus. AngularJS is best for creating cross-platform mobile apps, enterprise apps, and progressive web apps and hybrid mobile apps.

  • It is an all-inclusive framework
  • Provides guidance on how to build complete solutions
  • TypeScript
  • Capable CLI
  • DOM manipulation
  • Popular with organizations
  • Provides support for native HTML and CSS
  • Has a large API
  • JavaScript support mandatory
  • Offers limited routing resources

The large AngularJS API and the overall approach to build apps sometimes makes it a bit difficult to learn, but it is still easier to learn than other frameworks. AngularJS code, which consists of static types, decorators, and the use of a configuration-based approach, can feel complex and verbose at times.

React is very popular, evident in the fact that there is a large community of developers supporting the framework. The availability of a wide variety of community-developed, open-source extensions for React gives the developer multiple options for building complete solutions. Outside of the pure React library, there are three distinctive versions of React, namely: React-devtools, React Native and React.Net. With React you can build anything; therefore, in cases where you have to build a custom solution, React will best address your needs. React is good for building computation-less or logic-less applications. This is particularly true if you are building dynamic applications, single page apps, and native mobile apps.

  • Easy component creation
  • Elegant API
  • Popular with startups
  • Large support community of developers
  • Fast rendering with Virtual-DOM
  • Hundreds of open-source extensions
  • Transitioning to JSX
  • Availability of options can overwhelm
  • Code might feel complex
  • Building complete solutions requires third party libraries

In React, component templates are written in JSX and not native HTML, so there is a bit of an adjustment period. Because React is generally used to build user interfaces, there is a need to extend React with third party libraries. Luckily, several great options exist for meeting all requirements. However, having too many choices can overwhelm or confuse developers—especially if they are beginners.

Our Verdict
Comparing JavaScript development platforms like AngularJS and React is like comparing which mobile platform is better: Android or iOS. Usually the use-case, framework stability, learning curve, and project requirements will determine the framework to choose. And, as per our experience, AngularJS has been faster to adopt and easier to learn, because you do not need to learn a bunch of new technologies. Also, because there is a very large community of active developers, AngularJS is much easier to maintain. What is your verdict?