Angular vs React: Which One to Choose for Your App in 2020

Imagine yourself scrolling through your Facebook news feed, Instagram’s explore page or any other one of your favorite apps.

Well, it turns out that these massive mega-corporations are all using handy-dandy open-source JavaScript frameworks— React.js and Angular.

In this article, we’ll explore essential technical and qualitative distinctions between Angular vs React and their respective advantages and disadvantages.

By understanding Angular vs React in terms of scalability, ability to integrate, and framework-level efficiency, you’ll be well-equipped in gauging how React and Angular will mesh into your future web and mobile applications.

Stay with us and keep reading!

What is React?

React (otherwise known as ReactJS or React.js) has established itself as a leading JavaScript (JS) library used to build reusable and scalable UI components that offer real-time functionality and modularity.

Initially released and maintained by Facebook as an open-source JS library in 2013 by Jordan Walke, React has allowed for the development of single-page (pure React) and mobile applications (React Native)

React’s official documentation defines itself as a library for building composable user interfaces.

The framework encourages the deployment and integration of reusable UI components which allow present data to dynamically change over time without consuming large amounts of memory.

Many developers use React to create front ends with better performance by using a virtual DOM (which we’ll elaborate on later).

Additionally, React is effectively rendered on the server using NodeJS, and it can power native cross-platform mobile applications using React Native as a foundation.

By using one-way reactive data flow, React efficiently minimizes the boilerplate and extraneous processing power, and is easier to reason with than traditional data binding approaches.

What is Angular?

AngularJS was originally released and maintained by Google’s Angular Team in 2016 as a structural framework for dynamic web apps.

Although React has competitively overclouded many third-party, open-source JavaScript frameworks, Angular continues to fight on as a key leader in dynamic web application development.

It generally allows web developers to integrate HTML as a foundational template language and lets them extend HTML’s syntax to express application components clearly and concisely with organization in mind.

AngularJS uses efficient data binding and dependency injection which effectively eliminates a lot of the fluffy code you would otherwise have to spend extra hours writing.

To put it shortly, AngularJS is a dreamchild of HTML (what it would have been) if it had been solely designed for application development.

HTML in itself functions as an effective declarative language for static documents.

However, AngularJS uses data binding, DOM control structures, form support and validation, and HTML component grouping to turn HTML’s static nature into dynamic masterpieces.

Angular vs React? Critical Pros and Cons

Ultimately, the battle between Angular vs React has been a near half-decade long fight between the nitty-gritty details, such as data binding and DOMs.

Fortunately for you, we’ve listed a comprehensive outline of advantages and disadvantages with React and Angular and their ultimate side-by-side comparisons/contrasts.

The Pros of AngularJS

AngularJS facilitates efficient and easier data binding by implementing two-way data binding.

This two-way data binding construct doesn’t require a developer to intervene at all, ensuring that changes made to views are instantly passed to the model and vice versa.

  • Seamless DOM Manipulation

In contrast to many overhyped JavaScript frameworks, Angular conveniently relieves the developer of the stresses involved in actively manipulating DOM (Document Object Model) due to its two-way data binding approach.

Thus, more time and effort is saved in coding, translating, and updating DOM elements.

  • Improved Server Performance

AngularJS supports caching and other critical server processes, reducing the burden from server CPUs.

This is really good news: it means that the server performs extremely well thanks to the resulting reduced traffic and because it only serves static files while responding to API calls.

  • More Efficient Application Prototyping

Angular allows you to write significantly less code. This allows you to develop and deploy prototypes without the redundancy of excess lines of code.

  • Responsive Web

AngularJS allows web developers to create responsive user-facing websites due to its fast-loading and high-performance nature.

  • Highly Testable

Now for the best part? Angular allows developers to build highly testable websites and applications.

Through a combination of unit testing and end-to-end testing, Angular simplifies testing and debugging for the developer.

For example, dependency injections allow components to be effectively isolated and mocked. Additionally, testing tools such as Protractor, Karma, and Jasmine are offered with the Angular framework.

Below is a brief list of additional advantages of using Angular that you might want to consider:

The Cons of AngularJS

  • JavaScript Support is Mandatory

Let’s say that your browsing single-page web applications on a computer or laptop with a catch— JavaScript is disabled.

It’s a rare use-case, but if your web application employs Angular, users will not be able to access your website/web applications.

  • Inexperience with MVC

For more traditional developers that follow the Model-View-Controller architectural practices, using Angular can be overwhelmingly time-consuming.

  • Difficult Features

To put it plain and simply, directives can be difficult to use. Additionally, AngularJS features such as dependency injections and factories can be over-complicated for traditional developers that already-learned alternatives.

  • Time/Performance Consumption

With Angular, browsers may take longer to render pages of websites and applications.

The Pros of ReactJS

  • Virtual DOM

Through its implementation of Virtual DOM, ReactJS hits two birds with one stone: creating a better user experience while improving development efficiency.

  • Reusability of React Components and Saving Time

When Facebook introduced React into the open-source community, they spotlighted its capability to reuse code components of a different level anytime, allowing front-end and back-end developers to save dramatic amounts of time.

  • One-Direction Data Flow Allows for Stable Code

ReactJS allows developers to work directly with components and uses downward data binding to ensure that changes of any child structures don’t cause a chain reaction and affect their parents.

The result is increased code stability.

Additional advantages include the following:

  • An open-source Facebook library with a strong, central community
  • Redux: convenient state container
  • Wide React and Redux

The Cons of ReactJS

  • Overwhelming Pace of Development

The React environment is continually changing with new and emerging updates that catch developers off guard.

Developers must regularly relearn new methods and techniques to implement in their code solutions.

This rapid pace of evolution can be jarring and uncomfortable for some developers.

  • Poor Documentation

Perhaps the biggest turnoff for any open source fanatic, ReactJS is coupled with poor documentation that steepens the learning curve.

Different and new libraries such as Redux and Reflux are difficult to integrate for entry-junior level developers and React’s pace of evolution could only make it worse.

  • JSX Learning curve

Unfortunately, for many developers, JSX (in contrast to HTML) possesses critical complexities and nuances that steepen the learning curve— especially when transitioning from another JS framework to React.

  • SEO Hassles

Ultimately, there are piles upon piles of documented concerts that Google and other staple search engines cannot index dynamic web pages with client-side DOM rendering.

However, this is not fully verifiable as Google itself confirmed that its crawlers are fully capable of reading dynamic, single-page content.

Angular vs React: Side-By-Side Comparison

Although Angular and React have full-blown nuanced and clear-cut mutual advantages, there are crucial contrasts in terms of scalability, efficiency, and effectiveness as frameworks.

Angular’s ability to manipulate DOM is iconic in the web development industry, while React’s use of Virtual DOM steals the show with memory efficiency.

However, in terms of documentation and learning curves, React trails behind.

React’s use of JSX instead of HTML creates a biased learning curve. Additionally, the constantly updating developments with JSX and other associated React libraries can turn off developers.

Regardless, we’ll explore more clear side-by-side comparisons and contrasts below, anywhere from DOM manipulation to open source community support.

Library vs Framework

Although React oftentimes meshes interchangeably with Angular as a JS framework, there are nuanced distinctions that could bend over a developer’s knees to a framework vs a library— especially in the context of your ability to control the said library or framework.

When developers use a library, you are in charge of the flow of the application.

Ultimately, you can choose where and when to call and integrate the library into your code. However, when you use a framework, the framework is single-handedly in charge of the flow.

In other words, a framework provides places for you to plug in your code, but in the end, it calls the code you plugged in as needed.

For many front-end developers that value real-time control and regulation of their code and final web app products, Angular can be discouraging due to its stubborn nature. It ultimately cannot be manipulated outside the bounds of flow.

Regular DOM vs Virtual DOM

Now for the grandest comparisons of them all— the regular DOM (Document Object Model) vs Virtual DOM. In other words, the fine line between Angular vs React

DOM was originally established as a platform and language-neutral interface, allowing programs and scripts to dynamically/systematically access and update content, structure, and style of a document.

In a traditional DOM, the DOM tree will find every node interested in an event and update it.

The result? A computationally heavy process that requires analyzing and updating an entire tree structure at every change of state.

However, a Virtual DOM includes a general collection of modules designed to provide a declarative means of representing the DOM of your web application.

Instead of updating the DOM at every instant the application state changes, a Virtual Tree is created. Resultantly, the Virtual DOM will calculate how to make the DOM look like a new state without recreating all of the DOM nodes.

Ultimately, a Virtual Dom presents several performance advantages, including the following:

  • The process of updating the DOM and web page information is optimized and accelerated.
  • JSX makes components and code blocks readable.
  • Data binding in a Virtual DOM allows for more dynamic web and mobile applications (React Native).
  • Prompt rendering: Virtual DOMs minimize the number of operations and accelerate the process of updating single-page information in real-time.

For web developers that prize responsive and computationally inexpensive web applications, React wins by a landslide with its Virtual DOM structure. Virtual DOMs enable more seamless user experiences, especially with one-directional data flow.

Data Binding: Angular vs React

In short, Angular uses two-way (bi-directional) data binding while React uses one-way (unidirectional) data binding computations.

For AngularJS, this means that changing a UI element will also change the corresponding model’s state as well. Conversely, if you change the model state, then the UI element will respectively change.

However, with React’s one-way data binding approach, the model state is initially updated, and finally, it renders the change in the UI element.

But, here’s the catch: a change in the UI element will NOT change the model state— you must figure that out yourself.

Many developers concede that Angular’s approach with two-way data binding is initially easier.

However, as the complexity and breadth of your project increases, the difficulty of managing UI elements and model states upticks drastically.

React, however, is more favorable as projects become larger and more complex, making them easier to effectively debug. In terms of Angular vs React and its data binding capabilities, React outshines here.

Language: JSX vs HTML

Instead of clear-cut HTML with a supporting JavaScript framework (which Angular implemented), React combines UI templates and inline JavaScript logic in its iconic language known as “JSX”.

React uses components that contain both markup and logic in the same file simultaneously.

Additionally, the file uses an XML-like language format that enables developers to write markup directly in their JS code.

All in all, JSX presents a crucial advantage for development because it ensures that both markup and logic are in one place without separatism and code completion, debugging, and compile-time checks work more practically.

Performance: React vs Angular

As highlighted earlier, the grand barrier to performance with a JavaScript framework/library-associated website is its DOM (virtual or real).

Angular’s utilization of a Regular DOM causes potential performance issues, especially with many UI elements and web page information.

In short, React’s Virtual DOM is regarded as considerably faster than Angular’s Regular DOM due to more efficient state changing and Virtual Tree updating.

Which Community is Better? Angular vs React

In terms of Angular and React’s respective Github repositories, we see critical differences in the number of contributions and engagements.

Below is a brief statistical summary of the number of watchers, stars, forks, and contributors in both Github repositories.

  • React accumulated 6.7 thousand watchers while Angular had ~3.2 thousand.
  • React possesses 151 thousand stars while Angular possesses under half of that at ~62 thousand.
  • React’s Github repository has been forked 29.4 thousand times while Angular has been forked 16.9 thousand times.
  • In 2020, React had ~1,390 contributions with Angular possessing ~1,129 contributions.

From the summary, it is relatively well-evident that in the fight between Angular vs React, React has more coverage in community support than Angular on both Github and Gitlab.

However, according to a 2018 Stack Overflow Developer Survey, the number of developers using Angular is relatively higher than those implementing React.

At the broadest level, both communities have nearly the same levels of support.

Testing: React vs Angular

Jest, used by Facebook to test React code, is included in every React project and requires absolutely zero configuration to use out-of-the-box.

Additionally, it includes a powerful mocking library for prototype development.

However, Angular takes advantage of a testing framework called Jasmine. Regardless, many developers find the output rather bloated and difficult to read.

Which Companies Use Which One?

Among the mammoth-sized list of companies using React and Angular for their front-end web application development purposes, below are notable leaders amongst the front-end players.

For React:

  • Instagram
  • WhatsApp
  • Facebook
  • Airbnb
  • Uber
  • Netflix
  • Dropbox

And for Angular:

  • General Motors
  • Upwork
  • Google
  • HBO
  • Nike
  • Forbes
  • Sony

Learning Curves: Angular vs React

The objective learning curves for both React and Angular can be understood in terms of their inherent framework-level and library-level features that create distinct complexity levels.

Both Angular and React are single-page applications, where Angular is a full-featured MVC framework whereas react is an open-source JS library.

Web developers discover that the learning curve for Angular is relatively high with React possessing a low learning curve that is initially difficult to grasp.

The data flow control in React provides simplicity and modifiability for larger projects. This unidirectional data flow ensures that the UI and model states do not change excessively once projects emergently grow more complex.

However, Angular’s two-way flow makes it rather complex when dealing with large applications.

Additionally, Angular’s runtime debugging typically provides less actionable information than React’s assemble time debugging.

Conclusion

React and Angular have emerged as monstrous and well-developed open source libraries and frameworks, respectively.

Although both are jam-packed with community support and general single-page web app development features, there are crucial distinctions that boil down to culture and technical qualities.

Nevertheless, Angular and React offer the best of both worlds in terms of building and deploying professional-grade web applications with seamless user experience in mind.

However, regardless of whether you're dealing with the Angular framework or React library, it is imperative that you have the right developers by your side.

More importantly, it’s essential that you have developers that are not limited by the technical difficulties of React and Angular. Being able to compromise with business-level needs.

For these needs, one of the better options is to hire remote developers to your team. This way, you can add some talents to your team, in a very easy way.


So, our final recommendation is for you to check our complete guide on how to hire a remote developer.

Daniel Fleury

About

Daniel is a machine learning researcher and engineer at Johns Hopkins University

Frequently Asked Questions

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What is React?

React (otherwise known as ReactJS or React.js) has established itself as a leading JavaScript (JS) library used to build reusable and scalable UI components that offer real-time functionality and modularity.

What is Angular?

AngularJS was originally released and maintained by Google’s Angular Team in 2016 as a structural framework for dynamic web apps.