React vs. Angular: A Comparison of the JavaScript Library and the TypeScript Framework

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Business, Product Design, JS
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Whether it’s Python or JavaScript development, we often compare programming languages or frameworks to see which one is better.

Sometimes, there is overwhelming evidence in favor of one over the other thanks to its exceptional benefits. At other times, however, the choice is not so clear-cut.

React vs. Angular decidedly falls under the second category.

First of all, Angular is a fully fledged framework and React is a library. Secondly, both tools can be used to create highly functional and aesthetically compelling products to the same standard.

When faced with any choice of two or more tools, the key to choosing the right one is not looking at how impressive or popular the technology is or what the biggest tech companies are using. Instead, you should consider how well it will answer the specific needs of your own project and whether your developers have the necessary skill set to apply it successfully. 

In this article, we won’t set out to pick a winner; our goal is to introduce the main benefits and uses of both React and Angular so that you can make an informed decision about which one is more suitable for your project.

Table of contents

I. What is React?

II. What are the advantages of React?

III. Where is React used?

IV. What is Angular?

V. What are the advantages of Angular?

VI. Where is Angular used?

VII. What are the differences between Angular and React?

VIII. Should I choose React or Angular for my software project?

IX. The popularity of Angular and React: Which tool is more popular?

X. React vs. Angular: Final thoughts

Case studies

I. What is React?

React.JS, commonly referred to as React, is an open-source library based on JavaScript and JSX (a PHP extension). It was released in 2013 by Facebook to create flexible, dynamic user interfaces, and it’s been used extensively by the social media network ever since.

React is one of JavaScript’s most popular and fastest-growing libraries, and has been adopted by other tech giants, including WordPress, Yahoo, and Instagram. Its most recent version, 16.8.5, was released in March 2019. 

Two of React’s most useful features are:

  • use of the Virtual DOM (Document Object Model), which facilitates the creation of fast and responsive UIs while maintaining high app performance;
  • component-based architecture, which is easier to maintain than other architectures.

Since it was launched, React has influenced other frameworks, including Angular, and took inspiration from others, particularly within the JS ecosystem. 

II. What are the advantages of React? 

Why should you use React? Let’s take a quick look at some of its key benefits.

1. Simplicity

React is very simple to learn and apply thanks to its:

  • reliance on JavaScript,
  • ease of mixing with HTML,
  • component-based architecture.

Any developer with a basic understanding of JavaScript would be able to get familiar with React and start creating highly responsive apps in a matter of days.

2. Productivity

In JavaScript, reusable code is extracted to a function or class. In React, it can be written as a component. By integrating reusable components, and therefore helping limit the violations of the DRY rule, React speeds up development and makes it more efficient.  

3. Fast rendering

React’s Virtual DOM helps achieve high app performance and satisfying user experience while making your developers’ work faster.

4. Community support

There’s a wealth of resources and tutorials for React available online, as well as an active community ready to help you out.

III. Where is React used? 

React has been used to create core features of some of the most popular apps on the market since day one. As the top tech companies rushed to snap up the benefits of React, they spread awareness of the library and helped it gain momentum.

Some of the apps that incorporated React in their tech stack include: 

  • Facebook,
  • Instagram,
  • Netflix,
  • WhatsApp,
  • Twitter,
  • Uber,
  • Codecademy,
  • Dropbox,
  • Yahoo! Mail,
  • Asana.

IV. What is Angular?

Angular is a TypeScript-based, open-source frontend framework, primarily used to build Single-Page Applications (SPAs). 

Released in 2010, it’s powered by Google, and used across about 3,000 of its own projects. 

The framework’s most recent stable version is Angular 8.

Angular has been used by companies such as Autodesk, Apple, and Microsoft. The framework ranked second in the 2018 Stack Overflow survey of the most popular frameworks, libraries, and tools.

V. What are the advantages of Angular? 

Angular is one of the most popular JavaScript frameworks for web apps. Read on for some of its key benefits.

1. Clear and concise code

Angular’s simple component architecture eliminates the need for unnecessary code and makes development smooth.

Being built with TypeScript means that the framework helps developers find and eliminate errors early on in the development process. 

2. Consistency

Independent logical and functional components are the building blocks of Angular. They are reusable, cohesive LEGO-like blocks of code that can be used to quickly scale new and existing apps.

Moreover, the independence of each component makes it easy for developers to test an app for errors. 

3. Documentation and community support

On the official Angular website, there is plenty of documentation that developers can rely on as they get familiar with the framework or encounter problems while coding. The website is also a good place to stay up to date on any news or updates.

Angular, just like React, also enjoys active community support, including discussion boards on platforms such as Gitter, Stack Overflow, Facebook, and Reddit. 

4. Easy testing

Angular uses Jasmine with the Karma test runner and offers a testing library (TestBed) that allows developers to easily unit test their components.

Additionally, it comes with Protractor configured for easy e2e testing.

VI. Where is Angular used?

Angular’s readable, easy-to-maintain code has been adopted by a number of companies, including:

  • PayPal,
  • Gmail,
  • The Guardian,
  • DoubleClick,
  • Upwork,
  • HBO,
  • Sony,
  • General Motors,
  • Nike.
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VII. What are the differences between Angular and React?

1. Library vs. framework

Let's get the easiest distinction out of the way first: React is a library, while Angular is a framework.

But what does that mean, exactly, and what implications does it have for your team?

A framework is a software environment that facilitates the development of complex applications for mobile and web platforms. It’s the foundation that provides a standard way to build and deploy apps, and it can combine libraries that enhance its functionalities. 

A library, on the other hand, is a collection of pre-written code that can be called upon to build a product.

In practice, this means that Angular comes with pre-installed libraries, while in React you get to pick and choose them as you create something akin to your own framework.

2. Entry point

In Angular, every bit of code is a like a LEGO brick—created to fulfill its particular purpose and work in harmony with others. The framework is a self-sufficient, “batteries-included” system that gives developers what they need to get going, with the option to add additional capabilities as they see fit. 

However, this means that developers who want to work with Angular need to get familiar with the whole framework before they can start coding. 

In React, conversely, these building blocks are independent entities that developers can mix and match depending on the desired outcome.

React can be described as an ecosystem; it’s composed of a collection of different elements that come together to create an architecture. As a result, React is easier for developers to get started with as it doesn’t require them to learn anything more than what they need to complete the task at hand. 

3. Area of focus

In Angular, the team builds the project around the best concepts and practices found in other languages (such as MV, dependency injection, type system, or separation of concerns).

In React, the team focuses on the visual side  of the web while using solutions and features developed by others, like state management or forms.

Regardless of these differences, bear in mind that you can achieve pretty much the same results using either tool.

VIII. Should I choose React or Angular for my software project? 

There is no easy answer to this question, and the choice will depend heavily on the size, skills, and preferences of your developers, as well as the scope of your project. 

If your developers have no previous knowledge of React or Angular, there is a chance they might find it easier and quicker to start with React due to its simple, component-based architecture. This is especially true if your goal is to create an MVP in the shortest possible period of time. 

Then again, if your developers are familiar with JavaScript, they will also find React easier to get to grips with. TypeScript, used in Angular, is generally considered more difficult to learn than React’s JSX. React would also be the answer if you need rapid development and rapid changes, as it would allow your team to build the product in a shorter period of time. 

However, those starting to work with Angular will benefit from the knowledge of design and architectural patterns, as well as a preference for strong typing. Due to its well-defined and standardized design, you might especially want to consider using Angular if you:

  • work at a large, enterprise-level company;
  • aim to develop and maintain a product over a longer period of time;
  • have the resources to invest in development from the very beginning.

Ultimately, you should think of the choice between React and Angular as two different routes that will take you to, essentially, the same destination. Both tools have grown immensely and influenced each other since they were launched and, as things stand, they can be used to produce very similar results.Neither of them is going anywhere, and even in the face of fierce competition from ever new frameworks, both React and Angular have become well established among developers worldwide. 

Whichever one you decide to go with, remember that you won’t be able to change your mind later without having to start coding from scratch again. 

IX. The popularity of Angular and React: Which tool is more popular?

Now that you know the pros and cons of both React and Angular, the differences between them, and  where they have been used, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that both are very popular among developers and their adoption rates are high.

A few years ago, Angular was the undisputed leader among JavaScript frameworks. But ever since React was released six years ago, its popularity has skyrocketed, and it eventually overtook Angular.

Don’t take our word for it, though. Here are some of the figures that back this conclusion up.

npm downloads

Npm is the world’s largest software registry that complies packages of open-source code and runs developer preference surveys. It’s used by over 11 million JavaScript developers around the world who download more than 30 billion packages every month.

According to nmp, React not only continues to dominate the web scene, but it’s also way ahead of Angular in terms of download figures. While Angular has maintained a stable download rate over the past two years, React has enjoyed a generally upward trend.

However, it should be noted that npm figures have often been criticized by the Angular community for not reflecting the actual popularity of the framework. 

Since Angular is often chosen by enterprises, a lot of its downloads happen through an internal npm proxy technique; meaning, they don’t come up in npm’s official statistics.

npm downloads—React vs. Angular
npm—React vs. Angular
Source: https://www.npmtrends.com/react-vs-@angular/core

GitHub “stars”

Another way to measure a tool’s popularity is by looking at the number of “stars” they have accumulated on GitHub, the leading software development platform. They denote how many people “like” a platform.

However, this metric should be taken with a pinch of salt, as it doesn’t necessarily correspond with a tool’s sustained popularity and use. 

At the time of writing this article, React has over 132,000 “stars,” while Angular has 49,400. 

Stack Overflow Survey

The Stack Overflow Survey is the most comprehensive poll of developers around the world.

Of the 63,500+ people who took the survey in 2019, 31.3% said they used React in their work, compared with the 30.7% who said they used Angular.

Most used web frameworks according to Stack Overflow
Source: https://insights.stackoverflow.com/survey/2019

In terms of the personal perception of the tools, React was voted both the Most Loved and Most Wanted Framework, while Angular fared much worse.

Most loved web frameworks by Stack Overflow
Source: https://insights.stackoverflow.com/survey/2019

X. React vs. Angular: Final thoughts

Angular and React are both growing and being adopted by the big players on the tech scene. One is a stable, well-defined, and standardized framework that’s great for long-term projects, while the other is a library that can be used to assemble a prototype with reusable components in a matter of days.

Passing an arbitrary judgment on which one is “better” without getting to know React and Angular’s unique strengths and weaknesses would be unhelpful and misleading. Your decision on which one to go with should ultimately depend on:

  • the specifics of your project,
  • the current skill set of your developers,
  • your budget.

We hope that this article has helped clarify some of the confusion surrounding the two technologies. We also understand that there is so much more to them, and a single blog post might not have addressed all your questions and doubts.

Or perhaps you’re considering another language or framework altogether and would like to know whether they’d be the right fit for you.

If any of this sounds familiar, why not get in touch with us? With 100+ JavaScript developers on board, we’re uniquely positioned to help you decide on the right technology for your project.

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Author

Lidia Kurasińska

Content Writer

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