Angular is an open-source JS framework under the MIT license. It was founded in 2009 by Misko Hevery and Adam Abrons, and originally called AngularJS. It was rewritten in 2016 and re-released as just Angular.
Its current release (at the time of writing) is version eight.
Angular is primarily maintained by Google along with a community of individual developers. Angular is written in TypeScript, and it features a MVVM (Model, View, ViewModel) and MVC (Model, View, Controller) architecture, which controls the way it separates database data from user interaction and UI.
It’s perfect for highly interactive web applications, so much so that it’s used for Google’s popular Google Ads system; every time you see a google ad you’re seeing an implementation of Angular.
Like Angular, it’s targeted at user interface. React is used extensively for Facebook applications. When you log on to Facebook, Instagram, or Whatsapp you are seeing an implementation of React.
Comparing React vs Angular
Let’s take both of these tools and see how they look when set next to each other. We’ll discuss their pros and cons, and what they work best with so we can determine when and how they should be used, and, ultimately, which is the most useful to learn.
React vs Angular: Architecture
Remember that React is a library and Angular is a full framework. This leads to some major differences in how they are constructed.
As an MVC framework Angular handles not only the view but what happens when that view is interacted with—communicating with the database and making changes based on user interaction. It also has a clear preference as to how the system around it should be modeled.
It’s a little like a website in a box, and messing with the templates requires a clear understanding of how it’s constructed. It does, however, give you a solid baseline for creating a highly interactive webpage.
What React projects offer is freedom. As a library, it only provides the View in the MVC framework. The rest—how that front end button clicking effects the backend and how the information is manipulated beyond that—is up to you. Because of this, there is no clear preference on system model.
React lets you get as creative as you want with the design of the system while still providing a solid and polished interface. However, this freedom can be as much of a bane as it is a boon. It allows for poorly designed systems as much as it does for efficient ones. And since there is no standard it’s more difficult to pass a project between different developers.
An example of how they are different in this regard is data binding. Angular has two-way binding. This means if you press a toggle in the UI, the model is updated. And if the model is updated, the UI toggle changes as well. React only has one-way binding. If the model state is updated, so is the toggle, but not vice versa. If you want the toggle to change the model state you’ll have to do that yourself through callbacks or state management libraries.
While it may seem like Angular’s method of binding is better, it’s only better at first glance. As a project grows bigger and bigger, handling binding like React does results in better data flow and a better data overview; which makes debugging a lot easier. Both ways of doing things can be useful, so it’s important to understand the scope and requirements of your project.
Angular vs React: Learning and Typing
To start, React will probably always be more work than Angular—Angular is almost functioning out of the box, whereas React is just a collection of code. React requires you to build or find the rest of the system that Angular already comes with.
However, assuming that they are already implemented and we are worrying about modifying and maintaining them, there are still some factors to consider. Language is one of them.
React vs Angular: Performance
This one is neck in neck. React is traditionally faster than Angular, however, the function and form of how they are used affect the speed at which they perform. Each has features that make them quicker.
For example, Angular uses a smaller file transfer size which speeds it up. Angular also has a clear architecture that developers must follow. This means that there is less room for poorly designed code to slow down the system.
Over on React’s side, React uses a virtual DOM (document object model) which speeds it up significantly—so much so that this was considered the killer feature of React when it was first released. Angular uses a regular DOM which moves slower.
This is because a virtual DOM only looks at the changes between old HTML and new HTML and only changes the element that needs to be updated. The regular DOM will update the entire HTML every time you make a change. While this is a small difference when making a few changes, on a large enterprise website the power difference is evident.
We can also add React Fiber to the list of differences. Fiber is a backward-compatible, total rewrite of the original React core. React can use Fiber to pause and resume work whenever it chooses, so it can display important information as quickly as possible.
Angular vs React: Mobile Application
Angular and React offer different solutions for creating mobile applications. Angular’s solution is Ionic. Ionic is another framework for developing hybrid mobile applications that uses a Cordova container that incorporates with Angular. While Ionic has a good UI library, the resulting application is just a web app in a view container, which can be slow and laggy.
React’s answer is React Native. React Native was designed by Facebook for running as a native application on phones. It even lets you make components bound to code written in other languages like Java or Swift.
React vs Angular: Features
Angular, being a complete framework, comes with a lot out of the box. It has templates based on an extended version of HTML, along with things like XSS protection, dependency injection, Ajax requests, and routing. It even has component CSS encapsulation and utilities for unit-testing components.
React, as a library, is really only the features, and even then it carries a little less than Angular. It has it’s JSX templating system, unlike Angular’s more traditional templates. It has XSS protection and Ajax requests like Angular. But it doesn’t have dependency injection.
As of 2019, by some metrics, React is a requirement for nearly 80% of framework related jobs advertised; Angular only takes a little more than 20% of the market. However, these two continue to dominate the market over any other web framework.
If your project needs a solid framework out of the box to be shared with multiple team members then Angular might be right for you. If you require freedom in your project, with powerful and fast tools, then React could be your top pick. Knowledge of either has fantastic job opportunities associated with it, and both are continuing to grow quickly.