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Angular & React Really Are Birds of a Feather

Written by: Ed Van Beilen

Both open source libraries for front-end JavaScript application development solve the same problems while taking different approaches that leverage the latest best practices.

Two of the most popular JavaScript frameworks for writing dynamic, client-side web applications were birthed by dueling Internet giants. But while Facebook and Google go head to head on many business fronts, Angular and React are more complementary than competitive.

Both frameworks have a lot in common, and even when they differ, they still solve the same problems developers face when writing scalable and reliable client-side JavaScript web applications. Deciding whether to use Angular or React ultimately boils down to your organization’s development philosophy.

Enterprise-class code and expertise

At the outset, both popular libraries for JavaScript were open source projects reflecting the expertise of the companies that sponsor them. Angular and React are well-supported with guides, tooling, and an open source community backing their continued evolution. Each framework also allows developers to work on application features in parallel by splitting them into self-contained components, and ensure the codebase maintains a minimum level of accessibility to developers of varying JavaScript experience.

Angular and React enforce certain minimal assumptions about the structure of the code to handle complex tasks with the latest and best-known techniques so developers don’t have to maintain them. They also relieve developers of several burdens, such as keeping track of the ever-changing APIs of browsers. Angular and React effectively take on that task so developers don’t have to.

It’s not question of whether Angular or React can meet the robust requirements of enterprise web applications. It’s about how developers want to work and the specific project that determines which framework is the best choice.

More similarities than differences

Even when Angular and React do something differently, similarities remain. Also, if you understand one framework, understanding the other is not a huge stretch.

For example, Angular components expose lifecycle hooks to classes as interfaces that can be implemented to customize what a component does on component load, update and deletion. Developers can tap into key moments in that lifecycle by implementing one or more of the hook interfaces. React’s management of components is similar as they are mounted and unmounted from the current user interface, but uses traditional ES6 class inheritance rather than Angular’s external interfaces. Each framework takes a different approach to managing how data moves in and out of components. 

Both Angular and React use Single Page Web application routing, but take different approaches. Angular’s router module provides a single opinionated router with many complex configuration options to handle many types of route transitions already implemented in the routing module’s design. Conversely, React’s approach to routing is often built on an application-by-application basis and influenced by the structure of the application. 

Angular and React handle key elements of building front-end JavaScript web applications such as unit testing, templates and static type checking differently, and yet there are commonalities. In the end, both open source frameworks align with the latest, best practices. Angular is best-suited for teams that prefer a single opinionated, well maintained, tested and peer-reviewed approach, while React appeals to developers who prefer more choices and techniques to architect the lower level details.

Ultimately, there are tradeoffs, but developers can’t go wrong with either framework when building robust, scalable and secure enterprise Web applications. In the end, the choice should be guided by your organization’s design philosophy and your project requirements.

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