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Angular vs. React: A side-by-side comparison

This article will provide an extensive comparison, beginning with a brief history of each technology, highlighting its significant features, benefits, drawbacks, and popularity, and when it is most appropriate to use these powerful tools for your project.
Chidi Eze

Chidi Eze

May 08, 2024
Angular vs. React: A side-by-side comparison

Angular and React are two of the most popular technologies used in web development, with statistics backing their popularity on platforms such as GitHub, Stack Overflow, and the State of JavaScript survey.

However, they were created by two of the largest and most competitive tech giants - Google and Facebook - with distinct approaches to implementation and problem-solving. It can be confusing to decide on a framework or library for your project, and if so, which one to choose - React or Angular?

This article will provide an extensive comparison, beginning with a brief history of each technology, highlighting its significant features, benefits, drawbacks, and popularity, and when it is most appropriate to use these powerful tools for your project.

#TL;DR

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of Angular and React.

FeatureAngularReact
ArchitectureAngular as a framework enforces a structured MVC (Model-View-Controller) architecture for clear separation of concerns.React as a library has a component-based architecture - flexible and modular, ideal for building reusable UI components.
PerfomanceHigh performance but can get slower than React as the number of data bindings increases.Ships high-performance interfaces using a virtual DOM - a lightweight representation of the real DOM.
Data BindingUtilizes a two-way data binding system between the model and the view.Employs a one-way data flow from parent to child components
LanguageSupports TypeScript natively and recommended to use, but can also work with JavaScript.Based on Javascript ES6 and JSX, however, React can be extended to use TypeScript.
Enterprise-readinessTrusted by large teams due to its longevity and robustness.Trusted by large teams due to it’s flexibility, performance, and rich ecosystem.
State ManagementBuilt-in state managementFeatures React Context, but *r*equires external libraries like Redux or MobX for complex state management.
Cross-platform supportNativeBase uses Angular-based components to build mobile applications for Android and iOSReact-native uses React to build cross-platform apps for Android and iOS

Next, let’s look at each technology in detail.

#What is Angular?

Angular is an open-source JavaScript framework built on top of TypeScript, a superset of JavaScript. It primarily creates dynamic and interactive single-page applications (SPAs).

In 2010, Google developer Miško Hevery created AngularJS as an internal tool. It gained popularity due to its open-source nature and the rise of mobile development through the Ionic framework. However, as web development practices evolved, AngularJS struggled to keep pace, especially in developing large applications.

The Angular team addressed these limitations with a complete rewrite and named it Angular. Released in 2016, Angular embraced modern JavaScript standards, including a component-based architecture and TypeScript, for improved performance and maintainability. Let's discuss some of its key features.

#Enterprise-readiness with Angular

Below are some key features of Angular:

  1. Two-way data binding: Angular has a two-way binding system, a feature unavailable in React. It involves synchronizing the UI with the underlying model/class data, meaning any changes made to the model are automatically communicated to and updated in the user interface (UI) and vice versa. This binding system reduces the need for manual DOM manipulation and simplifies development logic.

  2. TypeScript integration: As the primary language for Angular development, TypeScript adds static typing to help prevent runtime errors and improve code quality and refactoring capabilities. This enhances code readability and maintainability by catching errors early in development.

  3. Dependency injection: Angular promotes dependency injection, a design pattern that decouples components from their dependencies. It facilitates interaction between dependency providers and consumers using Injectors. By injecting dependencies and not hardcoding them, Angular components become more reusable and easier to test.

  4. Angular CLI: The Angular Command Line Interface (CLI) is a highly-praised component of Angular. This robust solution automates many tasks, simplifies the entire development process, and frees up time to concentrate on creating excellent applications.

Beyond these standout features, Angular has other distinctive features like performance improvements and security that strengthen its position as a leading open-source framework for web app development. Let's look at real-world applications and companies using the Angular framework.

#Companies using Angular

Due to its stability and battle-tested nature, Angular is popular among enterprise teams. Below are popular brands that adopt and use the Angular framework in their application:

  1. Google - Gmail, Google Drive.
  2. Samsung - Samsung Health, Samsung Members
  3. Paypal - PayPal Checkout, Paypal Business
  4. Forbes - Forbes.com
  5. Upwork - Upwork.com

Let's look at the advantages and disadvantages of using the Angular framework.

#Advantages of Angular

  1. Angular enforces a clear app structure using components, modules, and other built-in features to make complex applications easier to maintain, especially for large development teams. This structured approach helps new developers understand and quickly onboard an ongoing project.

  2. Angular boasts a large and active community, comprehensive documentation, and tutorials. Google also provides long-term support for Angular, which is a huge advantage.

  3. Angular's TypeScript usage allows it to provide improved code autocompletion and refactoring tools and early error detection, which can significantly increase developers' productivity.

  4. Angular provides methods like lazy loading and ahead-of-time compilation to enhance initial load times and total application speed.

However, like other web frameworks, Angular has its set of drawbacks that we'll explore next.

#Disadvantages of Angular

  1. Angular has a steep learning curve due to its use of TypeScript, robust feature set, and complicated design compared to other frameworks like React and Svelte. While the long-term benefits of Angular's rigid structure and maintainability are significant, the initial learning investment can be higher.

  2. Angular relies on client-side rendering with JavaScript, while search engine crawlers primarily function by fetching and indexing content rendered server-side. This mismatch can make it difficult for crawlers to index the app content, potentially negatively impacting Search Engine Optimization (SEO) scores.

  3. Compared to React's highly flexible approach, Angular enforces a more rigid way of building dynamic web applications, often leaving developers to work within the framework's scope rather than having complete control over the application structure.

  4. Debugging complex Angular applications can be more challenging due to the component interactions, modules, and dependency injection.

  5. Angular code can sometimes be more verbose. This can be attributed to the use of Angular components, modules, and explicit dependency injection, which, while promoting maintainability, can lead to a feeling of boilerplate code, especially for developers coming from frameworks with a more minimalistic approach.

By carefully considering the above advantages and disadvantages of Angular, you can decide if it’s suitable for your next project.

#Flexibility with React

React is a popular declarative, efficient, and adjustable JavaScript library used for building interactive web interfaces. With React, developers can break down complex UIs into smaller components.

In 2010, Facebook engineer Jordan Walke created a React prototype for internal use. It had different names, and it was eventually open-sourced as React at the US JSConf in 2013. React's ability to update parts of the application without full reloads, and its one-way data flow system propelled it to popularity among developers.

#Key features of React

  1. Component-based architecture: React applications are built using reusable components. Each component has its logic, presentation (HTML template), and style (CSS).

  2. Virtual DOM: React uses a virtual DOM - a lightweight representation of the real Document Object Model in memory. When changes are made to the UI, React checks the differences between the real and virtual DOM and updates only the necessary parts of the real DOM, resulting in improved page speeds.

  3. JSX (JavaScript Syntax Extension): React uses JSX, a popular syntax extension for JavaScript that allows you to write HTML-like structures within your code. This improves readability for UI components.

  4. One-way data flow: React involves a one-way data binding system, where data is passed down from parent components to child components. This simplifies reasoning about how data changes affect the UI and makes the application state more predictable.

#Companies using React

The following is a list of prominent companies that have chosen the React library to power their user interfaces:

  1. Facebook - Facebook.com, Instagram
  2. Whatsapp - WhatsApp Web.
  3. Shopify - Shopify.com, Shopify Admin
  4. Airbnb - Airbnb.com
  5. Netflix - Netflix.com

#Advantages of React

  1. A significant advantage of React is its gradual learning curve, particularly for those already familiar with JavaScript. The well-structured official documentation and developer communities build tutorials to bolster this ease of use.

  2. React functionalities like server-side rendering and code splitting contribute to fast page loads and a smoother user experience.

  3. Although React apps would struggle with indexing due to their rendering on the client side, they will rank higher in Google search results due to their fast load times.

  4. React apps are generally fast and responsive because the virtual DOM compares the underlying changes before updating the real DOM with the corresponding changes.

  5. React's flexibility comes from its being a library rather than a framework. It doesn’t enforce a specific structure or architecture, allowing developers to build projects with an extensive suite of third-party libraries.

Even though React is a powerful and popular open-source framework, it still has some drawbacks.

#Disadvantages of React

  1. React applications, like Angular applications, also apply client-side rendering, making it challenging for search engines to crawl and index interactive content. You’ll need to make a conscious effort to implement server-side rendering (SSR).

  2. The maintainability of React codebases is considered an issue due to the rapidly evolving React ecosystem. Updating a React project and its dependencies from a year ago requires a lot of work to manage numerous minor, major, and breaking changes.

  3. The React ecosystem is vast and expanding, with additional libraries and tools available. This can be overwhelming, especially for new developers, and can lead to decision fatigue when choosing the right tools for a project.

  4. React is primarily concerned with building powerful user interfaces and will require additional tools, including react-router-dom and redux, to introduce routing and state management features.

Despite the above disadvantages, React remains one of the leading JavaScript libraries for web application development. This is precisely why many major companies and large enterprises leverage React for their applications.

Let’s look at how popular both technologies are among developers.

#Stack Overflow

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React ranked higher in both desire and appreciation, according to the 2023 Stack Overflow Developer Survey, which surveyed over 7k engineers. Most respondents (63.61%) thought highly of React, and over a third (32.25%) indicated a desire to use it. By contrast, only 13.86% of developers wanted Angular, whereas 50.75% thought it was amazing.

#GitHub

As of May 2024, React has a far larger community of developers on GitHub, with over 222k stars on its repository, than Angular, which has around 94.6k stars on its repository. This significant star gap suggests a more extensive user base and a more engaged community.

The survey results and GitHub stars indicate that React is more popular with developers because of its flexibility and ease of learning. Angular attracted much less attention. However, it's important to note that these survey results and ratings may not directly translate to real-world project decisions.

The in-depth comparison and stats above will help you decide which framework to use in your project development.

#When to use Angular

Angular provides the @angular/platform-server API to support SSR, making the setup process easier than starting from scratch. As a well-thought-out, opinionated, and complete framework with built-in features like dependency injection and modules, Angular excels at handling large and complicated applications.

Angular introduced TypeScript in production before it was cool, so if your team is staffed with TypeScript developers, adopting Angular would require less hassle.

Angular and Hygraph

Considering Angular for your next project? While Angular boasts a convenient two-way data binding system that can streamline development in smaller applications, it can also lead to complex data flows in larger projects. Additionally, manually fetching and updating data outside the component tree using services and observables can add development overhead. Separating application logic from content through a Content Management System (CMS) becomes important in this scenario.

Hygraph is a GrapQL-based headless CMS that provides a central location to manage all your application's content, structured through a flexible GraphQL schema.

It provides a user-friendly interface for content management. This clear separation of concerns streamlines development workflows. Developers can concentrate on crafting the application logic and functionalities. At the same time, the content teams can manage and update content through Hygraph's interface without any prior knowledge of Angular or the application's codebase.

#When to use React

Because it minimizes needless DOM manipulations and enables rapid rendering, React is the go-to choice for applications that demand frequent UI updates and dynamic interactions.

React's component-based architecture makes it perfect for applications with rich user interfaces and many reusable components.

React has a vast and active developer community, translating to many ready-made solutions, libraries, and tools. If an application requires certain unique features, the community likely already built and open-sourced them.

React and Hygraph

Like React, Hygraph enables you to construct content in modular, reusable units and deliver it through a high-performance API. With a clearly defined data structure for each React component, employing Hygraph’s matching data schema becomes a no-brainer.

Moreover, adding a CMS is just as essential to developer productivity. It allows them to do what they know best: build great user experiences while business teams manage the content in an optimized interface.

#Which way forward?

Deciding between Angular and React for technology isn’t straightforward. Both tools share some common features and offer some distinct advantages. This in-depth history and analysis will help you better understand them and decide based on your project's requirements.

Choosing the proper technology can be challenging because of React and Angular's rich features and limitations. While Angular is best suited for large-scale enterprise applications due to its ordered architecture and built-in capabilities, React thrives in producing performant single-page applications (SPAs) and interactive user interfaces (UIs) because of its broad ecosystem and flexible component-based approach.

Blog Author

Chidi Eze

Chidi Eze

Technical writer

Chidi is a software engineer and technical writer with experience in building user-friendly applications and creating content around composable architectures.

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