Tech 101: React JS vs Angular—What’s the Difference?
Table of Contents
- What is React JS?
- What is Angular?
- React JS vs Angular—What’s the Difference and Which One is Better?
- Which Platform Should You Learn First?
What is React JS?
You can read a much deeper definition of React JS in our Tech 101: What is React JS guide, but here’s the TLDR:
What is Angular ?
Now, the TLDR on Angular:
React JS vs Angular—What’s the Difference and Which One is Better?
Thanks to Virtual DOM, React is Slightly Faster
When it’s time for your dynamic page content to change based on a user action (let’s say a user enters a comment in a blog post form and pushes the “Comment” button) the entire DOM needs to reload to reflect this change. This is exactly what happens if you’ve created your interface through Angular, since Angular uses a traditional DOM model. React JS takes a different approach though, using something called a Virtual DOM.
Virtual DOMs (like the name implies) are copies of a site’s DOM that are created when you build a UI with React. React JS uses this copy to see what parts of the actual DOM need to change when an event happens (like that user clicking the “Comment” button). After scanning the Virtual DOM and locating the necessary changes, React is able to selectively update those sections of the actual DOM (bypassing the need to reload the entire thing).
What does this mean for React vs Angular performance? In isolated instances, reloading a DOM or using a Virtual DOM won’t make an appreciable difference, and Angular creates perfectly high performing UIs even with the traditional DOM model. That being said, when you start dealing with hundreds (or more!) content refresh requests on a single page, the loading time saved through React’s Virtual DOM approach adds up to a significant site performance boost (and a better experience for your users). Because of this, React JS gets the slight nod in terms of React vs Angular performance.
React is Great for Specializing, Angular is More Like a Swiss Army Knife
Using a smaller, more specialized tool like React, DeOms says, makes room for more versatility when your focus is building a UI. React JS allows you to use the library as much or as little as your project calls for, and React code can be arranged in multiple ways (vs Angular’s prescriptive format)—of course this requires a closer eye on whether you’re putting that code in the right places and in ways that follow best practices.
Meanwhile, React’s smaller scale means it won’t have all the same features out of the box that you’ll find with Angular—React can’t be used for some functions, like handling AJAX calls—but React JS library add-ons are usually a quick Google search or visit to the official React website away (in the case of AJAX calls, for instance, the React site has clear documentation on where to find the library extension you’re looking for).
It’s hard to pick a clear winner here, because it really depends on the specific needs of each web development project, but—unless you’re building a project from start to finish with Angular as your framework—React’s versatility will probably be easier to work with than Angular’s more template-based approach. And there’s also the learning curve to consider…
React Has Less of a Learning Curve
Since both React JS and Angular are effective tools for building UIs, it’s fair to ask: is one easier to use or learn than the other? DeOms says yes, and it’s the difference in learning curve that ultimately makes React a better starting point if you haven’t worked with either platform. So what’s the difference between both learning curves?
- If/else conditional logic
So Which Platform Should YOU Start With?
While DeOms says that neither platform is a bad choice, React JS is his recommendation as a starting point for building UIs:
“React is a great place to start when learning JS libraries, because it’s a very powerful, in-demand technology with a tremendous amount of community support. The React team provides excellent documentation for your reference both as a learner and as an experienced developer. Because of its simplicity and reliability, React has shown steady growth since its initial 2013 release and will continue to be my top recommendation for building most custom, dynamic user interfaces.”