Angular vs React: Which is Better and Why?

If you’re interested in web development, you’ve likely heard of React and Angular. But do you understand the differences between them? Why choose Angular vs React? 

First of all, these are the two most-used JavaScript frameworks for building web applications, according to the 2022 State of JS Survey. Before you choose a framework for your project, or decide which framework to learn, you’ll want to know more.

In this article, we’ll look at Angular and React, and compare their features and capabilities. We’ll consider the pros and cons of each, and when to use Angular vs React.

To jump directly to a specific section, click the headings below:

  1. What is Angular?
  2. What is React?
  3. Angular vs React: A comparison
  4. Angular vs React: When to use which
  5. Wrap-up

1. What is Angular?

Angular is a JavaScript framework used to build web and mobile applications. It’s developed and maintained by Google and follows a component-based architecture. This means an application is divided into smaller, reusable components. 

Angular uses TypeScript, which is a superset of JavaScript that adds static typing and other features. It has a large, active community of developers and is often used in enterprise-level projects.

2. What is React?

React is a JavaScript library used to build user interfaces of web and mobile applications. It’s developed and maintained by Meta (formerly Facebook), and has a strong focus on performance and scalability. 

A core feature of React is its virtual DOM (Document Object Model), which is used to update the view more efficiently. This means it only re-renders components that have actually changed, rather than the entire DOM tree. The purpose of this is to make React applications fast and responsive. 

React also uses JSX, which is HTML-like code within JavaScript. It has a big community of developers online who contribute to the library and is designed to be easy to use and learn.

You can learn more about it in our complete beginner’s guide to React.

3. Angular vs React: A comparison

Now that we’ve dived into what Angular and React are, let’s take a look at the differences between them. 

Below you can see the main areas where React and Angular diverge:

FeatureReactAngular
ArchitectureLibraryFull-featured framework
Language syntaxJavaScript (JSX)Typescript
Template syntaxJavaScriptHTML
Data-bindingOne-wayTwo-way
DOMRealVirtual
State managementExternal librariesBuilt-in (RxJS)
RoutingExternal librariesBuilt-in (RxJS)
FormsExternal librariesBuilt-in (RxJS)
TestingExternal librariesBuilt-in (RxJS)
Community size and supportLarge and activeLarge and active
Learning curveSteepModerate
Use casesSingle-page applications, mobile applicationsSingle-page applications, mobile applications, large-scale applications

Let’s break this down into two major areas.

Library vs. framework

One major difference between Angular and React is that Angular is a full-featured framework. With React you have more flexibility, but also more decisions to make about packages. This also means more maintaining and upgrading outside packages. On the flip side, you can decide exactly how you want to do things.

With Angular, you’re guided to do things in the “Angular” way. Angular is more opinionated than React. Everything is built in, from routing to testing to forms. One major benefit of this is that you’re less likely to introduce bugs from outside packages. There’s also less to separately maintain.

Data flow: One-way vs. two way data-binding

Another major difference between React and Angular is the way data flows through the application. Angular has a two-way data-binding. React has a one-way data flow, where information can only be passed from parent to child component. 

One advantage of two-way data binding is that it can make it easier to build applications. The model and view are always in sync. In this case, the “model” means the data and logic of an application. The “view” refers to the user interface of the application that’s interacted with by the user. 

With Angular and its two-way data binding, you don’t have to worry as much about keeping track of state. Nor about manually updating the user interface when the data changes. This can make it easier to build complex, interactive applications with Angular.

In contrast, React uses a one-way data flow. The model, i.e. state, is the source of truth. Changes to the model are passed to the user interface through the use of state. On the plus side this makes it easier to understand how data is flowing through an application. Testing and debugging is also easier. On the negative side, it means more manual effort from the developer. Changes to the state must be explicitly made so that they are reflected by the user interface.

Ultimately, the choice between Angular and React, and two-way data binding vs. one-way data flow will depend on the specific needs of your project, your team’s preferences, as well as their skills.

A JavaScript developer works remotely on his laptop.

4. Angular vs React: When to use which

We’ve covered the theoretical side of Angular vs React. You might be wondering, what does this actually mean for my project, and which should I choose?

There isn’t one correct answer. When to use Angular or React depends on your needs. Let’s go over some things to consider when making this choice:

Type of project

As discussed, Angular is a full-featured framework that is well-suited for building large-scale, complex applications. If you know your project will be large and complex, and plan to scale, Angular could be a better choice. This is because it provides a complete set of tools and features, including a router, a template engine, and a state management system. 

React, on the other hand, is more flexible. You can scale and increase complexity as needed by your project. React is a more lightweight library that is better suited for building single-page applications and mobile applications.

Team skills and preferences

Considering your team’s skills and preferences, and your future hiring needs is not something to be overlooked. 

Angular has a much steeper learning curve. It means you’ll need to look for engineers specifically familiar with Angular, or accept a longer ramp-up time. With React, if engineers are already familiar with JavaScript, the ramp-up time is less.

Angular uses TypeScript. If your team is already familiar with TypeScript or has experience with statically-typed languages, Angular may be a good fit. 

React, on the other hand, uses JavaScript and JSX, a syntax extension that allows developers to write HTML-like code within JavaScript. If your team is more comfortable with JavaScript and prefers a more flexible, dynamic language, React may be a better choice.

Architecture and complexity

As touched upon above, Angular has two-way data-binding which can lead to more complex and harder to maintain code. 

React has one-way data flow. This can make it easier to understand how data is flowing through an application, as well as to debug and test. You need to consider if the additional complexity of Angular is worth it.

Performance

It’s worth mentioning the difference between Angular version 1.0 and 2.0. While performance of Angular version 2.0 and React are similar, Angular version 1.0 definitely takes a hit compared to React. While most new projects will use the most recent version of Angular, it’s something to consider if you’re deciding to accept a position with legacy code.

Wrap-up

React and Angular are both powerful tools for building web and mobile applications. They each have their own strengths and weaknesses suited for a variety of projects.

The choice between Angular vs React will depend on the specific needs of your project and the skills and preferences of your team. Both frameworks have large, active communities of developers and lots of resources out there. The biggest point to consider is whether the increased complexity of Angular is a trade-off you want to make for the other benefits Angular offers.

Students of CareerFoundry’s Full-Stack Development Program get to grips with both Angular and React as part of their studies. They’ll learn how to build the frontend for their own API using React and Redux. This project, along with several others, will go into their web developer portfolio to enable them to attract employers once they graduate.

If you’re interested in reading more about JavaScript and the world of web development in general, check out these articles:

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