A deep dive into two of the most popular web technologies

“Though modern Americans have more choice than any group of people ever has before, and thus, presumably, more freedom and autonomy, we don’t seem to be benefiting from it psychologically.” – The Paradox of Choice

While psychologist Barry Schwartz may have been talking about the connection between an abundance of choice and our overall happiness, front end developers can understand where he’s coming from.

So, let’s look at one of the biggest choice dilemmas out there: React vs Angular.

We’ll look at the similarities between these two frameworks and dive deeper into understanding which one is right for which applications, and hopefully give you a better understanding of what tech is best for you.

Modern applications require a certain style and choosing the right tools is crucial. You want to present an app or website to your viewers that rides like a Lamborghini instead of the old beater that you drove in college. When it comes to software development, the smoother the web ride, the bigger the payoff.

Angular and React are both cutting edge digital tools able to create a platform that is simple, yet elegant. So how do you choose?

The first step is to familiarize yourself with these two mainstream web application framework tools. Once you understand the pros and cons of each, you’ll be in a position to make an educated choice as to which is right for you.

What is AngularJS?

AngularJS is the big dog in this fight. The JavaScript-based, open-source web app framework was first introduced in 2009 by Google and has been used to build apps such as Google Apps, Getty Images, Udemy, and even Amazon.

The platform relies heavily on directives—a combination of various attributes and custom HTML elements designed to improve the functionality of the DOM.

Angular contains everything a developer needs to set up the client-side of a website. The full-sized framework design offers some key advantages such as:

  • Angular directives
  • Dependency injection
  • Two-way data binding
  • Templating engine
  • Form validation

Angular works to create single-page applications. In other words, new content can load without requiring the user to leave the page or app. Think social media sites like Facebook. The newsfeed updates in real time, so the viewer sees new posts as they happen.

The downside to the full package concept is that developers must follow some strict rules when working with Angular. It is not enough to be well versed in JavaScript programming—you must know all the ins and outs of Angular, as well.

What is ReactJS?

ReactJS is not exactly the same thing as Angular, which is why comparing these two products doesn’t really work that well.

React is an open-source JavaScript library designed specifically for rendering views, not a full framework development platform like Angular. It’s a performance-minded view renderer introduced and managed by the Facebook team.

Some companies currently using ReactJS include Netflix, Yahoo, Atlassian, and of course, Facebook.

React is more like the engine of that Lamborghini whereas Angular is the entire car. But it is a very good engine. Unlike many framework packages available on the market, React can handle large amounts of data. Instead of rendering all of the data at one time, React focuses only on what has changed. If you post a list of 100 items and then change number 75, React only renders that one item.

Some of the advantages of ReactJS include:

  • The Virtual DOM
  • JXS files
  • Server-side rendering

ReactJS creates one-way reactive data flow using a virtual DOM. It compares the virtual DOM to the active DOM to decide when to make changes.

Angular vs. React

Angular and React are not equal competitors and they may actually complement one another. When forced to make a choice between the two, there are a few things you want to consider.

Packaging

Packaging refers to running and deploying code however you want. Angular is a tricky platform. It demands you do things the ‘Angular’ way. This is why most founders hire an experienced Angular developer, one that is familiar with how this platform works.

Angular is also limited when it comes to packaging. The framework offers mostly HTML templates that are rigid and difficult to customize without considerable expertise.

React, on the other hand, works in simple JavaScript, allowing for easier manipulation. If you are just getting started, then you’ll focus on the minimum features necessary to make the app work and then add as you go.

The flipside of that coin is if you want something that is already structured then Angular is an ideal option. You can use an established template for faster deployment of an app that has a sleek, contemporary style

“​React is more like the engine of that Lamborghini whereas Angular is the entire car. But it is a very good engine.”

Data Injection

Angular uses scopes—objects that contain the data for the various directives and controllers—to inject data. This gives the framework flexibility for introducing data. Scopes come in one of three types:

  • Two-way binding: Reflects changes on both parent and child sides
  • One-way binding: The data flows only from child to parent
  • Text-binding: A string value with no binding information

React, on the other hand, injects data as it constructs the rendered view, instead of having it flow in real time.

Directives

Directives are what really make Angular stand out. They control just about everything from event handlers to nested views to loops. This makes for a fuller framework, but one that takes some expertise to master.

When to use Angular vs React

When you are in the development stage, it’s important to have a comprehensive platform to get you to the finish line faster. Angular allows you to enhance your brand while decreasing the development time because you leverage existing templates.

The downside is, it doesn’t work well if your app is dynamic or if it shifts through large amounts of data.

React is a practical choice if you do need to render lots of data because it focuses only on what changes. React will not work with older browsers, though, and it requires the developer to do some innovative coding, so you can expect the app to take longer to implement.

Angular is more of the full package—one that gets you from design to launch quicker. In some cases, React might be worth installing, as well, but only if AngularJS can’t do the job for you.


Not every person who has a great idea for the web or mobile app has the expertise necessary to develop it, especially when faced with difficult choices like whether to use React vs. Angular. It takes time to master the complexity of app development.

An experienced developer can look at your project and come up with a strategy that leverages one or both of these tools to get your app functional. No two app projects are alike. For some, Angular is the right choice, for others, React might be better

Jory MacKay

Editor at Crew. Writer. Reader. Coffee drinker.

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