Let’s explore some of the best JS frameworks available int he markets for web application development.
Angular.js is a popular open-source front-end development framework which is mainly used for developing dynamic single-page web applications (SPA).
AngularJS transfers all the contents from the server to the browser along with loading all the web pages simultaneously. Once the contents are loaded, clicking on any link on the page does not reload the entire page content; instead, it simply updates the sections within the page.
Large organizations like PayPal, Freelancer, LinkedIn, Lego, Hopscotch and several others are powering their UIs by AngularJS.
The most significant difference between traditional sites and Angular powered sites is that Angular expects the browser to build the page. This does not put a lot of load on the server and consequently results in faster loading of pages.
Angular initially was dependent on TypeScript which allows it to be more consistent in open source projects. However, with the latest Angular version, it is much more than that.
It has a router and supports form validations inherently. It completes the user experience by controlling the navigation between pages and managing the user behavior and actions.
Angular has been developed with the vision of making it modular, testable and maintainable. Thus, it sums up to be an excellent framework for front-end development.
- Data-binding – The two-way data-binding feature saves developers from writing a lot of code. It is the automatic synchronization of data between model and view components.
- Templates – The HTML templates are parsed by the browser directly into the DOM.
- Dependency Injection – js has built-in dependency injection (DI) that helps natural development, understanding, and testing.
- Directives – With this feature, it becomes easy to create custom HTML tags that act like new custom widgets. It can also be used to manipulate DOM attributes.
- It can be configured in MVC as well as MVW architecture
AngularJS is a cross-platform framework. The code is clean, comfortable to understand and contains fewer errors due to controller and data based rendering.
React is a library used for developing UI applications. It was released in 2013 and has been a fastest growing JS framework in today’s world.
React.js is most preferred when a high performing enterprise application needs to be delivered to its users. It is powered by user interfaces like that of Instagram and Facebook.
There has been a constant war between choosing Angular and React. React is more flexible when compared to Angular since developers will have to work with independent libraries with comparatively better response time. React is excellent when it comes to handling small and stateless functions that receive an input and return elements as their output. It focuses on JS ES6, and Flow can be used to enable type-checking in React.
Every project in React has a different architecture along with limited guidance and hence, it is easy to go wrong. React is mainly used for the V (view) in the MVC model since the UI can be updated without having to reach out to the server and fetch a new view.
When there are multiple views for an application, ReactJS is the best choice, since for every view a different widget is needed. Various components or widgets can be then dumped onto the views. Using Angular for Views is not a good idea since it can lead to a lot of complications and unwanted problems. Hence, ReactJS is best used for building widget-based views.
- Components: React is declarative and component based. The web pages are divided into small components to create UIs. The component feature comes in handy when it’s about maintaining code while working with large-scale projects.
- Data binding: One-way data binding along with an application infrastructure called Flux controls. One-way data flow makes it easy to reason about an application and Flux is a pattern that keeps data unidirectional.
- A React.JS based page consists of a virtual DOM. For every DOM object, there is a representation (copy) of that DOM object.
- You can use React with other frameworks like Angular.js, Backbone.js quite easily.
- Maintaining React is easy and straightforward due to its component-based architecture and reusability of the defined components.
- React can be used on the server-side as well as on client-side thus making it possible to distribute the rendering load from server to client if needed.
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Ember is also an open-source framework that lets developers create a single page and large web applications. Ember has been a highly opinionated framework which was built to be very flexible.
While Angular and React are flexible and less opinionated, Ember makes a lot of assumptions about the application and makes a developer confirm to its expectations.
A complete development stack can be formed by using Ember and other important tools. Ember has a widget based approach called as Ember components. Handlebars layout and Ember’s backend architecture allows writing developers own application-specific HTML tag.
Handlebars integrated templates update automatically when the underlying data changes along with significantly lesser coding. Websites like LinkedIn, Vine and Live make use of Ember. It is also used to build desktop and mobile applications.
One of the most notable uses of Ember is in Apple Music, the desktop application. Ember has a powerful routing system when compared to React or Angular.
In case of updates, Ember is ahead of many frameworks, with new features being frequently added.
- Ember works on the Model-view-view model (MVVM) pattern and follows Convention over Configuration (CoC)
- Ember-CLI: Ember’sCLIprovides standard application structure and builds pipelines. It is a command line utility that comes along with the Ember framework’s software stack.
- Ember Templates: Templates are built into the UI which are written with Handlebars templating language.
- Ember Inspector tool is useful for debugging applications.
- HTML and CSS form the core of the development model in Ember
- The Ember data library is excellent
- Many Ember add-ons are provided which can be added to an application
- Testing tools are built-in, and UIs are nested
- Client-side rendering and URL support available
- Minimizes the DOM
A great thing that Ember users prefer over the other frameworks is its friendly API which is easy to understand and work with. It allows harnessing complicated functionalities in an easy to understand way. With the convention over configuration, everything is ready and configured for a developer to start a project right away.
Vue.js was released in 2014 and is the fastest growing framework adopted by developers. It is a lightweight progressive JS framework which gets a lot of its concepts from ReactJS and AngularJS.
It has a template style similar to Angular and has component based props just like ReactJS. Vue provides an easy and fast fix for applications, UI, and an interactive web interface development. It can power advanced single page web applications.
The most significant advantage of choosing Vue over React is that in Vue, the component’s dependencies are tracked automatically during its rendering. Thus, the system knows which component needs to be re-rendered when a state changes.
This prevents extra work needed for optimization and lets the developer focus more on building the app.
Vue offers render functions, supports JSX and a valid HTML can also be a valid Vue template. The method of styling in Vue is through style tags in single-file components. Single-file components give full access to CSS in the same file as that of the other component code.
- Templates: Vue uses HTML based template syntax. All the templates in Vue are valid HTML that is parsed with the help of HTML parsers and spec-compliant browsers. Writing render functions can be done sing JSX.
- Transitions: Vue allows application of transition effects when items are inserted, removed or updated from the DOM.
- Components: This is considered to be one of the most powerful features. Components extend the basic HTML elements to enclose reusable code.
- It has a tiny footprint
- Easy to understand and develop
- Flexible and simple to integrate
Vue proves to be more flexible and modular front-end development framework when compared to Angular. It consists of a clear separation between the components and directives.
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It offers MVP network, which abstracts the data into models, Document Object Model (DOM) into views and binds these two using events.
Unlike other frameworks, Backbone puts the developer in charge of choosing the right tool that works best for a given project. A templating engine of its own does not exist in Backbone.
Companies like Sony Entertainment Network, Airbnb, and SoundCloud use Backbone.js for their projects. Companies and developers use Backbone due to its ability to use any code as its controller while keeping the controller optional.
The excellent support for RESTful APIs allows mapping of models to RESTful endpoints. It is also important to note that two-way data binding is avoided in Backbone since it is not very useful for real-world apps. Both Backbone and Angular are good at handling smaller pages, but as the page grows, the two-way data binding feature in AngularJS starts showing a decreased performance.
In Backbone, on the other hand, developers have to write the binding on their own. This might increase the amount of code but provides the benefit of focusing on improving performance without having to take care of the underlying framework and hence proves to be better than Angular in such a scenario.
- RESTful JSON interface: Backbone is a framework/ library that has a RESTful JSON interface, based on the Model-view-presenter (MVP) application model. JSON is a format which is light-weight and performs data serialization while the RESTful interface is one that consists of the characteristics of the REST architecture.
- Syncing with back-end: Models in Backbone.js can be tied to a back-end since Backbone provides excellent support for RESTful APIs.
- Event-driven: Event-driven communication between views and models prevents the code from being hard to read.
- Backbone adopts an imperative programming style when handling DOM.
- Backbone has a hard dependency with Underscore.js and a soft dependency with jQuery.
- In case of any changes in a model, the HTML code is automatically updated.
- It is a simple library that separates UI and business logic.
- It consists of over 100 extensions. It helps in organizing codes and acts as a backbone for any project.
Backbone is also considered to be the best “Model” and “Controller” for ReactJS to complete the MVC pattern. While Angular offers templating through dynamic HTML attributes added to documents, Backbone builds off Underscore templates which give it a format similar to Ember.
It is tiny (less than 8KB gzip), fast, provides routing and XHR utilities. It supports all the browsers like IE9 without the requirement of any polyfills.
Mithril is currently being used by companies like Nike and Fitbit and other open source platforms like Lichess. Mithril makes use of sophisticated and optimized virtual DOM algorithm to minimize the amount of DOM updates.
The reason why Mithril supports a rendering model which recreates the whole of virtual DOM tree is to provide a declarative API which makes it easier to manage UI complexity. Mithril is known to be pragmatic since it is straightforward to learn components, routing and XHR in less than 15 minutes to start building applications.
Mithril has in-built modules for XHR and routing while React needs third parties for the same along with a lot of memory usage. Also, the library load time and update performance of Mithril is fast when compared to React or Angular or even Vue! Vue.js’ size, also being small and compact, is still larger than Mithril. Unlike Vue, Mithril has lesser concepts and organizes apps regarding data layers and components.
- Core feature: Mithril gives hierarchical MVC components, URL routing, safe-by-default templates, customizable data binding.
- Components: In Mithril.js, components are created with an optional controller and a required view property.
- Performance: Mithril loads in under 5ms when compared to other frameworks. It is the fastest MVC library in the TodoMVC benchmark.
- It is orthogonal to the module system and compiled syntaxes, so developers are free to use ES3. ES5. ES6, asynchronous module definitions (AMD). It also includes a TypeScript definition
- Mithril has a very active development and proper documentation.
- It has an intelligent auto-redrawing system
- It is Flux compatible, robust and un-opinionated
When it comes to comparison with Angular, Mithril’s small codebase size allows easy auditing which makes it faster than Angular. Unlike Angular, Mithril provides introductory tutorials and extensive API references section which includes everything a developer needs to know while building apps.
Polymer is used by a lot of Google services and websites. It is being used by YouTube, Google Play Music and Netflix, to name a few. The polymer has started to gain recognition in the market with a lot of attention given to its structured design process. Since components are the biggest strengths of Polymer, it has better support for web components and has better offline modules when compared to React.
The power of React and Polymer can be used to have a more component-oriented future for web development. Polymer ‘s components and Angular’s directives show some kind of similarity but have a different approach to create custom HTML elements.
In Polymer, components are described into one HTML file while in Angular, components can be split into many files. Polymer is also considered to be one of the best to work with Spring Boot REST resources when compared to other JS frameworks.
- Web Components: The web component standards are helpful in the creation of usable widgets in web documentation and application. These components are re-usable web components. The components can also be used to break an app into right-sized pieces to make coding cleaner and less expensive.
- Data-binding: Both one-way and two-way data binding is possible with this library.
- Polyfills: It uses latest APIs for web platforms and provides polyfills for browsers. Polyfills are web component specifications which are used for creating own customized and reusable elements.
- Polymer is built on top of the web standards API which allows building custom HTML elements
- Provides gesture events along with conditional and repeat templates.
- Polymer provides the ability to compose encapsulated JS, CSS, and HTML as custom elements.
- Speed: It is three times faster in Chrome and four times faster on Safari.
- Polymer elements consist of designs and themes which mean prevents developers from modifying complex web page source code to match the designer’s need.
Having all that said, Google will soon be releasing the next-gen products which include LitElement, an ultra-light, custom element base class having an expressive and straightforward API. With the Chrome team having Polymer’s back, we can expect Web Components to be the future of building progressive web apps (PWA).
Node handles multiple requests asynchronously with a non-blocking single-threaded event loop which is well suited for distributed systems that make a lot of network requests. It is used by companies like Uber, PayPal, and Walmart which is a mirror to its global acceptance as a back-end language.
Mentioning a practical fact – At PayPal while using Node.JS for their application, they found that the app was built twice as fast with fewer files and code. It also doubled the requests per second and had a 35% faster response time. Compared to other frameworks, Node.JS is useful for generating database queries since JS is used to write queries for databases like MongoDB and CouchDB.
Another reason for choosing Node.JS can be that it can prove to be ideal for real-time collaborative or also editing-type apps where the user sees the document being modified live by another user like in Google Docs or Dropbox. In addition to that, Node.JS has the largest ecosystem of open source libraries, the npm package ecosystem. With the latest update of Node.js, it has better support for ESM.
- Proxy server: Node technology helps in streaming data from different sources and can be used to proxy some servers.
- No buffering: The applications in Node never buffer any data. This is because the applications output the data in chunks.
- Asynchronous and event-driven: The APIs of Node’s library is asynchronous which means that the server doesn’t wait for an API to return data; thus rendering the data asynchronously giving a faster response to every request.
- Scalable and single-threaded: Node uses single-threaded models which consist of event looping. This event mechanism helps servers to respond in an asynchronous way that makes the servers highly scalable. The single-threaded program that it uses can provide services to a large number of requests when compared to Apache HTTP server.
- Same code for client-side and server-side
- NPM package is very helpful since it contains all the files that are needed for a module.
- Node is very fast since it is powered by the Google’s V8 engine.
Meteor is also written in C or C++ and supports operating systems like Windows and Linux. It comes with the npm bundle so that developers can just type ‘meteor npm’ without them having to install it themselves.
Meteor.js supports the three main UI rendering libraries, Angular, React and Blaze (Blaze was created as a part of Meteor). A nice UX pattern in Meteor is the Optimistic UI. Optimistic UI prevents server roundtrips, and hence the user experience is fast when compared to React.js or Angular.
- Live-browser reloading: When there are changes to be made on the front-end, Meteor automatically reloads the live web pages. Integrated live reloading allows refreshing only the required DOM elements without reloading the entire page.
- Full-stack solution: Meteor provides a full-stack solution for developing and using web applications.
- Easy to set up and start creating projects.
- Highly scalable and beginner friendly.
In fact, if we look closely, Meteor is a combination of NodeJS, Blaze, Angular, React, Cordova and MongoDB and hence is called a ‘One for all package.’
Since Angular has all of its components bundled into one large pack, it becomes difficult to remove or change components in this architecture. Aurelia, on the other hand, consists of a vast collection of libraries that work together using well-defined interfaces so that it turns out to be completely modular.
It has an MV* approach like no other framework since there is no need to specify particular controllers of view models. It is more elegant and much simpler to understand when compared to React and Angular2. While Aurelia adopts a modern and reactive based approach in its binding system, Vue uses a virtual DOM, just like React.
Features and advantages of Aurelia.io
- Two-way data binding: Forms an efficient way of observing each property in a module and automatically syncing it to a UI, with the best performance.
- Extensible HTML: This feature of Aurelia, lets the developers create custom HTML elements along with adding custom attributes to existing elements with full support for dynamic loading, data-binding and batched rendering.
- Routing and UI Composition: Helps in using an advanced client-side router with its pluggable pipeline, child routers, and asynchronous screen activation.
- Broad language support: Aurelia supports ES5, ES2015, ES2016 and TypeScript. The APIs are designed in such a way that they are compatible with today’s and tomorrow’s popular web programming languages.
- Testing: Testable for ES2015 using DI container. Unit code testing is very simplified.
- It is easy and quick to configure and set it up for use
- It has a simple structure which makes the framework quicker and easier to learn
- It is very efficient and modular
Aurelia also provides a good coding and well-designed system to build SPAs without having to use any third party libraries. When compared to Mithril.js, Aurelia has a great CLI for faster development of projects which consist of hot reloads and generators. Developers looking for a great alternative to React or Angular can consider Aurelia to be a great option.