Bad news first.
Between these three, there’s no clear winner that should be most definitely used in your next project to achieve mind–blowing success.
On the other hand… that can be good news as well.
If you’ve already settled on one framework or a library — as a developer eager to learn new, profitable skills, or a product owner, who plans an innovative product — you don’t have to be scared that your choice is wrong. Although people from all over the world constantly argue on which of these three technologies is the best one, the truth is, most of that falls into personal preferences.
Still, we’ve taken care to point out the benefits and drawbacks of each technology that got summed up in a table comparison featured at the end of the article. For those who don’t have enough time to read it all, scroll all the way down.
Angular — not to be confused with AngularJS — is a robust, full–fledged web application framework based on TypeScript, free and open–sourced. It’s most often used in developing Single–Page Applications (SPA), but it also gets an excellent job done with Progressive Web Applications, Enterprise Web Apps, and ERP systems. Most of all, it’s geared towards complex projects that are worked on by many different teams simultaneously.
Angular offers all the built–in features a developer might need to create a successful web app. It’s a powerful framework that can be used on its own, without the need for any external tools. The drawback — Angular always dictates the steps. But it doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
Angular — also known as Angular 2 — was released by Google in September 2016, six years after releasing AngularJS, its predecessor.
AngularJS, created by Miško Hevery — a Google employee that simply wanted to develop a side project that could help building other projects — was doing very well for itself ever since its release in 2010. But it only took four years for the web to change enough to require new alterations made to AngularJS. Which, in the end, were deemed as impossible — no matter what, AngularJS just couldn’t effectively handle mobile app development or large enterprise applications.
But there were still many voices advocating for AngularJS, just like many companies were using it. Questions like “is AngularJS dead” were answered negatively. But alas, currently AngularJS is on the Long Term Support period that should last till December, 2021. After that, no future releases, fixes, or upgrades will be ever deployed.
Fortunately for Google, Angular’s been a real hit all those years, chosen as the most loved framework by 55.82% of respondents in the Stack Overflow 2021 survey. It’s used by Paypal, Santander, Forbes, Upwork, Samsung, and Deutsche Bank. And of course — Google.
Since Angular is supported and used by Google, there’s no fear that it’ll be put aside for other technologies. You can count on Angular being maintained in the long–term and that all the issues will be resolved with time.
Besides being under the virtual wings of Google, an active community of developers is also responsible for taking care of Angular. That’s why it’s easy to find lots of useful development tools, plugins, add–ons, and packages. And of course, if you ever stumble into a problem, the community can always help you out.
Whether you’d like to develop progressive web apps, native mobile apps, or desktop–installed apps — you can do all three with the help of Angular with no additional help needed. How come?
Angular is flexible and platform–independent, which means that the code is reusable and the concepts are very similar, if not the same, across all the platforms. This in turn results in a faster web development process and saved money.
Angular is a fully–fledged framework with integrated features, meaning that no external libraries or tools are necessary. Data binding, routing, project generation, and form validation are already a part of Angular’s package.
Out of all the frameworks, Angular is considered to be the most robust one, offering everything you need for the most complex of projects.
Since Angular’s architecture is both predictable and opinionated — and the code is highly readable as well as consistent — it’s easy to involve many teams to work on the same project, be it a tiny web app to enterprise–sized monstrosity. And if anything changes in the middle — the app needs some more room to grow or it has to be compressed — it’s fairly easy to employ, without needing to worry about upsetting the whole structure.
Although Angular is well–known for having a steep learning curve, it comes with very detailed documentation that explains each aspect of the framework in a clear, concise way. Additionally, each explanation is supported by code examples. In case of any issues or problems, finding quick solutions is basically effortless.
It is rather complex though and failing to understand the basics might result in having trouble making sense of the rest of it.
Based on TypeScript
TypeScript brings additional benefits. It’s predictable, the code is clean and understandable, and the bugs are easy to spot, leading to pretty effortless debugging. Fast refactoring, good autocompletion, and navigation are also notable features.
Steep Learning Curve
Angular isn’t for the weak. It requires a thorough reading of the documentation to grasp the handle of the set of rules that applies to Angular. This framework is very opinionated, meaning that it comes with its own way of doing things, not offering a lot of flexibility.
Besides that, there are also many complex principles to master. It’s essential to learn Angular’s unique syntax, components and directives, object–oriented programming, NgModules, templates, bidirectional binding, and many other things. For a beginner, this framework can be overwhelming — knowing HTML, CSS, and JS won’t help much. But it’s definitely easier for backend developers.
Bundle size of the final product is a crucial factor influencing the performance — the smaller the bundle, the faster the page speed. Unfortunately, Angular leans towards the bulkier side. In many cases, that means lots and lots of megabytes, which is a point of frustration for many developers.
The difference is especially noticeable with small applications — an Angular project will always weigh more than a React or Vue one. But with big applications, all three technologies should weigh similarly.
React’s main purpose is to create dynamic, interactive user interfaces, most often for Single–Page Applications (SPA). Its main strengths lie in being rather lightweight, the use of declarative components, and extremely fast development.
In 2011, React took over Facebook’s News Feed, and it was deployed after its success on Instagram one year after that. During JSConf US in May 2013, React was announced to be open–source, and to this day, 9836 companies reported to use it — companies like Twitter, Netflix, Airbnb, Uber, Shopify, Amazon, and many more.
Reusable and Declarative Components
React, having a component–based architecture, encourages developers to reuse as much of the code as possible. All the pieces that together make great user interfaces can be used elsewhere, significantly speeding up the development process. How’s that possible? Each component is independent and has its own logic, therefore making the “write once, and use everywhere” principle easy to adhere to.
Additionally, component–based architecture facilitates cohesive design, ensuring a reduced amount of discrepancies across the whole project.
Moreover, all the components are declarative in nature. Writing exact steps for how a component is supposed to behave is unnecessary since React takes care of that for you. You only have to describe the desired outcome and trust the library to do its job.
React’s highly praised for its fast performance, which is a direct result of using Virtual DOM instead of a regular one.
A Document Object Model is a representation of the web page that clearly presents its structure and all its contents. It serves as an application programming interface (API) that allows access to the page to manipulate it.
But because DOM was created to serve static UI pages, whenever it updates, it updates the whole structure with all its objects (also called as nodes), which is an unnecessary overkill that slows down the performance.
Virtual DOM solves that problem in an elegant way. It makes sure that no changes will be made to the tree before it calculates the best and most efficient way to do so. Until that happens, all the changes are stored in the virtual DOM’s memory. This way, the number of necessary updates lowers, improving the performance of the app.
One–Way Data Flow
To achieve code stability, as well as to ensure easy debugging and maintenance, unidirectional data flow has been introduced. All the data can be transferred in one direction, so that child components can’t influence parent components. Because of that, any issues are easy to track down — it’s enough to follow the current. It also gives much better control to developers over what’s happening in the app.
Due to the immense popularity of React, there’s help available everywhere. Many developers are eager to share their experiences and the internet is full of useful tips, tricks, and proven solutions. If you ever have a question, someone has probably answered it already.
You can also count on many comprehensive tutorials and guides to be available for free, which are especially valuable to beginners. There are also many web development blogs focused on React, just like podcasts and Youtube channels.
Additionally, since React is open–sourced and welcoming any contribution, there’s a lot of tools, external libraries, frameworks, plugins, and anything else you might need during development available.
Because of the fast performance, projects made with the help of React have a better chance to rank high in search engines. Being lightweight and having a meaningful structure helps as well, just like server–side rendering (most often with the help of Next.js). It ensures the page’s quick loading and that every piece of content will be indexed by search engines’ bots.
There’s actually a reason for the abundance of tools mentioned above — React doesn’t have too many built–in features, which is a double–edged sword. For some, the simplicity can be a bonus — especially in smaller projects — but for others, having to find, install and learn to use external tools might be too bothersome.
Also, the plethora of different tools might lead to less clean and consistent code, compared to Angular.
The last thing to remember is that React handles only the view part of any web app. That’s why it’s necessary to involve other technologies for the full experience.
Rapid Pace of Development
Another danger, which may at first seem like a great benefit, is the rapid pace of development. React speeds the process so much it may be hard to follow at times, especially in bigger teams that have yet to achieve good communication. The environment doesn’t know how to take a break as well, spitting out updates left and right. For some developers, this might be downright overwhelming.
Since the updates are appearing so fast, they often lack proper and complete documentation. Oftentimes, developers must write their own instructions, but first they have to struggle figuring out the ins–and–outs of the new release or tool.
If Angular and React can be considered as two extremes, then Vue sits right in the middle. It has more features than React — like state management or router — but it’s still lightweight, simple, flexible, and easiest to learn out of the three.
Vue’s origins are a bit special, compared to the other two. It was a personal project of Evan You, who by that time was working for Google. Having to work with AngularJS (not to be confused with Angular) on a daily basis, Evan appreciated some of its features — like data binding and a data–driven approach to DOM — but considered it too heavy of a framework. So he created a lightweight, templating library that was open–sourced in February 2014 and officially called Vue.js.
With the help of the devoted community, Vue quickly gained new features and became a full–fledged framework. Currently, it’s being supported and further developed by an international team.
Vue is the youngest and least popular of all three technologies, but it’s still being used by 3232 companies, and among them are Alibaba, Gitlab, Glovo, Grammarly, and TrustPilot.
Getting it ready to work is also quick and effortless.
Vue is immensely adaptable, offering developers lots of creative freedom. They’re not restricted to one way of doing things — they can do as they please, use resources at hand, and come up with new solutions that best suit their needs and circumstances. Moreover, Vue is easy to integrate with other libraries or existing projects, which is possible due to Vue being focused on the view layer only.
Moreover, Vue is highly scalable. Be it creating small, interactive parts of user interfaces or developing Single–Page Applications — it gets the job done just as well in both of those cases. But since Vue is lightweight, it has its limitations, so at times Angular might be a better choice.
Any web app done with the help of Vue is going to be light in size, resulting in quick timeload and little strain on the bandwidth. It also has great startup times and memory allocation.
Additionally, there’s no need to worry about optimization, since Vue does it well enough on its own. It tracks component’s dependencies during render, so whenever state changes, only the necessary components go through re–render.
State Management? Check — Vuex.
Unit testing? Check — Vue Test Utils.
Client–side routing? Check — Vue Router.
Project scaffolding and plugin management? Check — Vue CLI.
Debugging browser extension? Check — vue–devtools.
Vue got you all covered, offering a wide range of tools and libraries to make the development process a breeze. The best part — since Vue is progressive, all those things can be added to the project gradually, whenever the need arises.
Due to the size and weight of apps made with Vue, as well as how clear and simple the code is, maintenance is relatively easy. Calling debugging challenging is also a gross exaggeration.
When it comes to updating, Vue offers as much backward compatibility as possible, so worrying whether new features or fixes will upset the whole structure in a domino–style way is unfounded.
Additionally, refactoring won’t be necessary too often, saving time and resources of everyone involved in the project.
Learning From Mistakes
Vue, being the newest technology out of the three, had the additional time to analyze its competitors, appreciate their best values, and learn from their mistakes. That’s why someone already familiar with both Angular and React might get a slight feeling of déjà vu — seeing Angular–like syntax and directives or a virtual DOM resembling React’s.
Out of the three, only Vue is not supported by a large corporation. So far it’s been diligently (and successfully) maintained by the community, but if Vue ever takes a dip in popularity, contributors might lose interest. Or even switch to another technology altogether, once another tech giant will come up with a good enough competitor. That’s why for some, investing time and effort into a framework that might turn out to be a passing trend won’t be beneficial in the long run.
Too Much Freedom
Although we’ve been praising Vue’s flexibility, it’s a mixed blessing in disguise. When too many people on the team utilize their own unique solutions that don’t go well with others, it might lead to lots of bugs, errors, and weird patches of code that might make future maintenance more difficult. Some may say that Vue development can be unpredictable at times, especially when developers feel the unnecessary need to experiment.
Due to Vue’s rising popularity in China — with giants like Xiaomi, Baidu, and Alibaba adding Vue to their technology stack — a big part of the community is restricted to the Chinese language only. That’s why many elements of Vue can be found only in Chinese, just like many discussions, descriptions, and instructions. This language barrier can be especially problematic while looking for solutions to certain problems.
Angular vs React vs Vue: Key Takeaways
All libraries and frameworks are supposed to make life easier, so it doesn’t make sense to choose a technology that will hinder your efforts just because it’s on a trend. If you’re a developer, it’s smart to pick up skills that are valuable in the sector you’re pursuing, and which go well with what you already know. If you’re a product owner, it’s good to consider your resources, technology stack already in use, and the capabilities of your team.