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September 4, 2023 - 6 minutes

React Programming: Where it Fits Into the Coding Language Ecosystem

Discover how to use React in your client-side development

Juliette Carreiro - Tech Writer

For those who are just starting out in the programming world, it’s important to know that most companies today carry out their development using at least one framework or library, sometimes using several. Regardless of the programming language used, be it PHP, Node.js, or Java, this offers programmers a predefined architecture and a series of resources that facilitates teamwork. 

Javascript has become the most popular and widespread language among programmers, thanks to its versatility and its wide variety of frameworks and libraries. Today we will discuss one of the most commonly used libraries in the front-end world that uses this language: React.

The profile of a fullstack developer must master various frameworks and libraries, both front and back end. Within all the front-end technologies, frameworks such as Angular, Vue, and today's protagonist, React, stand out. Thanks to these programming frameworks, a programmer can please even the most creative designers, creating any type of complex animation within the interface.

What is React? 

React.js was designed by Jordan Walke, a Facebook programmer, who tried to solve the problems that this social network encountered when incorporating ads. Although Walke's work began in 2010, it was not until May 2013 that Mark Zuckerberg's company launched React as an open-source solution. Since then, there have been many enthusiasts of this library that continue to contribute to its improvement.

Thanks to the work of Walke, Facebook, and all the programmers who have contributed to its optimization, we now have a tool that allows us to develop web applications in which the front-end views are directly associated with the back-end data they receive. Other alternatives to manipulating the elements of the DOM such as JQuery or even pure Javascript result in confusing and difficult to maintain code. React avoids these issues by proposing an architecture based on components, which are pieces of code that use HTML, CSS, and Javascript so that they contain both logic and presentation.

These components can be replicated and used in different parts of the application and in various interfaces, creating a more orderly, understandable, and well-orchestrated flow control. That is why React is one of the best alternatives when it comes to building Single Page Applications or SPAs which, as with the Facebook interface, load different visualizations in a single interface, without needing to reload the page.

React vs Angular vs Vue.js

Another premise that those who start in the programming world must never forget is that depending on the development they are looking to carry out, they will have to utilize some form of tool. Whether you plan to create a web application or simply to train yourself for a better position in the market, you will have to take into account various factors when choosing React, Vue, or Angular. 

Although all of them are used to build software, not all of them offer the same possibilities. They are neither equally agile nor do they allow for similar scalability. 

Let's review the main differences and similarities that exist between these frameworks and libraries so that our decision is as accurate as possible:

  • In a study carried out by the TechMagic firm, they analyzed up to 60,000 job offers and found that, by far, React is the library most in demand by technology companies worldwide.

  • This data shows the enormous possibilities that React offers compared to its competitors including Angular, the most powerful framework for many. 

  • Although there are those who question the reliability of this library when it comes to building large applications, the truth is that it is extremely reliable when offering optimal performance for any type of application, whatever the size. 

  • React’s reliability is demonstrated not only by its presence in the market, but also by the large technology companies that have employed React for their developments. 

  • Among the companies that have opted for React are Facebook, of course, as well as Airbnb, Slack and Dropbox. 

In contrast to Angular, which is a framework, both Vue and React are libraries (although this is a complex debate in which there are many points of view!). While the first one, built by Google, has a more powerful core, the other two need additional libraries to perform certain tasks. However, this is not a setback when working with React since its library has countless extensions built by the global community that uses it that allow you to perform any task with total reliability.

Although there are those who will say that this is a negative factor, the truth is that it presents an important advantage:

  • React provides greater freedom when choosing the resources that we like the most, those with which we feel most comfortable carrying out our developments and offer us good solutions. 

  • We can use Redux, which is extremely consistent, to handle the state of the application. 

  • Vue is a newcomer to the market (introduced in 2014) that still has a lot of room for improvement and does not have as many possibilities as React. 

  • Programming with Angular is much more restricted with more marked guidelines that hinder the developer’s freedom.

While Angular resorts to the real DOM, adding a further degree of complexity both when programming and debugging any possible bugs that might negatively impact performance, this does not happen with React. When interacting with the DOM using React, the interface itself does not resort to the real DOM but uses the virtual DOM, which is much more agile and makes the software much more dynamic. 

This is because the library conceived by Jordan Walke in the Facebook environment was created with the purpose of being simple to use, robust, and scalable. This greater freedom that Vue and React provide also allows a higher level of knowledge to be acquired in less time than with Angular. 

Finally, another advantage of React is that there are native libraries developed by Facebook, that adapt the architecture to applications for iOS and Android. This means that with a library like React Native, programmers with the knowledge already acquired and implemented in desktop applications can develop native apps for mobile environments.

Why Should You Use React?

As you can see, the gains you get from React are amazing. There are many possibilities offered by this library, regardless of the size of the project and the application you want to develop. In addition, as you can see from the comparison with Angular and Vue, React was conceived with the idea that it would be a simple tool to use. Contrary to a framework like Angular, we can master React programming quickly, allowing us to make the most out of it and become experts in a short time.

Benefits of using React

There are many other advantages we have not yet mentioned, like: 

  • It’s a declarative language, which makes it extremely easy to create interactive interfaces, since it is React that is responsible for updating and rendering the components when the data on the server-side undergoes any modification. 

  • The ability to use JSX, which is used as a preprocessor that saves us a lot of code, facilitates syntax, and is similar to writing HTML, which means we will be writing code that will be transformed into Javascript.

Getting started with React

If you want to dive into the world of React, you can do some test-runs:

  • The first thing you will have to do is install it on your computer. 

  • For this, you will have two options. The most common way is to install the npm packages and run them using the terminal, then install React as indicated in the instructions of the npm library. Then, make sure to request it in your app.js file so that you can use it. 

  • The second way is the most sophisticated and yields the best results. For this option, you would use the npx package designed by Facebook, which allows you to directly run the application in a much simpler way. 

  • In addition, you can resort to running the npx package create-react-app app-name and thus you will see how the entire architecture is generated so that executing it will be as simple as typing npm start on your console.

As we said at the beginning, choosing the tool that best suits what you are going to do is crucial. However, when you take your first steps into the programming world and start practicing, choose a versatile tool that allows you to make web applications and optimize them for mobile platforms in a short time. 

In today's market, React is the best choice. That’s why you will lay the foundations of programming with React and carry out your first developments with this library in Ironhack’s Web Development Bootcamp.

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