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June 30, 2020

React Programming: Where it fits into the Coding Language Ecosystem

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One of the most important things to know for those who are just starting out in the programming world is that most companies today carry out their development using at least one framework or library, sometimes using several of these. These types of tools are often used, regardless of the programming language used (be it PHP, Node.js, or Java), offering programmers a predefined architecture and a series of resources that facilitate 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 utilizes this language: React.

The profile of a Full-Stack developer must master various frameworks and libraries, both front-end 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? Some context about it...

React.js was designed by Jordan Walke, a Facebook programmer, who tried to solve the problems that this social network encountered when incorporating the 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 manipulate 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.

In this way, 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 the need 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 going to carry out, they will have to utilize some tools or others. 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 opting for either 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. So let's review the main differences and similarities that exist between these frameworks and libraries so that our decision is as accurate as possible.

Regarding the market and the influence that these tools have on it, it is important to take into account which one is more widespread and, therefore, which one will give you more opportunities to access a job. 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.

Source - TechMagic

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 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. In this way, we can use, for example, Redux, which is extremely consistent to handle the state of the application. Something similar happens with Vue, however, it 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, above all, React provide also allows a higher level of knowledge to be acquired in less time than in the case of Angular. 

Source - Hackernoon

Finally, another advantage of React with respect to Angular and Vue 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 use React?

As you can see, the gains you get from React are really 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 thus allowing the learning curve to be very steep. Contrary to a framework like Angular, we can master React Programming quickly allowing us to get the most out of it and become real experts in a short time.

What's more, there are many other advantages we have not yet mentioned. For example, the fact that it is a declarative language 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. Added to this is 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.

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, you will have to 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, an important premise in programming is to choose the tool that best suits what you are going to do. However, when you start in the programming world and start training, it is advisable to choose a versatile tool that allows you to make web applications, and optimize them for mobile platforms, in a short time. Hence, we can say with certainty that, in today's market, React is the best alternative. That is why in the Ironhack Web Development bootcamp, you will lay the foundations of programming with React and carry out your first developments with this library.


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