React

Why do we go for React.js?

This is a great choice to start with because it will expose you to concepts that will likely be prevalent in the web moving forward. Although the source code is just as unreadable as Angular’s, the core API is amazingly simple – just a handful of lifecycle methods.

The trade off is that React is, famously, only the V (view) in MVC. If you’re looking to work with remote data, you’re going to have to quickly look into additional frameworks like Flux to support your app. Navigating all of these additional technologies can be challenging for a beginner, especially since many of them are rapidly coming into and falling out of style.

6 Reasons why you should use React:


1. Fast Learning Curve

React is very a simple and lightweight library that only deals with the view layer. It is not a beast like other MV* frameworks such as Angular or Ember. Any Javascript developer can understand the basics and start developing an awesome web application after only a couple of days reading tutorial.

As the React guide says ‘Thinking in React’ may be a little different than you used to since it brings a new approach to the table, but it will become much easier and natural as you gain experience with it.

2. Reusable Components

React provides a component based structure. Components are your lego pieces. You start with tiny components like button, checkbox, dropdown etc. and the you create wrapper components composed of those smaller components. And then you write higher level wrapper components. And, it goes on like that until you have this one root component and that component is your app.

Each component decides how it should be rendered. Each component has its own internal logic. This approach has some amazing results. You can re-use components anywhere you need. As a result, (1) your app has consistent look and feel, (2) code re-use makes it easier to maintain and grow your codebase, and (3) it is easier to develop your app.

3. Fast render with Virtual DOM

When you are about to develop a web application that involves high user interaction and view updates, like the new form builder on JotForm 4.0, you have to consider the possible performance issues. Although today’s javascript engines are fast enough to handle such complex applications, DOM manipulations are still not that fast. Updating DOM is usually the bottleneck when it comes to the web performance. React is trying to solve this problem by using something called virtual DOM; a DOM kept in memory. Any view changes are first reflected to virtual DOM, then an efficient diff algorithm compares the previous and current states of the virtual DOM and calculates the best way (minimum amount of updates needed) to apply these changes. Finally those updates are applied to the DOM to ensure minimum read/write time. This is the main reason behind React’s high performance.

4. Clean Abstraction

One of the powerful sides of React is that it provides a good abstraction which means that it does not expose any complex internals to the user.

Compare this to Angular: Why on earth should you have to learn an internal process such as digest cycles? Those kind of details better be kept as internals to provide a clean abstraction. You only need to understand a component’s life cycles, states and props to master React to accomplish everything you need. React does not dictate any patterns or architecture like MVC/MVVM, after all its only about the view layer and you are free to design your app’s architecture in any way you see fit.

Yet there is one good architecture that fits React really well called Flux.

5. Flux and Redux

Flux architecture is introduced and maintained by Facebook and they use it for their web applications. It complements React components by unidirectional data flow. The overall structure is as follows.

The main idea is to create actions which are orchestrated by a central dispatcher to update stores. Then the views are updated with respect to the changes in that stores. All the data to be displayed by components are kept in stores and are not duplicated as models in MVC structure which saves you from trying to keep your model data in sync throughout the application all the time.

Unfortunately, flux is not a ready to use library but there are such implementations. The most popular one is Redux which is a kind of reinterpretation of flux architecture. It provides a single store which is not required in flux. In my opinion, this is a great decision you should make, for the sake of having a single source of truth. There is only one single object where you keep all the application data. This makes it easier to observe and manipulate. Any change on the store (data) will trigger a render for related components and the view is always kept in sync with data.

Another great feature of Redux is that you can define a middleware to intercept dispatched actions. Generally it used for logging, exception handling and async API calls but you can also write a middleware easily to solve all kinds of other problems.

If you choose to use redux it comes with a great dev tool. That will make things a lot easier for you.

6. Great Developer Tools

Developer toolset is another important factor when you are choosing a development platform. There are two great tools you should be aware of: React Developer Tools and Redux Developer Tools. Both can be installed as Chrome extensions.

If you are using the Redux library you should definitely take a look at Redux Developer Tools for Chrome. You can observe dispatched actions, current store states and watch changes on stores. You can also dispatch actions or modify stores and see changes reflected to your view instantly. Since all the updates are kept within the extension, time travel is even possible. You can record and go back to any state of your application for debug purposes.

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