Is ReactJS a library or a framework? Here’s what it means for developers

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ReactJS has grown exponentially since its launch. This is thanks to its efficient, adaptable and declarative features, enabling you to create efficient front-end apps with less code quickly. But as React becomes more well-known, the debate over whether it is a library or a framework also grows.

Developers have spent too much time arguing about what React is. However, their discussions often omit why the topic is essential for people who want to develop React applications.

Regardless of experience level, any developer must know the answer to this question to understand the workflow for creating any React application.

The difference between a framework and a library

Before answering whether React is a library or a framework, it is crucial to understand the differences between the two. In React, Javascript is in charge of creating reusable codes that can be incorporated into complex interfaces. Hence, the proper start is by defining what a JavaScript framework is and what a JavaScript library is.

According to Ayush Gupta, a former applied research engineer at Apple, JavaScript frameworks are “JavaScript code libraries that contain pre-written code for standard programming features and tasks.” The codes serve as a framework for developing websites or web applications.

When developing web applications, developers usually opt to use frameworks because they offer resources that a large-scale application would probably require, which include built-in tools for standard tasks.

On the other hand, a library is a collection of functions that work together to complete a task. Building a web application with JavaScript libraries is similar to building a computer from scratch. Every part must be selected by hand, including the CPU, motherboard, video card, hard drive and power supply.

Subsequently, you must ensure that the parts can work together. If the system breaks, you just need to replace the broken component.

The technical difference between a framework and a library is the inversion of control. When using a library, you are in charge of the application’s flow. When and where you call the library is up to you. However, if you use a framework, it will take control of the flow. It gives you some places to insert your code, but the framework only calls the code you plugged in when necessary.

Understanding the best way to use React

React is a popular JavaScript library used for creating user interfaces. This library can be used when developing single-page applications or mobile applications. As a library, React handles state management using a Virtual DOM representation that will update if there are changes made. The library improves user experience and performance by only updating the real DOM when necessary.

Although React provides the necessary tools and equipment to create applications, it does not impose an exhaustive application structure, unlike frameworks. The library’s distinctive feature is that it can be easily incorporated into projects due to its versatility and flexibility. This makes it an ideal choice when developing user interfaces where you are given the flexibility to use other libraries and tools for extra functionality.

To get the most out of React, you would need to use additional libraries, like React Navigation or React Router.

Understanding React’s function as a library

Libraries and frameworks can sometimes be difficult to distinguish. However, understanding these distinctions is essential to selecting the right tools for your development projects.

Although React is not a framework, this does not diminish React’s influence. Libraries like React offer simplicity and flexibility.

Realizing React’s function as a library enables you to make well-informed decisions and effectively utilize the features in web development. This library is still a popular choice for building complex and striking applications, but you will have to select the tools on your own.

For instance, you might need to decide whether to use Fetch API and Axios to make network requests. You might also have to decide whether to use an additional library to simplify server state management.