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  AngularJS vs. jQuery: Comparing Two Popular JavaScript Tools

AngularJS vs. jQuery—it’s a common comparison those new to front-end web development will eventually make. While it technically isn’t appropriate to compare a JavaScript framework with a JavaScript library, you’d be forgiven for mistaking a library as extensive and powerful as jQuery as a framework. After all, jQuery has been helping developers manipulate the DOM (Document Object Model) with JavaScript since 2006.
It wasn’t until 2009 that the AngularJS framework arrived on the scene, giving developers a powerful methodology for building dynamic single page web applications (SPAs) in accordance with best web practices. Nowadays, both AngularJS and jQuery play a prominent role in the world of modern front-end web development. Read on to learn more about the differences between these technologies, and when you should use jQuery, AngularJS, or both.

What Is jQuery?

jQuery is a DOM manipulation library that makes it easier to use JavaScript on your website. JavaScript is the language of choice for making webpages dynamic and interactive. jQuery takes the complex code that would be required to make AJAX calls or manipulate the DOM and wraps them into simple methods you can call with a single line of JavaScript.
Here are some of the key technical features that are available in the jQuery library:

  • HTML/DOM manipulation
  • CSS manipulation
  • Event handling
  • Effects and animations
  • Cross-browser compatibility
  • Lightweight (minified and gzipped)

jQuery makes no assumptions about your web technology stack, and may be used in conjunction with other frameworks, including AngularJS. In fact, AngularJS is built off of an implementation of jQuery called jqLite.
Since jQuery has no real structure, the developer has full freedom to build projects as they see fit. However the lack of structure also means it’s easier to fall into the trap of “spaghetti code,” which can lead to confusion on larger projects with no clear design direction or code maintainability. For these situations, a framework like AngularJS can be a big help.

What Is AngularJS?

AngularJS is a JavaScript framework that was specifically designed to help developers build SPAs in accordance with best practices for web development. By providing a structured environment for building SPAs, the risk of producing “spaghetti code” is greatly reduced. AngularJS also provides a suite of features that help the developer do more with less code than would be required with “vanilla JavaScript” (developer speak for plain, simple JavaScript without the use of any libraries) and jQuery.
Some of the key features AngularJS adds on top of jQuery are:

  • Angular directives (extension to HTML)
  • Templating
  • Dependency injection
  • Two-way data binding
  • Support for MVC
  • RESTful API
  • Form validation

It goes without saying that AngularJS also abstracts the DOM, has a system for managing event handlers, and supports AJAX/JSONP.

You Should Use jQuery If…

You’re seeking a lightweight and powerful tool for DOM manipulation. jQuery is a library of code designed to do one thing—help you manipulate the DOM with JavaScript. Whether that involves building a website from scratch alongside vanilla JavaScript, or complementing an existing framework with a jQuery plugin, it all depends on the unique needs of your project. Do note that if you’re going to add functionality to an AngularJS application using a jQuery plugin, you’ll need to follow the appropriate steps to ensure that data binding within the application isn’t broken. Generally this means integrating it into a custom Angular directive.
Never try to directly call a jQuery plugin from within a controller as you would in a non-Angular app. jQuery shines when you require flexibility or see a particular feature that you wish to include in your app, like a slider. It’s also great for quickly scripting solutions that work to test an idea.

You Should Use AngularJS If…

You require a full-featured framework for developing web applications from scratch. AngularJS gives you everything you need to build the client-side of an application. It will also make it easier to keep your web project organized and modular to avoid repeating code. Advanced features like two-way data binding and dependency injection allow you to quickly create visually stunning and engaging applications that would otherwise take months of development time if you used vanilla JavaScript and jQuery.

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