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Why is React considered a library and not a framework?

Last Updated : 06 Feb, 2024
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ReactJS is an open-source frontend JavaScript library that is used for building beautiful and dynamic webpages, especially for single-page applications. It was made by and is now taken care of by Facebook. Its main focus is on building user interfaces (UI), it also handles how the UI changes over time. Currently, react is one of the most popular libraries for frontend development because of its component-based architecture, easier understanding, and flexibility.

We will learn about the following concepts in this article:

What is a Library?

A library is a collection of pre-written code components like functions, classes, and modules that streamline development tasks by providing reusable functionality. These libraries empower developers to leverage existing solutions rather than starting from scratch, promoting efficiency and consistency in software development. With the ability to selectively incorporate libraries into projects, developers can tailor solutions to their specific needs while ensuring compatibility with other frameworks and libraries. Just like selecting tools from a toolbox to build a house, developers can pick and choose from libraries to construct software applications efficiently and effectively.

Listed below are the names of some libraries:

  • Numpy (Python library for mathematical calculation and manipulation).
  • Pandas (Python Library for Data Analytics).
  • JQuery (Javascript Library for Web Development).
  • OpenCV (C++ library used for image processing and computer vision).

What is a Framework?

A framework acts as a pre-established structure offering guidelines and conventions for building applications, allowing developers to focus on application-specific logic rather than starting from scratch. By providing a foundation upon which the entire application is constructed, frameworks simplify the development process and reduce errors. Similar to a blueprint for building a house, frameworks define the structure and layout of the application, enabling developers to follow predefined guidelines while filling in the details, ensuring a systematic and efficient development approach.

Listed below are the names of some frameworks:

  • Angular(Javascript Framework used for buidling web applications).
  • Django (Python framework used for web development).
  • Spring(Java framework used for developing web apps and microservices).
  • Laravel(PHP framework used for building web applications).

Why is React a library?

React is categorized as a library because it provides a collection of tools, including components and functions, for use, without enforcing strict rules or structures for building the entire application. The core concept of React revolves around creating reusable UI components, which can be managed, updated, and reused. Unlike frameworks, which often impose a more directive structure and guidelines, React offers greater flexibility, concentrating specifically on aspects of the user interface. It focuses primarily on the view layer of the application, managing UI rendering and manipulation, while frameworks like Angular provide a more structured approach to application development.

React-Based Frameworks:

While react is a library,but it doesn’t offer everything developers need to build a complete application,that’s where react based framework comes into picture these frameworks which are build on top of react that provide additional tools and features for building certain type of application. Unlike a standalone library,react based frameworks like Next.js or Gatsby, offers built in routing, server side rendering(SSR) and many other features.With react based frameworks developers get more opinionated and structured approach and it reduces the need for mannual configuration.

Examples of React Based Frameworks:

  • NextJS: NextJS is a framework built upon the React library. It offers support for server-side rendering (SSR) and static site generation (SSG), enhancing performance and search engine optimization (SEO). NextJS simplifies client-side routing and establishes a standardized project structure, thereby minimizing the necessity for manual configuration.
  • Gatsby: Gatsby is another react-based framework that focuses on constructing static sites. It allows developers to create fast-loading websites by pre-rendering pages and assets. It provides a variety of features like as image optimization, SEO optimizations, and progressive web app (PWA) capabilities.
  • React Native: React Native is another framework used for building mobile applications using react. It allows developers to use react components to create native iOS and android applications. This cross platform ability enables code reuse across different platforms, which redues both time and effort.
  • Grommet: Grommet is another react framework that falls into the category of UI component libraries. Grommet offers pre-built, accessible, and responsive components, a solid framework for easily creating accessible, responsive, and visually appealing applications.

Benefits of Libraries:

  • Flexibility: Libraries are flexible which allows the developers to choose and integrate only required components or functions.
  • Faster Development: Libraries allow developers to speed up the development process by using the existing code for common tasks or functionalities without writing complete code again.
  • Code Reuse: Libraries provide reuseable code modules that can be easily integrated into different projects thus reducing redundancy and promoting consistency.
  • Reduced Complexity: By using well-written code from libraries, developers reduce the complexity of the code, which makes it easier to understand, maintain, and debug.

Limitations of Libraries:

  • Limited Scope: Libraries focus on specific tasks and functionalities. Developers need to combine multiple libraries to achieve the desired output.
  • Integration Challenges: Integrating multiple libraries requires extra effort and time to avoid conflicts, especially if the interface is not properly documented. It also increases the overall complexity of the application.
  • Maintenance Concerns: Libraries get updated as their developers may release updates or fixes. Keeping track of each library updates to ensure there are no dependency conflicts can be very time consuming.

Benefits of frameworks:

  • Opinionated Structure: Frameworks provide a predefined structure and architecture, which makes it easy for developers to develop an application.
  • Built-in Features: Frameworks come with a lot of built-in features for many common tasks like routing and state management without the need to use external libraries.
  • Consistency: A framework ensures a consistent development approach across the entire application, which makes it easier for large teams to work together.
  • Plugins: Frameworks support various plugins or custom components that allow developers to add features that aren’t included in the core framework.

⁤Limitations of frameworks:

  • Less Flexibility: Frameworks are less flexible compared to libraries, as developers cannot deviate from the predefined structure.
  • Vendor Lock-In: Once an application is developed using a particular framework, switching to different framework later is very difficult and time consuming.
  • Learning Curve: Mastering a new framework requires lot of time and effort, especially for developers unfamiliar with its structure and syntax.

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