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What Is The Difference Between Libraries And JavaScript Frameworks?

Discover, once and for all, the distinction between JavaScript libraries and frameworks!

It’s true that learning technical jargon can be a pain. There are many of them, it can be challenging to locate precise definitions, and just when you think you understand a term, you’ll undoubtedly run into someone who uses it in a way you’ve never heard of.

Consider the discussion between JavaScript libraries and JavaScript frameworks, for instance. People frequently refer to libraries as frameworks and libraries as frameworks, using these terms interchangeably. What do these terms actually mean, though? Do JS libraries and frameworks refer to the same thing? Well, not at all. Here, we’re dissecting everything.

Table of Contents

  1. First, what is a script written in Java?
  2. Standard JavaScript
  3. Libraries for JavaScript
  4. React JavaScript
  5. Frameworks for JavaScript
  6. Should You Learn JavaScript Libraries or Frameworks?

JavaScript: The Foundation of JavaScript Frameworks AND Libraries

Let’s begin at the source, which is JavaScript itself. In keeping with precise definitions:

  • Front-end developers, or those who create the portions of a website or web application that users see on their screens, use JavaScript, also abbreviated as JS, to implement and manage dynamic content. While Python is one of the available scripting languages, JavaScript is the most widely used.

  • The term “dynamic content” refers to anything that “changes” on a website or in an app without requiring a manual refresh, such as animated graphics, interactive forms, photo carousels, etc. The function that appears in the Google search bar when you type search terms? That is the usage of JavaScript.
  • While scripting languages like Python handle back-end development—the “under the hood” coding that keeps websites and apps running—JavaScript is most frequently used for front-end web development, or creating the user-facing, on-screen portions of websites and apps. However, JS can also be used for back-end development.

JavaScript is used extensively in the web development process, as you can imagine. In fact, it is used so much that over time, tools known as JavaScript libraries and JavaScript frameworks were developed to assist developers with some of the heavy lifting. Some JavaScript functions (like reoccurring animation effects and interactive forms that appear in different places on a website or in an app) must be implemented more than once during the coding process.

A Definition of Vanilla JavaScript

If you were to use just JavaScript—or “vanilla JavaScript,” as developers refer to it—you would have to write the code for these functions each time they were needed. With JavaScript frameworks and libraries, developers can write custom functions that can be reused as needed, or they can use prewritten code for common JavaScript functions. Does that imply that “library” and “framework” are two synonyms for the same term? Not really. Sure, there are comparable applications for both tools, but the two platforms’ scopes and scales differ greatly.

JavaScript Library Definition

JavaScript libraries are essentially sets of prewritten code snippets that can be used to accomplish common JavaScript tasks. These snippets can be used and reused. Code from JavaScript libraries can be “as needed” inserted into the remaining portions of your project. The relevant jQuery code snippet would be added to the project’s code if you planned to use jQuery(opens in a new tab), one of the more popular JS libraries, to add an autocomplete feature to a search bar on your website. The jQuery code snippet then fetches the feature from the jQuery library and shows it in your user’s web browser when a user types text into the search bar.

See our Tech 101: JavaScript Libraries to learn more about the specifics of how libraries like jQuery work, including a look at some jQuery code samples. The main lesson to be learned from the What is jQuery guide is that libraries are specific tools for particular coding requirements rather than a one-stop shop or template for formatting your entire project.

Examples of JavaScript Libraries:

  • jQuery
  • React JS

A Remark About React JS

It should come as no surprise that JS libraries have evolved over time to meet particular developer needs given their “specialist” nature. The following are some of the most crucial specialized JavaScript libraries to know:  React JS(opens in a new tab).

Facebook developed the JavaScript library React in 2011 with the purpose of assisting developers in the creation of user interfaces, or UIs. The collection of buttons, search bars, menus, and other elements that users interact with to USE a website or application is referred to as the user interface (UI) in relation to websites and web applications.

You may be asking yourself, “Wait a minute…is React a framework or a library?” at this point. This is a frequently asked question because React JS is frequently mentioned as both (which contributes to the confusion surrounding the JavaScript framework vs. library debate). React is entirely a JavaScript library, even though you can find React JS in many lists and articles about JavaScript and front-end frameworks (opens in a new tab). (just ask the React developer team(opens in a new tab)).

So why is it still referred to as a framework? Not really a good reason. And that’s a crucial lesson in letting go of technical jargon. Tech terms and titles can become hazy over time, so it’s crucial that YOU understand the purpose of the tool you’re learning or using. Having said that, what is the purpose of a JavaScript framework and what is it called?

Frameworks for JavaScript: An Introduction

JavaScript frameworks are a complete toolkit that assist in structuring and organizing your website or web application, whereas JavaScript libraries are specialized tools for on-demand use. Consider this when attempting to define frameworks in relation to JavaScript libraries vs. frameworks: JavaScript libraries are similar to furnishings that give a built-in home more flair and utility. Contrarily, frameworks serve as a blueprint for actually building the house.

A framework serves as a foundation for your entire project, much like a skeleton, scaffolding, or framework. Unlike the library format, where the developer chooses where to implement library code, this structure is created through page templates that are provided by the framework. These templates have designated areas for the insertion of framework code.

A few JavaScript framework examples are:

  • Angular
  • Ember JS
  • Vue

The benefit of utilizing JavaScript frameworks is their general efficiency and organization, which results in well-structured code and pre-made solutions for common coding issues. However, all of that structure can also be a drawback of using JS frameworks; any JavaScript code you write on top of them must adhere to framework-specific guidelines and conventions, which reduces your flexibility when using libraries.

Which Should You Learn: JavaScript Library or JavaScript Framework?

Knowing the distinction between a Javascript framework and a library, which one should a novice web developer learn to use? There is a time and place for both JavaScript libraries and frameworks, but libraries are a good place for new developers to start, says Jesse DeOms, a JavaScript developer and our curriculum team’s subject matter expert on JS.

While both libraries and frameworks necessitate a basic understanding of JavaScript, libraries typically have a steeper learning curve because frameworks typically require more JS knowledge and experience. And which library should one start with? React JS is a great place to start, according to DeOms.

Since most web developers begin their careers in front end web or app development, where UI creation and management are central to the process, React is an obvious choice for a first library. Moreover, DeOms highlights the overwhelming amount of employer demand for React skills(opens in a new tab)the tremendous amount of React community support(opens in a new tab), and the excellent documentation provided by the React team(opens in a new tab).

But keep in mind that learning JavaScript frameworks is not necessary if you begin with a library like React JS or jQuery. It will be much simpler to learn more and eventually transition to frameworks like Angular, Vue, or Ember JS once you’ve started with one library. It takes work to become proficient at coding, but you must start somewhere.

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