Beyond jQuery: An expert guide to JavaScript frameworks

How to choose from 22 essential JavaScript frameworks for Web and mobile development

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Cordova is one of the cross-platform mobile app options supported by Visual Studio 2015. Several companies offer online builders for Cordova apps, similar to the Adobe PhoneGap Build service. Online builders save you from having to install and maintain most of the device SDKs on which Cordova relies.

Ionic. The Ionic framework is a front-end SDK for building hybrid mobile apps, using AngularJS and Cordova/PhoneGap/Trigger.io. Ionic was designed to be similar in spirit to the Android and iOS SDKs and to do a minimum of DOM manipulation by using hardware-accelerated transitions to keep the rendering speed high. Ionic is focused mainly on the look and feel and UI interaction of your app.

In addition to the framework, Ionic encompasses an ecosystem of mobile development tools and resources. These include Chrome-based tools, Angular extensions for Cordova capabilities, back-end services, a development server, and a shell View App to enable testers to use your Ionic code on their devices without the need for you to distribute beta Apps through the App Store or Google Play.

Appery.io integrated Ionic into its low-code builder in July 2015. Ionic’s GitHub repository has more than 22,000 stars and 4,000 forks. Ionic is distributed under an MIT license, and it currently runs in UIWebView for iOS 7+, as well as in Android 4.1 and up.

Decisions, decisions

As we have seen, there is a robust ecosystem of JavaScript frameworks that supports the development of Node servers, browser-based apps, and hybrid apps. In several cases, frameworks build on other frameworks in useful ways. For example, Ionic builds on Cordova and Angular, Backbone builds on Underscore, and Locomotive builds on Express.

That fact hints at the opportunity for mixing and matching frameworks, but not at the potential costs of doing so. If you blithely combine several frameworks that serve essentially the same functions—because you are reusing code from multiple apps built on different libraries, for example—you might wind up with a working app, but you might also run up against incompatibilities between frameworks. You will certainly create apps with excessive memory usage and load time.

If at all possible, pick one framework for a given app or family of apps. Exactly which one will be best for your needs will depend on many factors, but starting your selection process with this bestiary may help you to pick a few promising candidates without needing to wade through the excessive hype and jargon that tends to surround them.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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