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Most Popular JavaScript Frameworks

The Top 9 Most Popular JavaScript Frameworks

Our recent Learning JavaScript Series has been great for beginning JavaScript and learning to write very simple JavaScript. Now we are going to feature some of the most incredible JavaScript repositories from some really super talented people. This is what makes open source software so wonderful. Brilliant people are willing to create and share some ground breaking software for anyone in the community to use and learn from. We can certainly learn a lot from what these talented folks have made available, so let’s dig right in to The Top 9 Most Popular JavaScript Frameworks.


1. jQuery

What is jQuery?

jQuery is the granddaddy of them all. It was the first JavaScript Framework to really show what can be done with the language. When it first arrived into the community, people were amazed at its power and simplicity. The feature rich library focuses on making it super easy to traverse, select, and modify elements of the DOM or Document Object Model. You also have access to simplified JavaScript Event Handlers, awesome animations, and the most powerful feature of them all, easy Ajax implementation. jQuery is makes dealing with client side coding so much easier. In fact, you can easily mix and match jQuery with your own JavaScript to complete things you may not have been able to do otherwise. Sometimes, you just want to make use of the power of jQuery in making selections from the page, and then operate on them yourself, and you can certainly do that if you like. jQuery set out to change the way the world looks at and writes JavaScript, and they were very successful in doing just that!

jQuery is the best way to attack cross browser issues, and in addition to being CSS3 compliant, it makes working with client side concerns super easy. Even though we have great and powerful modern web browsers from some of the biggest names in technology, things are still not uniform between them. The syntax of jQuery is very simple and readable, and the power of the library gives developers and designers the ability to create sophisticated animations and effects that would have only been possible in the past with heavy, proprietary, browser plugins. In addition to the jQuery core, you can make use of any of hundreds of freely available plugins from the community to attack virtually any client side problem you may have.

JavaScript tends to be a wordy language, while CSS implementation is tricky, and using Flash is not widely supported across the open web. These challenges make jQuery the easiest solution to Event Handling, Dom Traversal, animation, and AJAX applications. Millions of websites, and many of the biggest ones on the internet today make use of jQuery, it really is a great solution.

The Benefits of jQuery

  • Lightweight Footprint
  • CSS3 Compliant
  • Cross Browser Compatible

2. Node.Js

What is Node.Js?

Google has made huge strides with its JavaScript runtime engine called V8. JavaScript runs lightning fast on the Chrome runtime, and Node.js is a platform that takes full advantage of this environment to make JavaScript the language of the server. Yes, you can run JavaScript on the server and have network based and scalable applications that run fast as ever. Node.js is really taking the internet community by storm and it does have a nice appeal. We as web developers have to keep track of an ever increasing stack of technologies to keep our websites and clients happy. Wouldn’t it be great if we could write client and server side code in the same language?! Well with node.js, we can.

Node.js is based on a non blocking, event driven Input / Output paradigm. This lightweight approach has many benefits since it is ideal for real time applications that make use of distributed networks and real time data updates. The creators of node.js put scalable network programs at the top of the list. With node.js, memory allocation is reduced, and programs run fast – even for developers that are new to this style of design.

Node.js is still a relatively young technology, it was only created in 2009. It’s growth and use has been impressive though with some well known names in business making use of the framework. Microsoft, Yahoo, Dow Jones, Walmart, and LinkedIn are a few of the big names making use of this technology in their business.

Node uses a much different execution model than the most widely used stack on the internet today, and that would be LAMP. LAMP as you know stands for Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP. In this configuration, Apache handles all of the HTTP requests while logic and computation get handed off to PHP. Node takes a different approach and combines the server and application logic together. There may be some arguments against this since this removes the separation of concerns, much like we would have with an MVC design pattern where different requirements get bundled together in similar constructs. It does however provide for added flexibility in the Node environment. The other area where Node is different from the LAMP stack is the handling of concurrency. Apache works by keeping a collection of threads available to handle client connections. Each thread consumes resources, and this adds up, which can cause scaling problems. Node uses just a single thread instead. You would think this is no good, but it actually works well. The reason is because Node makes use of a non blocking architecture, so multiple threads are never needed. The way Node would handle a common operation like a database query would be to process something else while it waits to get data back from the query.

Benefits of Node.js

  • Non-Blocking, Event Driven Architecture
  • Perfect for JSON APIs and Streaming Data Applications
  • Scalable and Memory Efficient

3. D3.js

What is D3.js?

d3.js is really an incredible piece of JavaScript software that is able to manipulate documents based on data values. If you ever wanted to include visualizations for any type of application, whether finance, science, statistics, or whatever else you may have, d3.js is the JavaScript Library to use. d3.js makes data come alive with CSS, Scalable Vector Graphics, and HTML. There is an adherence to web standards to instead of having to rely on a proprietary plugin, and we all hate those, you can make use of today’s powerful browsers to manipulate the DOM with a data driven style.

When you first look at d3.js, you may be tempted to think it is just like jQuery. While they both manipulate the DOM by making use of CSS selectors and are based on web standards, they are different in their application. jQuery is more of a general helper library, while d3.js focuses on the data driven aspect of visualization.

This approach takes data and binds it to the DOM for which it can then be transformed based on the values of that data. Think of an array populated with different number values. By using that data, and employing d3.js, you could use Scalable Vector Graphics to build and animate a bar chart on the fly, or even construct an HTML table – it is very powerful.

Benefits of D3.js

  • Adheres to Open Web Standards
  • Makes Visualizations easier to work with in the DOM
  • Tight integration with Modern Browser Technology give added flexibility

4. Angular.js

What is Angular.js?

Angular.js is a full blown web application framework which aims to make it easier to make a full scale software application run as one page within a modern web browser using only HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Angular.js follows the Model View Controller design pattern and while we see this frequently on the server side in other languages like PHP and Java, Angular.js brings this style to JavaScript in an effort to make testing and development easier.

The way Angular.js works is by reading in HTML which as specific tag attributes for which the Angular engine understands. Various actions can be taken based on those custom values. Angular takes a different approach to web applications and tries to actually de-emphasize Document Object Model manipulation, instead relying on a two way binding mechanism to keep data in sync between models and views. Sound tricky? It is a little tricky, but very powerful. What less would we expect from the genius engineers from Google? (Yes Angular.js is sponsored by Google).

Benefits of Angular.js

  • Provide a method to decouple DOM manipulation from Business Logic
  • Guide developers through the full design and implementation of the application
  • Place emphasis on Testing before Deploying

5. Impress.js

What is Impress.js?

Impress.js is pretty damn impressive!! Don’t believe me? Click that link right above, then follow the instructions on the screen. Go ahead, I’ll wait for you to come back. Ok, back with me? Great. Did you see how slick that was? The ability to use your space bar and arrow keys for simple navigation through a 3d document living in the browser. Holy! Yes, the impress.js JavaScript library is what makes all of this possible.

Impress.js takes the power of CSS3 transforms and transitions to make this magic happen. Of course you are going to want to be using a modern browser that makes use of the latest open web technologies to get this to work. Impress.js gives you the ability to make stunning browser based presentations using all open technologies. If that isn’t impressive, I don’t know what is!

Benefits of Impress.js

  • Moves the presentation into the Browser. Bye Bye Powerpoint
  • Provides new and exciting ways of navigating content
  • Standards based

6. Adobe Brackets

What is Adobe Brackets?

Adobe Brackets is an open source integrated development environment (IDE), built for the web by the web. Whoa, that was a mouthful. Brackets provides a free alternative to some of the other popular tools for coding HTML, JavaScript, and CSS. If you’re a purist in these technologies, you will be excited to know that Brackets actually uses these very technologies itself. Rather than using an IDE written in C, C++, or Java, you can use the technologies of the platform you are targeting (The Web), to build your websites and applications! It’s quite cool, indeed.

Brackets has many cool features. When you code, HTML changes in real time with no need to save the page. On coding JavaScript, you have a great autocomplete feature and debugging with Theseus. It also works on multiple platforms, so if you’re on a Mac, Linux, or Windows you’ll be in luck.

Benefits of Adobe Brackets

  • Live HTML Development
  • JavaScript Debugging Built In
  • Multi Platform (and Free!)

7. Moment.js

What is Moment.js?

Moment.js is a super slick JavaScript Library that makes it easy to work with and manipulate dates and times. What? You’re not impressed? You better be, because if you’ve ever had to include and time sensitive data in your websites or applications, you’ll know that it is much harder than it sounds! Moment.js provides a really nice syntax for dealing with formatting, parsing, and validating dates.

Benefits of Moment.js

  • Feature rich tools for all date manipulation
  • Works client and server side with Node.js
  • Friendly developer syntax

8. Reveal.js

What is Reveal.js?

Reveal.js is another fantastic tool built with JavaScript to create interactive slide shows using HTML in the browser. With Reveal.js you can use arrow keys or space keys to move through a given presentation. If you happen to be on a tablet, you can also use swipe gestures and they will work. How cool is that?! In addition to this, the framework uses responsive design, so your 21 inch mac at work will look great, as will browsing on your ipad mini retina while away from the office. (Fictional ideas.. er, my current wish list of gear) .

Benefits of Reveal.js

  • Make your presentations less boring
  • Uses open source web standards
  • Free!

9. three.js

What is three.js?

Three.js is another JavaScript Library that makes use of modern web browsers and open web standards to create and animate 3D computer graphics. You can use three.js with WebGL, SVG, or the HTML5 canvas element. As with all other mentions on the Vegibit Top 9 Most Popular JavaScript Frameworks, Three.js is open source. So get your learn on and download the source code to see how it works!

With Three.js you can complete many things with regard to computer animation. Things like camera perspective, parallax barrier, WebGL Renderer, ambient lights, smooth shading, object particles, meshes, lines, particles, and much more are all included. Just like all of the frameworks in this series, if this is something that interests you, the best thing to do is just set up a sandbox environment on your own host, include the script file, and start hammering out the tutorials and demos to see how it all works. Nothing beats hands on learning!

Benefits of Three.js

  • Large Community and Help at the official website
  • Open Source and freely available
  • Based on open web standards

Honorable Mention: Express.js

All of these JavaScript Frameworks and Libraries are truly awesome, and if time and space allowed, we’d really just keep going here. We do have time for one more mention however, and that slot goes to Express.js. Express.js is a package for Node.js. Node.js is a revolutionary approach, and who ever would have thought we’d be able to put JavaScript on the server, and actually have not only a workable solution, but an advanced and high performance solution at that!

The Express framework was created by TJ Holowaychuk and provides an additional level of abstraction to the code you would normally write in Node. The Express Framework is based on the Ruby Sinatra framework, and provides the tools to build and maintain single, multipage, and hybrid web applications. The Express Framework provides many convenience methods and syntactic sugar for many common tasks that would otherwise be tedious or redundant. Just as Laravel for PHP makes it extremely pleasant to code common tasks, so too does Express for Node.

Benefits of Express.js

  • Makes developing with Node.js easier
  • Beautiful syntax
  • Powerful Routing Engine

So there you have it friends, The Top 9 Most Popular JavaScript Frameworks. It has been fun to review all of these excellent repositories of software. If you’re new to JavaScript, start with the basics and get the fundamentals down cold before trying to dig into the source code of any of these libraries listed here. If you’re more comfortable with the language and at an intermediate or advanced level, examining the source code of these fantastic pieces of software will help elevate your programming even more.