Angular – My New Golden Hammer

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Web Development feels ‘hacky’

For most of my career I have been a desktop developer but a few years ago I started making the move towards web development.

The move, at first, was horribly painful. For most of my working life I was working with the safety of compilers, full featured code libraries, mature test frameworks, UI frameworks and data-binding only to be thrown into the then (and even now) ‘wild west’ of web development.

My biggest gripe with web development was “how can it be so hard to do such simple things?”. I was finding that putting a button and some input controls on a screen that saved to a database required me to write waaaayyyy too much code. Never mind all the problems with screen size and browser compatibility, even simple things felt verbose and ‘hacky’

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Silverlight – Desktop like, but flawed

I quickly retreated back from pure Javascript/HTML/CSS development to using something more ‘desktop-like’ and started using, and advocating, Silverlight.

Silverlight is [was] Microsoft’s attempt to replace Flash (more or less). Things were good, I was productive again and spitting out highly functional web apps until I started fully realizing the limitations of using a plugin based approach. On the brink of giving up web development due to frustration, I started looking at the latest web technologies that were beginning to gain some traction.

Knockout JS. Better, but still too many dragons to slay…

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The first bit of relief came when I discovered Knockout.js. Knockout is a fantastic library that enables easy MVVM data-binding in your web apps. This was more like it, not having to write as much ‘grunt’ code to hook up data with UI felt much better. Something as simple as the data-binding that knockout gave me renewed my enthusiasm for web development and I started to look for other libraries that could address the other reservations that I had about web development.

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Angular, now we’re talking

The next discovery, and most fruitful, was AngularJS.

Angular is a Javascript library from Google which makes web development sooooo much easier. For almost every problem that I started to ask Angular it seemed that the developers had already had the same pain and had already built the functionality into Angular already. If there was something that I needed from the framework that didn’t already exist, there was usually an Angular extension that was readily available or I was able to make a directive from an existing Jquery plugin.

Angular has become so much of a golden hammer for me that I find it hard to contemplate starting a large website without using it.

Looking to the future

The landscape for web development is evolving rapidly but with frameworks like Angular, and maturing and adherence to web standards, it does not seem as anarchic as it once was. There are several other libraries that have made my life easier such as underscore/lodash, twitter bootstrap, and breezejs, but the underlying library that has made the most difference is Angular. Since converting to Angular I am now a happy and more productive web developer. Before, I was extremely frustrated and unproductive and although Angular, and web development in general, is still far from perfect, it is a more enjoyable place to be.

A Word of Caution for Angular 2

Before you get carried away and start seeing everything in angular tinted glasses, you need to consider the ramifications of the upcoming Angular 2.0.

I have had a look at the 2.0 syntax and it is a big departure from 1.x. IMHO this is a strange and worrying decision from Google as many people looking to dive into Angular at this point in time will be uneasy that the code they write now will not be supported/current in the near future.

2 Golden Hammers?

Although promises of a clear upgrade path are promised by Google, it might be time to find a backup golden hammer (i.e. React) to hedge my bets.

Has anyone else got similar experiences with Angular? Have you found other libraries that you feel you cannot do without? How do you see the future for frameworks like Angular, React, Backbone or Ember?

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