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Angular vs Polymer – What are the Differences?

7 min read


Since this is an article in which we compare the advantages for using both Angular and Polymer, first we should refresh what a framework is and why you should use one. Angular and Polymer are JavaScript frameworks.

But what is a framework in general? To put it simply, a framework is a working environment. You can use a framework to develop a web application or something else depending on your area of expertise. But most importantly a framework lets you organize the code in a way that fits your project’s needs.

Frameworks can be split up into 2 categories:

  1. Frameworks that are used more like a library. These give you a higher level of freedom in customizing the way you work and thus a more personalized development process.
  2. Traditional frameworks. In other words, this a type of framework that has its own way to get something done. It’s needed that you learn the syntax to use it properly and you have to know the core concepts that the framework is built upon. These won’t give you the same level of freedom in designing your application, but if you choose the right one, it will really help you get the work done faster and more efficiently.

The question is: Why should you use a framework? After all, if you develop a JavaScript application, all the code can be written using just plain old JS, without the need of a framework. There could be many reasons for using one, but I’ll give you only 2 that satisfy most developers:

  • Code structure. As a web developer, do you like code that isn’t well structured? Of course not. To be much better at what you do, in this case develop web apps, you need to organize your code, so that any other programmer can understand it. If you choose to use a framework (for the apps that need one), your work will be better understood by your fellow developers. These days a huge part of all the websites rely heavily on JS code, especially on the client side. Instead of using long lines of JS code, you can organize your work better using a JS framework, and become more productive because of this.
  • When you finish a new project, the application has to be tested before you release it for wide use. But how does a framework come into this aspect? Well, think about it. Because of the fact that a framework is structuring your code in a more usable way, testing the app is also much simpler. If something needs to be changed, you can do that faster and more efficiently because of the well-organized source code.

Now that we refreshed what a framework, how it’s used and why you should use one, let’s move on and talk about Angular and Polymer, and which one is best to use in your case. We’ll start with Angular:

Angular is a JS framework, as you probably already know. It was first released in 2012 by Google and they created it with the Model-View-Controller (MVC for short) concept in mind. The main focus of Angular is to help the developer create very rich and complex single-page applications easily. Something that helps the user accomplish that, is the possibility to create custom HTML tags using the framework. This feature was first introduced by Angular in 2012. This is done by coding the appropriate directive that will later be processed by Angular and turned into a custom HTML tag. Of course, for this to happen you have to write the code for the tag yourself, since it’s a custom-made feature.

What are some of the advantages for using Angular? (later we’ll cover these for Polymer as well)

  1. The first positive that I’ll mention is the fact that Angular can be used to create applications for all types of platform. That’s right! You can use the framework to create apps for IOS, Android and the Web too. All this packed into just 1 tool. If you’re looking for a framework that will let you later expand your working domain, Angular could be your best choice.
  2. The second pro that comes with using Angular is the possibility for testing. I already mentioned briefly why it’s important to test an app before you release it to the public. Angular is an important player in this field. The framework was developed to let the programmer test an application both by using unit testing and end-to-end testing.
  3. Since Angular was around for quite some time now, you can find online many features and tools that help you make the most out of the framework in no time. It doesn’t require a lot of set up before using. This is really good, because you’ll have more time to get accustomed with using it.
  4. Support from Google. If you’re trying to find a JS framework that gets updates regularly and is backed up by a serious company, then Angular is a good candidate. Since Google is the one who created this tool, you can expect a great support from the developers behind it. This fact, makes it a safe bet for anyone looking for a framework that will work in the near future.
  5. The community. This might sound like a general bonus that comes with any tool. But that’s not the case. Many online tools don’t have a community behind them, or even if they do, it isn’t very helpful for the average user. Angular is better in this area. It has an active community which you can benefit from easily. If you stumble upon a problem that needs solving, there’s a high chance that somebody else has already figured it out. You just have to find your answer. If nobody has dealt with your specific issue, just let them know on a community forum. You’ll get your solution pretty soon.

Now that we covered some of the advantages with using Angular, are there any downsides to it?

One that is pretty important is the fact that learning the framework isn’t very easy. If you already know JS very well, you’ll get it easier. But it takes quite a bit of time to learn all the ins and outs of the framework, because it’s pretty complex. Other than this, there aren’t many more minuses with using it.

Polymer is a JS framework that works more like a library than a classic framework. This is an open-source tool meaning that you have full access to the entire source code behind the framework. Because of this, Polymer gives you more freedom in organizing your working environment as much as you want. The library was developed by Google developers, but anyone can contribute to the project on GitHub.

Are there any advantages for using Polymer over Angular? Below you have some of them listed:

  • Just a single HTML file is needed so a developer can create new custom elements using Polymer. This is much more intuitive, than Angular. That is because you don’t have to open several files to be able to understand a component you’re just creating.
  • If you’re creating a new application or a whole new website, at some point you have to put in some styling so it will look good for the future user. In this area Polymer really excels. Polymer supports CSS variables and custom CSS mixin declarations, which makes the styling process a lot more versatile. This way you can use modern features that CSS3 has introduced.
  • There could be cases, when a project needs support from other libraries or frameworks as well, not just only the main one you’re using. If that’s the case, Polymer can be really helpful in this area. Since it has no extra layer, you can share data easily between it and other third-party apps, that are needed to develop the application.
  • Getting used to the framework. When you’re beginning to learn something new, this is a hugely important part, that you must consider before jumping in. If the framework you choose to learn has a very steep learning curve, it might take too much time to get used to it. But how’s Polymer doing in this area? We can safely say, that Polymer has a very detailed and up to date documentation, that comes with many examples to help any newcomer quickly learn the framework. To be proficient using this tool, Polymer’s documentation will help a lot. You can also take a look at the quickly growing community behind this relatively new web building tool.

Conclusion – Which Framework is Best?

These are only some of the advantages, if you choose to go with Polymer over Angular.

The remaining question is: Which one is better: Angular or Polymer? The answer is this one: If you have to develop a very rich and complex web application, then it could be better if you go with Angular (as we mentioned above). But if you’re new to JS frameworks and need one that is easy to learn and simple to use, go with Polymer. It can help you create serious applications in a simpler way.

In the end, the choice is yours. It very much depends on your specific needs. Take those into consideration when choosing between Angular and Polymer.

Updated: January 29, 2019



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