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Ryan Thelin for Educative

Posted on • Originally published at educative.io

Guide to Ionic Framework V4+: which front-end framework to use

Ionic is a cross-platform web development tool that allows you to use mobile device components and hardware from within a hidden embedded web browser. Originally Ionic was developed with AngularJS but since Ionic 4 has become framework independent, allowing you to build apps with any framework.

Including other frameworks allows more web developers to use Ionic and provides more choice in which framework will best fit their app. Each framework has particular strengths that make it better for certain types of applications.

Today, we'll take a quick look at Ionic 4 and the benefits that each new framework brings to the table.

Here’s what we’ll cover today:

Learn to build stunning Ionic React apps in half the time

Ionic is the future of hybrid app development, get ahead of the curve and impress employers with your Ionic portfolio.

Developing Mobile Apps with Ionic and React

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What is Ionic?

Ionic is an open-source software development kit (SDK) written in JavaScript and designed for hybrid mobile application development. It was originally launched by the Ionic Team at Drifty Co. in 2013 and was built on AngularJS and Apache Cordova. More recently, it was updated to be a set of web components.

Ionic now lets you choose any front-end framework for your apps, such as Angular, React, or Vue.js.

Ionic's hybrid development tools allow developers to create apps using common web technologies like HTML, CSS, and Sass and then port them to mobile app stores using Cordova containers.

The device installs the Cordova app container locally (like a native app), but the app uses an embedded browser to connect to any mobile platform capabilities. Ionic apps have access to device-specific features like GPS, camera, or the flashlight for mobile devices. The embedded browser and any plugins are invisible to the user, meaning to them it seems just like a native mobile app.

Essentially, Ionic lets you build a single web app codebase and effortlessly distribute it as both a desktop and mobile application across multiple platforms.

Salient features of Ionic

  • Cross-platform support, write a single code base and release to various devices.

  • Use device-specific components like iOS buttons or sliders

  • Built on well-known web standards like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript

  • Includes Cordova plugin to use native device features

  • Comes with many of the dev tools packaged into one, including its own Ionic CLI, IDE, and more.

Ionic V4+

In 2019, Ionic released its major V4 update that fully rebuilt the SDK to work with the now industry-standard web components system. This opened the door to countless new opportunities using Angular, React, or Vue.js and added more functionality for modern apps like Progressive Web Apps (PWAs).

This update marks a commitment by Drifty Co. to establish Ionic as the app development platform for all web developers.

The biggest changes in Ionic V4 are:

  • Added support for Angular, React, and Vue.js front-end frameworks

  • Improved Navigation capabilities with Angular Router

  • Composed of web components using the Custom Elements and Shadow DOM APIs available in modern browsers.

  • 50% faster due to reworked component optimization

  • Added highly efficient web compiler Stencil, which is designed to be the best out-of-the-box compiler for PWAs

  • Added support for Lazy Loading

Each of the newly supported front-end frameworks comes with its own advantages that you might consider for your next project. Let's take a look at the benefits each of these frameworks can offer your Ionic web application.

Angular with Ionic

Angular has the most support on Ionic because of its built-in integrations of Angular tools like Router and the team's general experience with AngularJS.

Angular provides the most in-depth control over the app's UI compared to React or Vue but also has the steepest learning curve. Ionic uses the official Angular stack to ensure seamless integration with the existing Angular ecosystem.

In short, the only change you'll notice with Angular Ionic in Ionic 4 is some improved performance. All previous tools and techniques still work the same but now you also have new Ionic 4 features to enhance your apps. Angular is still a great choice for mobile or web applications with Ionic.

Pros

  • Most existing support of any framework in Ionic.

  • Fine control over every aspect of the UI, favors more features over simplicity

  • Superior Navigation capabilities in Ionic using Angular Router

Cons

  • Angular offers a variety of different structures like Injectables, Components, Pipes, and Modules, which makes it harder to learn than the other two.

  • Only interfaces with the real DOM rather than a virtual DOM, which slows performance for certain applications.

Use Case:

You're a long-time Angular or Ionic user that wants to take advantage of the new Ionic 4 features or is new to Angular but wants to use the most mature and tunable framework.

Ionic React

Ionic React is the integration of Ionic and React and specializes in creating optimized progressive web applications. Many developers choose Ionic React over making standard React Native applications because of its ease of use. Ionic React uses Ionic's great UI component templates, which allow you to put together a UI from scratch in a matter of minutes.

Ionic React is more similar to traditional React development than Native because Ionic is just a mobile-friendly web app, rather than a mobile application redesign.

In other words, Native changes some behaviors and limits customization because it's working with existing iOS and Android controls behind the scenes. Ionic React uses all the familiar React controls and offers the same high level of customization offered in React web apps.

Further, Ionic supports PWAs while React Native does not.

Ionic React offers an intuitive app-building experience that can be used on any platform through its superb PWA support.

Pros

  • Faster to learn and build fresh apps using React

  • Easily customizable components to match desired aesthetics or behaviors

  • Gain the cross-platform flexibility of Ionic with the standard React feel

  • The best framework for progressive web application development

  • Allows you to easily import any current React projects

Cons

  • Less mature than Angular Ionic

  • Worse app navigation than Angular or Vue

  • Does not offer complex behaviors or components

Use Case:

You want to quickly create a progressive web app that looks the same on the web and mobile and only needs standard web app features.

Vue with Ionic

Ionic Vue is the newest framework to gain support in Ionic. It was released in 2020 to work with Vue.js V3 and is beloved as a middle ground between the simplicity of React and the full-featured Angular.

It's easier to learn than Angular but includes more expansive tools than React, such as data binding and compilation-free templating. Ionic Vue comes with Vue's CLI and Vue Router to allow command-line development and seamless navigation.

Ionic Vue is a perfect match; Vue's HTML template system allows you to easily reuse old elements in new components and Ionics web components system those templates to be viewable on any device. Ionic Vue allows you to create a cross-platform app using only HTML and JavaScript.

Vue is primarily used for single page web applications (SPAs) rather than mobile applications because it relies on web technologies and server-side loading. However, Ionic allows Vue apps to be used on mobile devices and allows you to build a web-first app that also has a mobile app version.

Pros:

  • Only need to know HTML and JavaScript

  • Middle ground of simplicity and functionality

  • Quickly growing in popularity and maturity due to corporate backing

  • Ideal for single-page applications

  • Faster performance than Angular due to virtual DOM

Cons:

  • Newest framework to be supported by Ionic

  • Harder to use than React

  • Not the best for mobile-only applications

Use Case:

You want to create a somewhat complex app or SPA and expect most users to use your web application but want to offer a mobile version as well.

Next steps

Ionic continues to re-establish itself as the next stage in web development technologies whenever it adds more framework support. As more companies see the value of a truly cross-platform web platform, Ionic is projected to grow even further.

It's a great tool to learn regardless of your current framework of choice. Your next step in learning Ionic is to jump in with your first Ionic project.

To help you master Ionic in React, Educative has created the course Developing Mobile Apps with Ionic and React. This course explores how to get the most benefit from React while leveraging Ionic's library of platform-specific components. By the end of the course, you'll have a fully functional attendance tracking application to add to your web development portfolio.

Happy learning!

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