What I Love About Aurelia

There is no shortage of Javascript frameworks and libraries to choose from. Notably, you have Angular, React, and Vue, which are the most discussed and used.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know how much I love Aurelia and have blogged about it since early 2015. If you are new, let me quickly introduce myself.

I have been a developer for 11 years now, working in the front-end space. My experience stems back to the likes of; ExtJS, YUI, Backbone, Knockout, Durandal and Angular v1. Believe it or not, I also used to work with React back in 2014/2015.

I still remember seeing the post on Hacker News announcing the Aurelia alpha release. The date was January 26th, 2015. After reading through the website and goals of the framework as well as being familiar with Rob’s previous work, I gave it a go and never looked back.

Since 2015, I have been working with Aurelia daily in my day job (current job as well as my previous job) as well as side-projects and random ideas; there isn’t a project that I haven’t used it on.

Aurelia promotes strong separation of concerns

When I first started in web development, the one thing ingrained into me from the beginning was: separation of logic and templating, or separation of styles and markup also known as Separation of Concerns (SoC).

Web pages by their natural order promote separation by concern. HTML is used to structure and define the page; CSS is used to style the HTML and Javascript responsible for page interaction and logic.

In Aurelia, your business logic gets handled within a view-model, markup handled inside of a view and styling is handled inside of a stylesheet. When you think about it, Aurelia doesn’t try replacing what browsers and specs already give you; it enhances them.

Separation of concerns is a repeated theme throughout the framework. Components, custom attributes and routed views all utilise the same conventions and approach to writing a web application.

Think about how you would develop a web application or page without a framework these days, and it would be an HTML file for the markup, a stylesheet for the styling and a Javascript file which contains any logic for interacting with the page or dealing with data. No conventions, just basic concepts that never change, this is what it is like building in Aurelia.

I do not want to turn this post into a framework/library bashing contest, but this is one of the things I dislike about React. It reminds me of working with PHP applications (not using a framework) where business logic, styling and markup are all intertwined with one another.

There might be other ways these days with later versions of React, but the basic premise is you stuff a bunch of XML like HTML (JSX) inside of a render function which is called by React. You break up you UI into smaller components and use props to pass data through to them. While JSX is not required, it is the most commonly used syntax I have seen for authoring React components.

Let me acknowledge that A) I haven’t worked with React in a few years and B) I am biased because of my use of Aurelia. Please correct me if any of my assumptions and claims about React are inaccurate, and I can amend them.

Batteries included, no glue required

One of my absolute favourite things about Aurelia is the fact it gives you almost everything you need out-of-the-box. It gives you powerful templating, API’s, dependency injection, routing.

Then you have the plethora of plugins on offer for other functionality. Want to use Fetch with more beautiful syntax and error handling? Aurelia Fetch Client. Want to localise your application into other languages? Aurelia i18n. Need a configurable modal in your application? Aurelia Dialog.

If you want to add in state management to your Aurelia application and don’t want to get a frontal lobotomy using something over-engineered and complicated like Redux, there is Aurelia Store which is an RxJS powered state management library compatible with the Redux Dev Tools browser extension.

In my experience working with other frameworks and libraries; some require glueing together a lot of independently maintained dependencies to build what is essentially a framework.

Why waste your time creating a framework piece-by-piece every single time you want to build something. Save yourself the node_modules weight and time, use something that gives you what you need straight away.

Aurelia can be used without needing a bundler or build process

If your experience goes as far jQuery where you drop in a script and start writing code, then the ability to use Aurelia in script form might appeal to you. Thanks to Aurelia Script, you can add in a script and starting authoring powerful web applications.

Not only is this approach useful for quick prototyping on Codepen or Codesandbox, it means you spend less time battling with complicated build process in Webpack and fixing complex issues and extension incompatibilities.

If I am honest, not many of us enjoying configuring Webpack, opting to pull out our teeth with a pair of pliers instead.

It has no Virtual DOM

Thanks to other popular frameworks and libraries, the words Virtual DOM have become synonymous with developers naively believing that it means fast applications. While the Virtual DOM is impressive from a technical perspective, it’s not the only way to achieve fast performing web applications.

In Aurelia, the binding system is reactive; this means that when something changes, it gets updated in your view. Because there is no Virtual DOM, you’re working with just the real DOM, and you can use third-party libraries which need to touch the DOM without any problems.

The more you read into what a Virtual DOM is and how it works, the more you realise it’s not necessarily always the most performant choice.

It’s easy for newcomers and all skill level developers

I have seen developers upskill in Aurelia from a multitude of levels. I have seen back-end developers grasp Aurelia in a few days, I’ve seen front-end developers used to working with jQuery or React also get it quickly, and I have seen newcomers grasp it equally as fast.

I think this is a unique selling point for Aurelia; you don’t need a PhD in Javascript to know what is going on with it. Its conventions based approach means you spend less time configuring Aurelia and more time writing code.

The Aurelia CLI is fantastic

All useful frameworks and libraries these days have a CLI which allow you to get a starting application up and running with the features and coding styles needed: Aurelia is no exception.

There isn’t anything unique about the Aurelia CLI, but it makes your life a lot easier when you’re building a new project.

Familiar syntax, aligned with standards

In an era where framework and library authors are reinventing the wheel or introducing foreign concepts not found in any specification, Aurelia goes against the grain by leveraging standards-based concepts and API’s.

The templating syntax for displaying a value uses the same interpolation syntax ${myVariable} that you would inside of template literals inside of your Javascript/TypeScript code. Binding to properties is equally as intuitive, want to bind a value on a form input? <input type="text" value.bind="bindToThis">

If you want to use Web Components with Aurelia, there is a plugin for that and the next version; Aurelia will be aligned with the HTML Modules specification to give you single-file components like you might find in Vue, only standards-based.

This is one of the most unique features and selling points of Aurelia. It allows developers to work in a way that is familiar, a way that requires very little buy-in with the intent to eventually allow official specifications to replace features found in Aurelia.

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