in

19 Frameworks and Libraries to Know as a Full-Stack Developer

default image

As a full-stack developer, you need to be familiar with a wide range of frameworks, libraries and tools to build complete web and mobile applications. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the most popular and useful frameworks and libraries for front-end, back-end, CSS, databases and more that every full-stack developer should know.

Front-End JavaScript Frameworks and Libraries

The front-end of a web application is what users interact with directly in the browser. It includes the UI, DOM manipulation, routing and more. Here are some key front-end frameworks and libraries:

React

React has emerged as one of the most popular front-end libraries for building user interfaces. Created by Facebook, React allows you to build reusable UI components and manage state efficiently. Key features include:

  • Virtual DOM for fast rendering
  • One-way reactive data flow
  • Easy to compose complex UIs from simple components
  • Server-side rendering support
  • Large ecosystem of addons and libraries

React is a view-only library, so you‘ll need to pull in additional libraries for routing, managing state etc. Popular addons include React Router, Redux and React Query.

Vue.js

Vue is another popular component-based front-end framework that has gained a lot of traction in recent years. The core library focuses solely on the view layer. Key features include:

  • Responsive reactive data binding
  • Component-based architecture
  • Virtual DOM for optimal performance
  • Flexible and extensible
  • Easy integration into projects
  • Great documentation and ecosystem

Vue can be used as a view library in larger projects, or as a full-fledged framework with the supporting libraries and tools. The ecosystem includes routers, state management tools, UI component libraries and more.

Angular

Angular is a TypeScript-based open source web framework led by Google. It provides an all-in-one framework for building complex web and mobile apps. Key features:

  • MVC architecture
  • Powerful templating with Angular directives
  • Fast rendering with zones and change detection
  • Dependency injection
  • Excellent toolkit including router, HTTP client etc.
  • Scalable and maintainable codebase

The latest version Angular has seen many improvements in bundle size, performance and developer experience. While it has a steeper learning curve than Vue/React, Angular provides powerful tools for building large enterprise applications.

Svelte

Svelte is a new framework that takes a unique compile-time approach instead of using a virtual DOM diffing algorithm. Svelte compiles components into highly performant vanilla JavaScript during your build step. Features include:

  • No virtual DOM, just plain JavaScript
  • Compile-time code generation leads to excellent performance
  • Small bundle size with no runtime framework
  • Easy to integrate into existing projects
  • Write less code with declarative templates

This innovative approach eliminates the need for reactive frameworks and virtual DOM overhead. Svelte is still relatively new but definitely worth checking out, especially for performance-critical applications.

jQuery

jQuery has been the go-to JavaScript library for DOM manipulation, events, effects and AJAX requests since its release in 2006. Though not a full framework, jQuery makes many common tasks much simpler:

  • Cross-browser DOM manipulation/traversal
  • Event handling, effects and animations
  • Easy AJAX requests
  • Utilities for DOM ready, plugins etc.
  • Robust plugin ecosystem
  • Lightweight compared to larger frameworks

While modern frameworks like React have largely replaced jQuery for complex UIs, it can still be useful for quickly adding interactivity to simple sites or integrating with legacy code.

Front-End Templating

Modern front-end frameworks include powerful templating and data binding features out-of-the-box. But for simple use cases you may want a lightweight templating library like:

Mustache

Mustache is a minimal templating library with {{mustaches}} for data binding. Mustache supports various languages and doesn‘t require a templating engine on the backend. For example:

var template = ‘<p>{{name}} has {{count}} new messages.</p>‘;
var data = {name: "John", count: 5};

Mustache.render(template, data);
// <p>John has 5 new messages.</p>

Mustache is great for decoupling presentation from code. Check out this tutorial for more details on using it.

Handlebars

Handlebars is similar to Mustache and is a bit more fully featured. Key advantages include:

  • Robust expression support
  • Built-in helpers for common use cases
  • Partials and blocks for code reuse
  • Integrations for Node, .NET, Java etc.
  • Large community and ecosystem

Handlebars is a safe choice if you need simple yet powerful templating with data binding on the front or backend.

Back-End Web Frameworks

While front-end frameworks handle the client-side application logic, back-end frameworks power the server that provides data and services to the frontend. Some popular options include:

Express (Node)

The Express framework runs on top of Node.js and makes it easy to build performant web applications and APIs. Key features:

  • Lightning fast routing and middleware
  • Integrations with many template engines
  • Robust API for requests, responses etc.
  • Easy integration with Node.js features
  • Extensive ecosystem of middleware

Express allows you to quickly build robust APIs and web servers with Node.js and JavaScript. It has minimal boilerplate and exposes JavaScript/Node features for building scalable server-side apps.

Laravel (PHP)

Laravel is one of the most popular back-end PHP frameworks. Some key features include:

  • Expressive migrations for database schema
  • Powerful routing engine
  • Blade template engine for views
  • MVC architecture
  • Object-oriented libraries and utilities
  • Modular packaging system with Composer
  • Large ecosystem of packages

Laravel makes it easy to build secure and robust PHP applications with an elegant syntax. It has an expressive ORM, painless authentication and supports reactive event-driven programming.

Django (Python)

Django is a batteries included web framework for Python. It enables clean, pragmatic design with key features like:

  • Object-relational mapper (ORM)
  • URL routing system
  • Template engine for designer-friendly templates
  • Form handling with validation
  • Admin interface out of the box
  • Secure by default

Django follows the DRY (don‘t repeat yourself) and "convention over configuration" paradigms. It allows you to build secure and maintainable Python-based web applications quickly.

Rails (Ruby)

Like Django, Ruby on Rails is a server-side MVC framework based on the Ruby language. Some key advantages:

  • Active Record ORM
  • Convention over Configuration
  • Integrated templating engine
  • Asset pipeline for managing CSS, JavaScript etc.
  • Strong emphasis on REST APIs and JSON
  • Vibrant open source community

Rails makes it easy to follow best practices like MVC, DRY and TDD when building Ruby-based web apps. It‘s a great choice if you prefer developer productivity and elegance over performance.

CSS Frameworks

While you can write custom CSS for each project, CSS frameworks allow you to quickly build consistent, responsive layouts. Some top options:

Bootstrap

Bootstrap is the most popular CSS framework and provides many layout, component and utility classes like:

  • Grid system for responsive layouts
  • Form controls, buttons and navigation
  • Tables, images, figures etc.
  • Customizable with Sass
  • Extensive JavaScript plugins
  • Huge community and ecosystem

With Bootstrap you can quickly build nice looking sites and apps without deep CSS knowledge. The grid system handles responsive breakpoints and complex layouts for you.

Tailwind CSS

Tailwind CSS takes a lower-level utility-first approach. It provides dozens of single purpose CSS helper classes for:

  • Layout (grid, position, float etc.)
  • Flexbox utilities
  • Typography (font size, weight, etc.)
  • Spacing (margin, padding)
  • Backgrounds and more

The idea is to avoid writing custom CSS and combine these utility classes to build complex UIs. Tailwind avoids opinionated styles in favor of this customizable approach.

Bulma

Bulma is a free CSS framework based on Flexbox and comes with various responsive components like:

  • Grid system
  • Forms
  • Buttons, notices and different panel styles
  • Navigation, footer and hero sections
  • Customizable with Sass

The syntax is similar to Bootstrap but with a more minimalistic design. Bulma is great for building responsive sites using Flexbox while keeping your CSS lean.

Databases

The backend database stores structured data for the application. SQL and NoSQL databases both have their own strengths and use cases.

MySQL

MySQL is one of the most popular open source SQL databases. Key features:

  • Relational database with tables, indexes etc.
  • SQL interface for queries and management
  • ACID compliance for data integrity
  • Cross platform and supported by all languages
  • Scalable with sharding and replication
  • Fast performance for most use cases

MySQL is battle tested and strikes a nice balance between speed, reliability, and ease of use. It‘s a great default choice for SQL-based applications.

MongoDB

MongoDB is a popular document-based NoSQL database. Some advantages over SQL databases:

  • Document model maps naturally to objects
  • Flexible and scalable schema
  • Tunable consistency for performance
  • Ad-hoc queries, indexing and aggregation
  • Scales horizontally with automatic sharding

If you need greater flexibility than a relational model provides, MongoDB is an easy to use and scalable alternative. Popular as part of the MEAN (MongoDB, Express, Angular, Node) stack.

Redis

Redis is an in-memory data structure store often used for caching, messages, and other performance-critical workloads where disk I/O is a bottleneck. Features:

  • Supports lists, sets, hashes, streams etc.
  • Very fast as data is in memory
  • Persistence option available
  • Replication and clustering
  • Pub/sub messaging
  • Lua scripting, transactions etc.

Redis excels at latency-sensitive workloads where performance is critical. It‘s ubiquitous in production environments thanks to its versatility.

Mobile Development Frameworks

For building mobile apps, frameworks allow you to reuse business logic code on iOS, Android and the web. Here are some top options:

React Native

React Native allows you to build mobile apps using the React paradigm. It provides access to native platform APIs:

  • Build with React architecture and JavaScript
  • Cross platform UI components
  • Access native APIs like camera, location etc.
  • Near-native performance with asynchronous rendering
  • Live reloading to view changes instantly
  • Popular for fast prototyping and MVPs

React Native has some limitations around performance and ecosystem maturity compared to native platforms. But it enables sharing code between iOS, Android and web apps.

NativeScript

NativeScript is an open source framework for building truly native iOS and Android apps with JavaScript/TypeScript and CSS. Key features:

  • Access native SDKs with a JavaScript API
  • Hardware acceleration for smooth animations
  • LiveSync for instant app updates
  • Small runtime size
  • Robust plugin ecosystem
  • Vibrant community

NativeScript compiles JavaScript to native code so you don‘t sacrifice performance. It supports Angular, Vue and React as well.

Flutter

Flutter is Google‘s SDK for building beautiful native iOS and Android apps with a single Dart codebase. Advantages include:

  • Expressive UI framework with composable widgets
  • Hot reload support for rapid development
  • Compile to native ARM code for maximum performance
  • Full native platform integrations
  • Flexible 2D GPU accelerated graphics
  • Growing ecosystem of packages and libraries

Flutter is relatively new but provides an impressive developer experience and extensive libraries for building high quality mobile apps.

Ionic

Ionic is an open source SDK optimized for building hybrid mobile apps with web technologies like HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Benefits:

  • Single codebase that runs everywhere
  • Familiar web toolbox: Angular, React, Vue
  • Optimized for mobile with precise gestures
  • Beautiful UI components
  • Live reload and debugging
  • Deploy as progressive web app or native build

While not as performant as purely native approaches, Ionic is ideal for cross platform apps where web deployment is also required.

Testing Frameworks

Automated testing is crucial for catching bugs and improving quality in software projects. Here are some key testing tools:

Jest

Jest is a popular JavaScript testing framework created by Facebook focused on simplicity and speed. Features include:

  • Fast interactive mode runs only tests related to changed files
  • Mock functions, timers and modules
  • Snapshot testing
  • Parallel test execution
  • Code coverage reports
  • Integrations with React, Vue, Angular

Jest makes writing and running frontend tests easy with its excellent DX. It‘s commonly used for React apps but works with any JavaScript project.

Cypress

Cypress is a modern E2E testing runner built for the web. Advantages over old-school Selenium:

  • No more flaky tests – runs directly in the browser
  • Automatic waiting and retries
  • Spies, stubs and clocks for more control
  • Screenshots and videos on test failure
  • Executes tests in parallel

Cypress enables reliable end-to-end testing by removing common friction points. The developer experience is superb.

Mocha

Mocha is a JavaScript test framework that runs on Node.js. Features:

  • Flexible and extensible
  • Async test support
  • Test coverage reports
  • Can be used with any assertion library
  • Browser support
  • CLI runner
  • Great documentation

Mocha provides syntax for organizing and running test suites but not built-in assertions. It‘s commonly paired with libraries like Chai for assertions.

Conclusion

This guide covers the most essential frameworks, libraries and tools for full-stack development across the frontend, backend, CSS, mobile and testing domains. Here are some key takeaways:

  • React, Vue and Angular are leading front-end frameworks with robust ecosystems.
  • Node/Express, Laravel, Django and Rails are popular back-end frameworks.
  • Bootstrap, Tailwind CSS and Bulma help quick CSS/layout development.
  • MySQL and MongoDB are common SQL and NoSQL databases respectively.
  • React Native, NativeScript and Flutter allow cross-platform mobile development.
  • Jest, Mocha and Cypress are modern JavaScript testing frameworks.

The best way to choose is to consider the tech stack you are most comfortable with. Also evaluate team experience, available libraries and tooling.

Finally, spend time getting hands-on with these frameworks by going through tutorials and building example applications. This will give you a much deeper understanding compared to just reading concepts. As a full-stack developer, aim to experiment with different libraries and add more tools to your belt over time.

AlexisKestler

Written by Alexis Kestler

A female web designer and programmer - Now is a 36-year IT professional with over 15 years of experience living in NorCal. I enjoy keeping my feet wet in the world of technology through reading, working, and researching topics that pique my interest.