Top 5 Newish JavaScript Libraries (That Aren't AngularJS...)

by Ed Gordon
Published July 31, 2014

AngularJS is, like, so 2014. Already the rumblings have started that there are better ways of doing things. I thought it prudent to look into the future to see what libraries are on the horizon for web developers now, and in the future.

5. Famo.us

“Animation can explain whatever the mind of man can conceive.”

- Walt Disney

Famo.us is a clever library. It’s designed to help developers create application user interfaces that perform well; as well, in fact, as native applications.

In a moment of spectacular out-of-the-box thinking, Famo.us brings with it its own rendering engine to replace the engine that browsers supply. To get the increase in performance from HTML5 apps that they wanted, Famo.us looked at which tech does rendering best, namely game technologies, such as Unity and Unreal Engine.  CSS is moved into the framework and written in JavaScript instead. It makes transformations and animations quicker. It’s a new way of thinking for web developers, so you best dust off the Unity Rendering tutorials…

Famo.us makes things running in the browser as sleek as they’re likely to be over the next few years, and it’s massively exciting for web developers.

4. Ractive

“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.”

- Carl Jung

Manipulating the Document Object Model (which ties together all the webpages we visit) has been the major foe of web developers for years. Mootools, YUI, jQuery, AngularJS, Famo.us, and everything between have offered developers productivity solutions to enable them to manipulate the DOM to their client’s needs in a more expedient manner.

One of the latest libraries to help DOM manipulators at large is Ractive.js, developed by the team at The Guardian (well, mainly one guy – Rich Harris). Its focus remains on UI, so while it borrows heavily from Angular (it was initially called AngularBars), it’s a simpler tool at heart. Or at least, it approaches the problems of DOM manipulation in as simple a way as possible.

Ractive is part of the reactive programming direction that JavaScript (and programming, generally) seems to be heading in at the moment.

3. DC.js

“A map does not just chart, it unlocks and formulates meaning; it forms bridges between here and there, between disparate ideas that we did not know were previously connected.”

― Reif Larsen, The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet

DC.js, borrowing heavily from both D3 and Crossfilter, enables you to visualize linked data through reactive (a theme developing in this list) charts. I could try and explain the benefits in text, but sometimes, it’s worth just going to have a play around (after you’ve finished this post).

It uses D3 for the visualization bit, so everything’s in SVG, and uses Crossfilter to handle the underlying linkage of data.

For a world of growing data, it provides users with immediate and actionable insight, and is well worth a look. This is the future of data visualization on the web.

2. Lo-dash

"The true crime fighter always carries everything he needs in his utility belt, Robin."

- Batman

There’s something appealing about a utility belt; something that’s called to all walks of life, from builders to Batman, since man had more than one tool at his disposal. Lo-dash, and Underscore.js that came before it, is no different. It’s a library of useful JavaScript functions that abstract some of the pain away of JS development, whilst boosting performance over Underscore.js.

It’s actually based around Underscore, which at the time of writing is the most depended upon library used in Node, but builds on the good parts, and gets rid of the not so good. Lo-dash will take over from Underscore in the near future. Watch this space.

1. Polymer

“We are dwarfs astride the shoulders of giants. We master their wisdom and move beyond it. Due to their wisdom we grow wise and are able to say all that we say, but not because we are greater than they.”

- Isaiah di Trani

As with a lot of things, rather than trying to reinvent solutions to existing problems, Google is trying to just reinvent the things that lead to the problem. Web Components is a W3 standard that’s going to change the way we build web applications for the better, and Polymer is the framework that allows you to build these Web Components now.

Web Components envision a world where, as a developer, you can select a component from the massive developer shelf of the Internet, call it, and use it without any issues.

Polymer provides access to these components; UI components such as a clock – JavaScript that’s beyond my ability to write at least, and a time-sink for normal JS developers – can be called with:

<polymer-ui-clock></polymer-ui-clock>

Which gives you a pretty clock that you can actually go and customize further if you want.

Essentially, they put you in a dialog with the larger development world, no longer needing to craft solutions for your single project; you can use and reuse components that others have developed. It allows us to stand on the shoulders of giants.

It’s still some way off standardization, but it’s going to redefine what application development means for a lot of people, and enable a wider range applications to be created quickly and efficiently.

“There's always a bigger fish.”

- Qui-Gon Jin

There will always be a new challenger, an older guard, and a bigger fish, but these libraries represent the continually changing face of web development. For now, at least!

Books to Consider

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