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Using AngularJS? Stop using jQuery as a crutch.

Photo Credit: Timothy Tolle

Have you ever heard (or said!) this:

“Directives? That’s where the jQuery goes.”

I definitely have.

In an effort to better understand @joshdmiller’s excellent ng-boilerplate, I wanted to understand its dependency on Boostrap. More specifically, I wanted to see if I could swap out Twitter Bootstrap for Zurb Foundation. Bootstrap is great, but I really love using SCSS.

Down the rabit hole…

Up until this point, I’ve completely ignored angular-ui-bootstrap, which is a wrapper for Twitter Bootstrap that you can use with AngularJS. It hasn’t been on my radar, simply because I prefer Foundation. That was a mistake. This wonderful little library is amazing. On many levels, it expresses the power and flexibility of AngularJS like nothing else I have seen.

From the angular-ui-bootstrap README:

We are aiming at providing a set of AngularJS directives based on Twitter Bootstrap’s markup and CSS. The goal is to provide native AngularJS directives without any dependency on jQuery or Bootstrap’s JavaScript. It is often better to rewrite an existing JavaScript code and create a new, pure AngularJS directive. Most of the time the resulting directive is smaller as compared to the orginal JavaScript code size and better integrated into the AngularJS ecosystem.

This struck me.

The only dependency that ui-bootstrap has on Twitter Bootstrap is the CSS style sheets. All of the widgets work because they have been implemented with AngularJS directives.

I was reading through some posts on the Google groups in my earlier quest to find out how to integrate Foundation into ng-boilerplate (I’m stubborn!) and was very interested in what Josh had to say:

You can wire up some callbacks and $apply calls to make a jQuery plugin work but as Pawel said, rewriting something in AngularJS often takes less work. jQuery doesn’t have any of the binding or scope magic. When we cut out all of the jQuery code that makes up for that, we’re often left with very little code. And when we put those few lines of code in an AngularJS directive, everything will work out of the box. So in balancing levels of effort, rewriting makes sense more often than it doesn’t.
- Josh David Miller

Mind blown.

In the post quoted above Josh also links to his excellent Stack Overflow post that expands on this viewpoint. You may have seen this already, but if you haven’t, go take 10 minutes to read through it.

Don’t even use jQuery. Don’t even include it. It will hold you back. And when you come to a problem that you think you know how to solve in jQuery already, before you reach for the $, try to think about how to do it within the confines the AngularJS. If you don’t know, ask! 19 times out of 20, the best way to do it doesn’t need jQuery and to try to solve it with jQuery results in more work for you.

Bold words.

I’m convinced.

jQuery is a crutch if you are writing AngularJS applications.

If you’re starting an AngularJS app, take a good look at ng-boilerplate. Then take a look at ui-bootstrap’s directives. They are a living example of how you can do “jQuery things” with a fraction of the code, and build an app that is easier to maintain, way more testable, and generally nicer to work with.

P.S. If you were wondering, it is theoretically possible to simply use the Foundation CSS with ui-bootstrap. There is some work being done in that regard, and I’m looking forward to pitching in on it. I don’t know that it will ever get to “drop in replacement” status, but from the discussions I’ve read the future looks promising on this front.

P.P.S This isn’t a critique of jQuery. I think jQuery is awesome and has moved the web forward considerably. Even within Angular, they use what is called “jqLite” to give the core essentials of jQuery’s functionality. In that sense, just using Angular in the Angular way uses jQuery, but a minimal subset of it.

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You can find me on twitter @jhooks, google+, or via email joelhooks@gmail.com