Diving into AngularJS

by Andy Appleton

This weekend I’ve had some spare time and I’ve used it to take a proper look at AngularJS. I’ve used Backbone a lot and find myself defaulting to it as soon as a JavaScript application gets complicated. I realised that I was ignoring everything else because I already know Backbone and that’s not a good place to be. Time to jump into something new.

When all you have is a hammer…

Initially I downloaded the Angular source and launched into trying to build something simple with it but I found this a really frustrating experience. I consider myself a pretty competent JS developer but nothing really worked and the concepts didn’t click. Making me feel stupid is a quick way to turn me off of something.

I took a step back and realised that I was trying so hard to shoehorn what I knew about MVC from Rails and Backbone into the app that I wasn’t letting myself see the bigger picture. I spent an hour watching and coding along with a tutorial video and by the end felt I really understood the basics. Just by investing a small amount of time into learning the fundamentals I’m now really productive with Angular. Making me feel smart is a great way to keep me interested in something!

In less than a day I’ve come to love the declarative nature of the code I’m writing. Everything is so terse and I’m spending zero time writing what I would now consider boilerplate DOM manipulation or event binding code. This is really exciting coming from a world of manual template rendering and zombie events and I love not having to think about that stuff.


I listened to an interview with Chad Fowler this week. He spoke about how Rails is not necessarily the best web framework but it offers such a strong set of conventions and has such a strong community that it really allows you to forget about hooking an app together and just focus on the product you’re trying to build.

I feel like Angular offers the same level of convention and I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into a bigger project with it. I don’t want to spend my time writing glue code, clearing up old views, manually re-rendering templates on data change or writing form input handlers. I know there are libraries to handle these things in Backbone, but I also don’t want to be depending on 20 plugins just to get a functioning app.

Step back

These are just my initial thoughts after playing with the framework for a day and maybe I’ll change my mind after I’ve used it more extensively but right now I’m loving Angular and can’t see myself choosing Backbone the next time I start a big front end JS project.

If you’re looking to get started with Angular I’d recommend you check out the following resources:

  • Dan Whalin’s video tutorial really helped me to get the fundamentals of Angular.
  • egghead.io is a great collection of screencasts covering some more specific cases.
  • The AngularJS project homepage (although the docs are not that beginner friendly).