The concept behind frameworks and libraries is to provide reusable code that you can use to perform everyday tasks so that developers don’t have to write all of the code from scratch for every project.
Frameworks and libraries are designed to be modular and reusable, meaning they can be used in multiple projects without needing to rewrite the code. This can save developers a significant amount of time and effort and also help to improve the reliability and maintainability of the code.
In addition to providing reusable code, frameworks and libraries can offer a set of best practices and conventions for structuring and organizing code, which can help developers build more scalable and maintainable applications.
However, there are some differences that you need to understand as you start writing code, which I will cover in this article.
Libraries and frameworks: Basics
A library is a group of operations that programmers can call at a whim and still have complete control over the software application’s flow. The actions that libraries are expected to take are stated carefully and precisely.
An application describes the substance of the action by requesting the developer to fill in the blanks in a framework, which is a structure. The developer specifies the functionality with the end-user in mind, while a framework establishes the notion using a set of libraries or tools to accomplish the task.
What are libraries?
A library is a collection of pre-written code that you can use to perform specific tasks. Libraries are often used to reduce the amount of code a programmer needs to write by providing reusable functions or classes that can be called upon as needed.
All libraries are shared into two classifications. All libraries are either Static or Dynamic.
- Dynamic libraries: Dynamic libraries are loaded at runtime rather than linked with a program at compile time. This allows programs to use the library without having to be re-compiled if the library is updated. In addition, dynamic libraries are often used to provide platform-specific functionality or to allow multiple programs to share a single copy of the library in memory.
- Static libraries: These are compiled into a program’s executable code, making it self-contained and independent of external changes. Static libraries are linked with a program at compile time, resulting in a single executable file that includes all of the code from the library. As a result, static libraries are often used to improve the performance of a program by avoiding the overhead of loading a library at runtime.
You can write libraries in most programming languages, and they can be used by programs written in that same language or a different language. For example, a library written in C++ could be used by a program written in Python.
While there are two main classifications of libraries, there are many different types of libraries, including:
- Standard libraries: These are libraries that are included with a programming language by default. These libraries provide a set of standard functions and utilities that are useful for many applications. For example, the C standard library includes functions for input/output, string manipulation, memory allocation, and mathematical operations.
- Third-party libraries: These libraries are developed by organizations or individuals other than the creators of the programming language. These libraries can provide additional functionality that is not included in the standard library and may be distributed as open-source or commercial products.
Libraries can perform various tasks, such as file input and output, data manipulation, network communication, and more. They can also provide access to system resources, such as the file system or hardware devices.
What are Frameworks?
A framework is a set of libraries or tools that provide a structure for building applications. It typically includes code libraries, templates, and guidelines for how to use the libraries to develop applications.
Frameworks can be useful for developers because they provide a standardized way to build and organize code, which can help streamline the development process and make it easier to build and maintain complex applications. They can also help developers to build applications that are more reliable and scalable, as the framework provides a set of best practices and conventions to follow.
Frameworks are used in various programming sectors like:
- Popular artificial intelligence frameworks include Tensorflow, Accord.Net, etc.
- Development of mobile apps: Native Script, React Native, and Flutter is a few of the well-liked frameworks.
These are many different types of frameworks available, ranging from web application frameworks to game development frameworks to mobile application frameworks. Some examples of popular frameworks include:
- Ruby on Rails, a web application framework for the Ruby programming language
- Unity, a game development engine for building 2D and 3D games
Each framework has its own set of features and capabilities, and developers can choose the one that best meets their needs for a particular project.
Pros and Cons of Libraries and Frameworks
When choosing between frameworks and libraries, it is important to take into account all of their possibilities, advantages, and disadvantages.
Pros of libraries
There are several benefits to using programming libraries:
- Reusability: Programming libraries allow you to reuse code that has already been written and tested, saving you time and effort. This means you don’t have to reinvent the wheel whenever you want to perform a common task.
- Quality: Programming libraries are typically well-tested and debugged, so you can be confident that the code is reliable and will work as intended.
- Maintainability: Programming libraries can make maintaining your code easier over time. Since the library code is separate from your code, you can update or upgrade the library without affecting your codebase.
- Community support: Many popular programming libraries have large user bases and active communities, so you can often find help or resources online if you have questions or run into issues.
- Standardization: Programming libraries help ensure that your code is consistent and follows established best practices. This can make it easier for other developers to understand and work with your code.
- Encapsulation: Ignores global state management issues like HTTP and routing in favor of concentrating directly on the functionality that the library implements.
- Developer time: Lowers the cost of developing applications by providing pre-built solutions to handle random tasks.
Cons of libraries
There are equally some potential drawbacks to using programming libraries:
- Dependencies: Using programming libraries can introduce dependencies into your codebase. This means that if the library changes or is no longer supported, it could break your code or require you to make changes. This is particularly a problem with dynamic libraries.
- Bloat: Depending on the size and complexity of the library, it could add unnecessary bloat to your codebase, which could impact the performance of your application.
- Compatibility: Not all libraries are compatible with all programming languages or platforms. This means you may have to choose a different library or find a way to make it work with your technology stack.
- Lack of control: When you use a programming library, you have to rely on its functionality. This means you may have less control over how a particular task is performed than writing your code from scratch.
- Learning curve: Using a new programming library can take time to learn and understand. This can be a barrier for some developers, especially if the library has a steep learning curve or needs better documentation.
- Performance: A wrapper is required when using a library in an unsupported environment, which slows the application.
Pros of Frameworks
There are several benefits to using frameworks in programming:
- Structure and organization: Frameworks provide structure and organization for your code, making it easier to develop and maintain common types of applications by bringing together the libraries and tools needed. This can be especially helpful for large or complex projects.
- Reusability: Frameworks often include reusable components or libraries that can save you time and effort. This means you can write less code from scratch and offers quicker solutions for web development.
- Best practices: Frameworks often embody established best practices and design patterns, which can help ensure that your code is well-designed and maintainable.
- Community support: Many popular frameworks have large user bases and active communities, so you can often find help or resources online if you have questions or run into issues.
- Scalability: Frameworks are often designed with scalability in mind, which means they can handle large requests or traffic without performance issues. This can be especially important for applications that are expected to grow or have high usage levels.
- Encapsulation: The entire application is unaffected by a change to a single component.
- Compatibility: Encourages the development of cross-platform applications.
- Quality: Creates rich, dynamic content that offers a better user experience with less skill required.
Cons of frameworks
There are a few potential drawbacks to using frameworks in programming:
- Complexity: Some frameworks can be complex and have a steep learning curve, which can be intimidating for beginner developers.
- Limited flexibility: Frameworks often have a specific way of doing things, which can be inflexible if you want to do something outside the framework’s scope. Also, a framework’s ready-to-use features restrict programmers from fully knowing the programming language.
- Performance overhead: Some frameworks can add a performance overhead, which can impact the speed of your application.
- Dependency on the framework: If you build your application using a specific framework, you may become reliant on it, making it more challenging to switch to a different one.
- Lock-in: Using a framework can also lead to lock-in, where you are tied to a specific set of technologies and unable to switch to alternatives easily.
- Complexity: For example. in MVC, separating the presentation layer from the business logic might be challenging.
- Unexpected consequences: As an example, if recommended framework guideline is not followed while developing, there is a chance of a security breach.
Libraries and frameworks: Similarities and differences
Libraries offer pre-set functions and classes to developers to streamline their work and speed up the development process. Contrarily, a framework is akin to the base upon which programmers create apps for specific platforms.
Both libraries and frameworks are collections of pre-written code that developers can utilize to speed up the creation of software programs. In addition, they offer several classes or functions that can carry out typical activities, such as communicating with databases, managing user input, or producing graphics.
There are several similarities between libraries and frameworks:
- Both libraries and frameworks provide functions or classes that developers can use to perform everyday tasks.
- Both libraries and frameworks are designed to be reusable, so developers do not have to write the same code repeatedly.
- The process for installing libraries and frameworks is the same (e.g, installing the Numpy library and the TensorFlow framework on a computer can both be done using the pip package installer by running the command “
pip install numpy” and “
pip install tensorflow“, respectively, in the command line. The process for installing the library and the framework is the same, as both are done using the same package installer and the same type of command.).
- Both libraries and frameworks can save time and effort when building software applications.
One way to illustrate the similarities between libraries and frameworks is with an example. Suppose you are building a web application that needs to authenticate users and allow them to upload and download files. You can use multiple libraries or a more complete framework to provide the necessary functionality for these tasks.
For example, you could use a library like “Authlib” to handle user authentication. This library provides a set of functions you can call in your code to handle tasks such as creating new user accounts, logging in and out, and verifying user credentials. Then get a different library for handling file transfers, or write your own.
On the other hand, you could use a framework like “Django” to handle both user authentication and file uploads/downloads. Django is a full-stack web framework with many out-of-the-box functionalities, including user authentication and file storage. When using Django, you would write your code within the structure provided by the framework, following its conventions and patterns.
Both libraries and frameworks can be valuable tools for building software applications, and the choice of which to use will depend on the specific needs of your project. However, both libraries and frameworks provide pre-written code that can save time and effort when building software, and they can be easily installed and used in a project.
These are some key differences between libraries and frameworks which I will discuss further in the following sections.
Libraries are designed to be flexible and can be used in various ways. Developers can choose how to use a library and incorporate it into their code in any way that makes sense for their project.
Consider the mathematical library.
Here’s an example of how a mathematical library can be used in a simple mathematical operation, using the Math library in Python:
from scipy.optimize import fsolveimport math
# Calculate the square root of a number
x = 16
y = math.sqrt(x)
# Output: 4.0
# Calculate the logarithm of a number with base 10
z = math.log10(100)
# Output: 2.0
# Calculate the sine of an angle in radians
a = math.sin(math.radians(30))
# Output: 0.49999999999999994
In this example, the Math library provides functions for performing various mathematical operations, such as calculating square roots, logarithms, and trigonometric functions. The developers can use these functions in any way they see fit. They can call any of the functions provided by the library and use the return values of these functions in any way they like. Hence, this example showcases the flexibility of a library.
In contrast to libraries, frameworks tend to impose a specific structure or pattern on the principle that the developer writes. This means that developers must follow the system set by the framework when using it.
Now consider a framework like “Rails.” Rails is a web application framework that provides a range of functionality for building web applications, including routing, database interaction, and rendering views. When using Rails, a developer must follow the structure and conventions of the framework. For example, they might write code like this:
class UsersController < ApplicationController
@user = User.find(params[:id])
In this example, the developer must define a controller class that inherits from “
ApplicationController” and define a “show” action within that class. They must also use instance variables (such as @user) in a specific way, as they will be used to render views.
Inversion of control
This has a vital difference in libraries and frameworks. It refers to managing control flow in an application that uses a library or framework. In a standard library, the developer writes code that calls the library’s functions or methods. The developer controls the program’s flow and can decide when to call the library’s functions. This is known as “procedural control.”
This example reflects procedural control in a library:
# Import the library
# Use the library's functions to perform tasks
user = authlib.create_user(username='jane', password='123456')
In contrast, in a framework, the framework calls the code that the developer writes. The developer writes code that conforms to the structure and conventions of the framework, and the framework calls this code at specific points in the application’s execution. This is known as “inversion of control.”
Here is an example of inversion of control in a framework:
# Import the framework
# Use the framework's structure to build the application
# Define a Django "view" function to handle a request
# Perform some action based on the request
# Define a Django "urlpattern" to map the view function to a URL
urlpatterns = [
In this example, the developer has defined a “view” function called handle_request that Django will contact to handle incoming HTTP requests. The developer has written this function within the structure provided by the Django framework, and the framework will call the function at the appropriate time when a request is received. This represents an inversion of control, as the framework calls the code that the developer has written rather than the other way around.
Scope of functionality
The scope of functionality refers to the range of tasks that a library or framework is designed to handle. Libraries are focused on a specific task or set of tasks and provide a narrow range of functionality that can be used to perform these tasks. For example, a library might be designed to handle user input, interact with a database, or perform data parsing.
Here is an example of how a library might be used in code to handle user input:
# Import the library
# Use the library's functions to handle user input
name = inputlib.get_string('Enter your name:')
age = inputlib.get_int('Enter your age:')
In contrast, frameworks are designed to provide a wide range of functionality and are often used to build complete applications. A framework will typically include a set of libraries and other tools that can perform a wide range of tasks, such as handling user input, rendering graphics, and interacting with a database.
Here is an example of how a framework might be used in code to build a complete web application:
# Import the framework
# Use the framework's structure to build the application
# Define a Django "view" function to handle a request
# Perform some action based on the request
# Define a Django "urlpattern" to map the view function to
urlpatterns = [
# Use Django's built-in libraries to interact with a
from django.db import models
name = models.CharField(max_length=50)
age = models.IntegerField()
Here, the developer is using Django to build a complete web application. The developer has defined a “view” function to handle incoming HTTP requests and has used Django’s built-in libraries to define a model for storing user data in a database. This demonstrates a framework’s broad scope of functionality, including tools for handling user input, interacting with a database, and building a complete web application.
Ease of use
Libraries are generally easier to use than frameworks, as impose far less specific structure or pattern on the code written by the developer. This can make them more flexible and easier to work with, especially for developers who are new to a particular language or platform.
Is it wrong to use Libraries and Frameworks interchangeably?
Although they have similarities, developers shouldn’t confuse libraries for frameworks or use both terms interchangeably.
Understanding the distinction will make it easier for you to make sense of all the resources that are already accessible for web application development and all the ones that will undoubtedly emerge in the future.
You can also combine different resources in the same application by knowing whether each is a framework or a library. Can you combine, for instance, Angular and Express? React and Rails? React and Angular? Express and Rails?
Some of these tools are frontend or backend intended and you can only combine them if you follow the guide below…
Typically, you wouldn’t combine two frameworks, especially that have overlapping purposes, but there are common reasons why you might.
- The “MEAN” stack (Express and Angular) is an exception to the rule , because both frameworks are lightweight and concentrate on different aspects of the application.
- Although one is a framework and the other is a library, Angular and React offer front-end rendering paradigms. Thus, combining the two generally wouldn’t make sense.
- Since one is a robust framework for full-stack apps and the other is a library for front-end rendering, you can combine Rails and React.
- However, since Rails and Express offer back-end framewor ks, you shouldn’t combine the two.
However, you may (and typically must) incorporate a framework and a library. Furthermore, you usually need to integrate your framework with many libraries because each library excels at doing one particular task, and applications frequently employ a variety of libraries because they must perform various tasks efficiently.
An application can be quickly developed and deployed using a framework. By utilizing a framework, we may use resources to expedite the development and improve user experience. A library is used to increase an application’s functionality. We can use the functions from our library in a variety of applications.
Who controls the execution flow is the key technical distinction between a framework and a library. You decide when to call the library, if at all when using a library. However, while using a framework, you write code to fill in the framework’s gaps because the framework manages the execution flow. The code that’s written is called the framework.