NG-CONF 2017 Day One Highlights

I’m glad to be back again at ng-conf in Salt Lake City. I’ve used Angular since the very beginning and it continues to get better. Here are some of the highlights that stood out to me from the first day of the conference.

Keynote

During the keynote, there was discussion about gauging the success of Angular. They estimated that the community is around 1.3 million users of AngularJS (version 1 of the framework) and 810 thousand users of Angular (versions 2 and 4 of the framework, they skipped version 3). Of all the applications out there, about 90% of them are internal applications (ones we can’t see because they are behind the corporate firewall). 17% of the public Angular applications are already on version 4 of the framework.

There are over 200 applications internal to Google that are using the framework. These applications serve as an initial test bed for all updates of the framework, helping to ensure smooth updates to new versions.

Impressive statistics.

Version 4, released a short time ago, has some great improvements in performance and the size of payloads. The team worked hard to ensure that upgrades went smoothly and there were no breaking changes in the framework APIs. They’ve released the first version of the Angular CLI, a helpful tool for building and maintaining Angular applications (more details below).

For enterprises that can’t upgrade on a regular cycle, they announced Long-Term Support (LTS) for Angular version 4 through October 2018. This ensures that critical bug-fixes and security patches will be applied for a while.

Tools

JavaScript tooling has always been the biggest source of frustration for building applications. Angular is improving in this area by introducing the Angular CLI, a command-line tool that can construct an initial Angular application as well as assist in the continuing development of the application, adding new components, modules, services, etc. It does many of the chores of constructing module definitions and building development and production versions of the application. It also includes unit testing and end-to-end testing.

The CLI can be configured if required, but at some point if you out-grow the CLI, you can eject the build scripts and customize them as much as you need.

Minko Gechev created a tool, called Codelyzer, that extends TSLint to check source code for common problems, specifically in Angular applications. But he also went farther by building a tool that creates an abstract syntax tree specific to Angular as well as a tool to visualize this tree. And just for fun, created a tool to see this visualization in 3D.

Components

Angular (the name for all versions of framework after version 1, as opposed to AngularJS which is the name used for version 1) has fully embraced the component model. These means that you construct your application by building a tree (hierarchy) of components. This provides a good way to organize your application into logical pieces (areas of your application) as well as functional pieces (responsibilities). Some components can be container (“decision”, “smart”) components that know how to interact with business services, where others are presentation (“presenter”, “dumb”) components that are only concerned with presenting user interface. Container components generally pass data down to presentation components and respond to events from the presentation components by translating them into some business function.

Justin Schwartzenberger presented a talk that dug into some of the performance and architectural decisions that should be considered when creating your component hierarchy. He talked about different “taxes” paid for different implementations, the tax paid for rendering components and change detection tracking, the tax paid for using HTML elements just for containment, the tax paid for coupling parent and children components. It was really a great explanation of how to think about the organization of your components.

Related to this, the Material Design team has done great work to make the Material components integrate better with standard HTML markup. For example, instead of defining a <md-button> custom component, you can attach an md-button attribute to the button element itself instead, <button md-button ...>. These, along with many other optimizations make the library much more flexible and more natural to those creating HTML markup.

Other Highlights

  • The Angular Animations module has been updated to include a feature that has been requested frequently, the ability to add animations to route transitions.

  • The Angular team wants to continue to improve the CLI in many areas, including increasing the speed of building the application, reducing the size of the output, using a common configuration for both development and production (to reduce differences in operation between environments), better error messages. They also want to get to the point where the CLI is more like an SDK that can be customized with plugins, custom templates, and additional tooling.

  • Tobias Bosch did a deep dive into the Angular Ahead-of-Time (AOT) compiler, explaining what was going on in building components and HTML templates into JavaScript executed at run time.