Comparing Technology: Flow vs TypeScript

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As the evolution of software development continues to expand, the need for complex coding increases as well. There are numerous programs and programming languages to help with projects within every aspect of the tech industry, but the decision to use one over another may affect the functionality of the project. Thus, it’s important to make smart choices on the software that is used to construct websites, applications, and so on. Two such languages that have made an impact in the tech industry are Flow and TypeScript.

What is Flow?

Although not a programming language like TypeScript, Flow was developed by Facebook, the same company that created the popular software React. It’s a static type checker that works specifically with JavaScript.

When checking type with Flow, the code ‘//@flow’ must be used so the system knows to use Flow to check for errors in the code. Additionally, file types don’t have to be changed to do this, which makes this program even more useful. However, Flow requires developers to manually run scans for errors.

What is TypeScript?

Created by Microsoft, TypeScript is an open-sourced programming language. It’s typed, meaning that developers have to assign ‘datatypes’ to specific pieces of code in order for it to function properly. Considered a ‘superset’ as well, TypeScript encompasses all of the tools JavaScript has available.

Unlike Flow, TypeScript doesn’t have to be run manually. When a function is executed, TypeScript automatically checks it for errors. This cuts down the time developers would have had to take manually running a check and allows for code to be fixed as it’s being created.

Comparing Flow & TypeScript

TypeScript has many extra tools and layers that Flow doesn’t. For example, decorators and interfaces are tools TypeScript can implement via JavaScript. This makes TypeScript a great choice for more complex projects for businesses with large amounts of data to be coded. Similarly, to be able to complete those kinds of projects, this language is consistently updated by Microsoft and adapts to the changes in the tech industry. The community behind it is extensive and highly active due to Microsoft’s reputation, as well as its functionality. On the other hand, the complexity of TypeScript means it’s a harder language to learn.

Flow is much simpler than TypeScript, primarily in its learning curve. It’s designed to be easy to learn while also being integrated into current projects. Having been released by Facebook, Flow and React are often used together. They are highly compatible with each other, which can be a benefit for developers with less experience. Since Flow is a type checker displaying no other significant functions, it also doesn’t have as big of a community as TypeScript. The lack of questions being asked and problems solved could be a result of being clear and simple enough that nothing needed clarification or fixing.

Ultimately, the developer’s preference and details of a project should be considered prior to choosing Flow, TypeScript, or another development tool. Each software has benefits and weaknesses, but many more factors should play into the decision to use one over the other. Development experience, project details, time to complete the project, and so on are just some of the elements a developer should consider before making their decision.