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Babel vs Browserify: What are the differences?

Introduction

Babel and Browserify are both popular tools used in web development, but they serve different purposes and have distinct differences.

  1. Compilation vs. Bundling: Babel is primarily a compilation tool that converts modern JavaScript code into a backward-compatible version suitable for older browsers. It does not bundle modules or handle dependencies. On the other hand, Browserify is a bundling tool that resolves dependencies between modules, combines them into a single file, and ensures they work in the browser.

  2. JavaScript vs. Modules: Babel focuses on transforming JavaScript code, including syntax and language features. It allows developers to write modern JavaScript using ECMAScript standards, such as ES6, ES7, or ES8, and converts it into equivalent code supported by older browsers. In contrast, Browserify specifically targets JavaScript modules. It enables developers to break their code into modular components, which can be imported and exported between files, thus improving maintainability and reusability.

  3. Runtime vs. Build-time: Babel operates at runtime, meaning it's typically integrated into the build process of a project and runs while the code is being executed. It ensures that the code is transformed on-the-fly, allowing it to work seamlessly across different environments. Browserify, on the other hand, operates at build-time. It processes the modules and dependencies during the build phase before the application is deployed or served to the browser.

  4. Dependency Handling: Babel does not handle module dependencies by default. It relies on a separate module bundler, like Browserify or Webpack, to resolve dependencies and generate a bundle. In contrast, Browserify automatically resolves dependencies based on the require() statements in the code and bundles them together, ensuring that all modules are included in the final output.

  5. Require vs. Import: Babel supports the import and export statements introduced in ECMAScript 6 for module implementation. However, it requires a separate tool or bundler to resolve these statements and handle dependencies. Browserify, on the other hand, uses the CommonJS require() syntax for importing modules, which is compatible with Node.js, making it easier to share code between server-side and client-side applications.

  6. Plugin Ecosystem: Babel has a wide range of plugins and presets available, allowing developers to customize the transformation process according to their needs. It provides flexibility and extensibility, enabling developers to incorporate specific language features or optimizations. In contrast, while Browserify does have plugins, they are mostly focused on enhancing the bundling process and less on transforming the code itself.

In Summary, Babel and Browserify have key differences in their primary purpose, JavaScript transformation, module handling, runtime vs. build-time operation, language support, dependency resolution, and plugin ecosystem.

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Pros of Babel
Pros of Browserify
  • 165
    Modern Javascript works with all browsers
  • 77
    Open source
  • 60
    Integration with lots of tools
  • 56
    Easy setup
  • 26
    Very active on github
  • 2
    JSX
  • 2
    Love
  • 2
    Source maps
  • 1
    Extensions
  • 75
    Node style browser code
  • 52
    Load modules installed by npm
  • 45
    Works great with gulp.js
  • 38
    NPM modules in the brower
  • 34
    Open source
  • 16
    Node streams
  • 1
    Easy setup

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What are some alternatives to Babel and Browserify?
Webpack
A bundler for javascript and friends. Packs many modules into a few bundled assets. Code Splitting allows to load parts for the application on demand. Through "loaders" modules can be CommonJs, AMD, ES6 modules, CSS, Images, JSON, Coffeescript, LESS, ... and your custom stuff.
TypeScript
TypeScript is a language for application-scale JavaScript development. It's a typed superset of JavaScript that compiles to plain JavaScript.
CoffeeScript
It adds syntactic sugar inspired by Ruby, Python and Haskell in an effort to enhance JavaScript's brevity and readability. Specific additional features include list comprehension and de-structuring assignment.
ESLint
A pluggable and configurable linter tool for identifying and reporting on patterns in JavaScript. Maintain your code quality with ease.
rollup
It is a module bundler for JavaScript which compiles small pieces of code into something larger and more complex, such as a library or application. It uses the new standardized format for code modules included in the ES6 revision of JavaScript, instead of previous idiosyncratic solutions such as CommonJS and AMD.
See all alternatives