Framework vs. Library: What Are the Differences?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published July 13, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If your computing department or company wants to create programming applications, you might benefit from using either a library or a framework. Both libraries and frameworks can help professionals speed up their software development process. However, they each operate differently, so the best one for your business depends on the needs of your program under development. In this article, we discuss the definitions of libraries and frameworks, the similarities between the two and the differences between a framework versus a library.

What is a framework?

A framework is a type of software that provides an outline for a new application. Frameworks come with some features already defined through their code. These features can help developers or other computing professionals create and deploy personalized software applications.

Web application systems are a common example of frameworks. You can find web application systems in many email systems, online stores and instant messaging services. Professionals may use the framework's skeleton to easily add common features users want, such as being able to save items to an online wish list while customizing their program to fit their company's specific needs.

Related: What Is the .NET Framework? Overview, Components and Benefits

What is a library?

A library is a set of specific and pre-designed functions. Developers can use a library's pre-made functionalities by implementing those functionalities into their new programs. A library's features typically try to solve specific and common problems within a developer's new application.

Common functions found in a programming library include message templates, configuration data and documentation. Configuration data, for example, refers to how the various aspects of a program interconnect and communicate with one another. If a developer chooses a library that offers pre-set configuration data, they can bypass creating these links between different components and move on to other aspects of their software development.

Related: 12 Differences Between C++ and Java Programming

Similarities between libraries and frameworks

Although libraries and frameworks operate differently, they have some similarities:

Code

Both libraries and frameworks come with pre-written code created by another professional. These outside professionals design this code to be used across a variety of applications. With either a library or framework, developers can use this pre-written code as a starting point for their programs rather than creating an entirely new application.

Purpose

Libraries and frameworks share the same broad goal of helping software developers create their own programs. Both frameworks and libraries help developers implement common programming functions or solve frequent programming challenges. Their aim is to make the development process easier by allowing programmers to quickly move on to developing the unique aspects of their program.

API

Both libraries and frameworks provide developers with some pre-set application programming interface (API) functions. API is the connector between various software components that helps different applications talk to one another. For example, if a developer wants to create a new mobile phone app, either a library or a framework can help them create an app that successfully communicates with a user's phone.

Related: What Are Applications?

Framework vs. library

While frameworks and libraries share similar purposes, they operate differently. An easy way to understand how frameworks and libraries function differently is to think about the process of building a patio. Constructing the patio yourself is like using a library to build your program. Although you can perform the actual construction of the patio yourself, you still need to purchase materials from a store. However, deciding to hire contractors to build the patio for you is similar to a framework. While you can choose some of the patio features, such as the size and materials used, the actual construction doesn't involve you.

Here are the principal differences between frameworks and libraries:

Inversion of control

Inversion of control refers to who or what is in charge of an application's development process. If you use a library to create your program, you can control when and where the library runs. In other words, with libraries, the developers lead the application's workflow.

By contrast, with a framework, the user doesn't control where or when the framework's functions operate. Instead, the framework runs its features as needed without being instructed by the user. This functionality puts the framework in charge of some aspects of the development process rather than the developer having full control.

Productivity

A framework can help developers create their programs with greater speed. Since the framework provides more of a structure for developers to work within, it may be easier for professionals to increase their productivity rates as they create their new applications.

A library, however, takes longer for programmers and other professionals to run. Since the library offers developers more flexibility in creating their programs, it often takes more time to create a new application with a library.

Related: The 7 Best Programming Languages To Learn in 2021

Choice

Libraries offer programs more options in how they design their programs. This adaptability of libraries can be useful if a developer wants to create a highly unique application. However, with this increased flexibility comes a higher chance of a developer creating a programming error. By contrast, since frameworks provide developers with more of a pre-determined structure, a framework may reduce the risk of user mistakes when coding.

Modification over time

Libraries allow developers to alter their codes over time. Frameworks, however, do not allow other professionals to make changes. A framework updates its code automatically when the framework's original developers decide to make changes.

Related: 6 Types of Programming Jobs

Loading times

A framework comes with more code than a library. This means that frameworks may take longer to load or provide users with a decrease in computing performance. Since libraries are less complex, they might have reduced loading times and improved performance rates.

Solution

Libraries typically have specific purposes. They help developers give their applications specific functions or solve specific programming issues. Frameworks, however, usually offer more generic functions that fit a wider variety of computing needs.

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