Best Elixir Frameworks to Create a Web App

Though Elixir is a relatively new programming language, its popularity has soared in the past few years, thanks to powering messaging apps like Discord and WhatsApp, as well as a number of enterprise companies. Elixir is a functional programming language that is built on the Erlang virtual machine—which was developed in the 1980s to solve the concurrency problems that telecom companies faced. It offers the concurrency and the fault-tolerance of Erlang, but with modern syntax, so Elixir Framework has become preferred by many programmers today.  

Not only is Elixir reliable for distributed systems that need to run all the time, but it has the advantage of useful frameworks and libraries in its ecosystem. We’ll take a look at a few of the most popular Elixir frameworks for building web applications, so you can evaluate what may work well for building your next project.

Why Use A Framework?

For developers, a framework improves efficiency and accuracy when writing scripts. Frameworks help by giving built-in features and tools to make code quicker and easier to write, so Elixir developers can focus on building actual features. Using frameworks also can handle database interactions, and help with security and caching. And though Elixir has great debugging features, a framework can still make debugging and maintenance easier. In short, frameworks make it smoother and faster to develop web applications.

Phoenix: Elixir’s Top Framework

Phoenix is no doubt the best-known Elixir framework. It was the first on the scene and provided a feature-rich platform for building real-time apps. Phoenix also happens to run on the Erlang VM, so it benefits from the same strong points, being highly functional and low-latency. It’s based on MVC (model-view-controller) architecture, and it tends to well-liked by Ruby developers as they find it familiar to the Ruby language. Phoenix makes use of channels, which track application state and create a connection between server and client that push quick updates continuously. 

Phoenix has the benefit of a built-in live dashboard so you can view into the Erlang VM; and handle a high number of connections. Also, Phoenix known as simple and scalable, but above all, fast. Each request has its own process, and developers can create many processes to run simultaneously. However, it also has a low memory requirement, so multiple processes don’t slow down an application.

Phoenix LiveView is a library that provides a way to build real-time web applications. It allows developers to build user experiences with server-rendered HTML, and without the need for JavaScript. It uses Phoenix Channels to track application state and handle events server-side and pushes quick, small updates to the client. Livebook built on LiveView and is a helpful web application for writing collaborative code notebooks as Jupyter notebook does for Python.

Nerves IoT

The Nerves platform also is an excellent framework choice for building embedded systems using Elixir. It integrates network communication and discovery in one application. Nerves have a Linux-based platform that compiles directly to Erlang’s BEAM Virtual Machine. It offers a framework of modules to make it easy to start building. Nerves give you command-line tools for managing building, updating firmware, and configuring devices. Nerves is a newer framework, but still an attractive choice for offering a full component of systems to develop an API.

Sugar 

Sugar was released in 2014 and is an open-source framework that aims to give Elixir developers everything needed to get an API up and running. Also, Sugar is unique in that it’s a modular framework, so it’s highly customizable. This framework is fast, thanks to a small footprint and tight memory management that only loads what’s being used. Its interface is simple, and any developer should be able to use it easily. The best case for using Sugar is when your web app doesn’t need the complexity of Phoenix.

Plug

Plug was originally released in 2013 and was the first major web framework for Elixir. The core developer of Plug, Jose Valim, also happens to be the creator of Elixir. As part of the official ecosystem, Plug is sure to be updated regularly. By itself, Plug isn’t a whole “framework” like Phoenix or Rails – it’s more of a set of protocols and adapters for creating web applications. Because of this, you can use Plug with any server that has an adapter for the protocol. Since it’s so lightweight, it can also be used in parts, as needed; rather than having to implement everything to get started with your project.

Aptly named, Plug uses a concept called plugs to modify requests and responses between clients and servers. This framework is a tool to handle HTTP requests, set status code and send responses.

Hedwig

Hedwig is another interesting framework with a very specific use case. Its utility is tied to the console, meaning it’s limited to chatbot-style interactions. Though limiting, it also allows for some very specific uses of the technology. For example, if an application has a console that supports notifications; developers can use Hedwig to create a bot that monitors a channel and notifies users when they are mentioned.

Trot

Trot is a micro-framework intended to make creating APIs easy. The value of Trot is going to depend on your exact needs. If you are using the Plug framework in complex ways; Trot has a lot to offer because it makes it easy to code patterns used frequently in Plug. The best way to judge this is by looking at your code for Plug usage. If you have a couple of Plugs per module or have complex routing rules, Trot might be a good fit. On the other hand, if you only use one or two Plugs per route; and need to keep things fairly simple, there’s probably not much value in using Trot over just writing the routes by hand. 

Customizing Elixir

Elixir is no doubt a powerful language for building web apps and combined with one of these frameworks; the process of building these apps can be easier. With so many options, whether a simple API or chatbot; there’s an ideal framework choice available to make custom web applications better.

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