Angular Elements: A Bridge to Custom Elements

Anton Ioffe - December 1st 2023 - 10 minutes read

In the ever-evolving landscape of web development, Angular stands out as a powerful platform for building dynamic single-page applications. However, as the boundaries of what we can achieve with it continue to expand, Angular Elements emerges as a sterling innovation, blurring the lines between Angular and the wider web ecosystem. In this deep dive, we'll journey through the intricacies of extending the reach of Angular with Custom Elements, exploring the seamless transition from established Angular practices to the creation and integration of these reusable building blocks. From design intricacies to performance enhancements and scaling strategies, we'll unpack the blueprints for leveraging Angular Elements to craft sophisticated web experiences that interoperate with grace and precision in any environment. Prepare to enhance your toolkit as we unlock the full potential of Angular Elements, transforming the way you approach modern web components.

Angular Elements: Extending Angular's Capabilities with Custom Elements

The advent of Angular Elements marks a seminal moment in Angular's evolution, as the framework embraces the modular, encapsulating philosophies intrinsic to the web's component-based future. Angular's core architectural design has always focused on components, but with Angular Elements, these components can now transcend the confines of an Angular ecosystem. By packaging Angular components as custom elements, they can be consumed as autonomous elements, independent of the surrounding technology stack. This leap not only aligns Angular with the Custom Elements standard but also expands its potential reach across diverse development environments.

Understanding Angular Elements begins with appreciating their symbiotic relationship with the Custom Elements standard. Custom Elements, a cornerstone of Web Components, empower developers to define new HTML tags with behavior controlled by JavaScript. Angular Elements harness this concept by allowing Angular components to be registered in the CustomElementRegistry, thus establishing a new breed of element which can stand on its own, without Angular's traditional bootstrapping mechanism.

One of the key challenges that Angular Elements address is the seamless integration of Angular's rich features like dependency injection, change detection, and data binding within the realms of custom elements. To achieve this, Angular Elements acts like a bridge; it maps the inputs of an Angular component to the properties of the custom element, binds the component's outputs to the element's events, and ensures that Angular's change detection is propagated through the element's properties, attributes, and events in a predictable manner.

The powerful nature of Angular's reactivity system is thus preserved even in this new context, as Angular Elements inherit lifecycle hooks from Angular while also adhering to the lifecycle callbacks defined by the Custom Elements standard. This duality ensures that the Angular components encapsulated as custom elements are fully functional and responsive to changes just as they would be within an Angular application, establishing a robust and consistent behavior across different use cases.

In practice, these self-bootstrapping custom elements open new vistas for code reusability and modularity. They can be utilized as off-the-shelf UI components across different projects, frameworks, or even within a micro-frontend architecture. Angular Elements encapsulate the complexity of Angular's dynamic features into a package that melds neatly with the native DOM's structure, reinforcing Angular's relevance in a landscape increasingly driven by standards-based approaches. Developers are thus armed with a tool that allows Angular components to be distributed as reusable and framework-agnostic web elements—a testament to Angular's commitment to adaptability and the future of web development.

Design and Creation of Angular Elements

The journey of transforming an Angular component into an Angular Element begins with ensuring that the component is properly encapsulated. This means that the component should be self-contained, with all its dependencies, styles, and functionality, included within the component's metadata. Encapsulation is crucial because once the component is converted to a custom element, it will have to operate outside of the Angular environment and will not have access to the usual services and dependencies of an Angular application.

Upon ensuring a well-encapsulated component, the next step is to include it in an Angular module that is structured minimally. Unlike a regular Angular module, this dedicated module will typically have no additional services, nor will it import or export other modules. Its sole purpose is to reference and register the component. Furthermore, it's essential to declare the component in the entryComponents array to enable imperative loading, as Angular Elements bypass the traditional Angular template compilation process.

For the actual registration of the component as a custom element, developers utilize the createCustomElement function from the @angular/elements package. This function takes the Angular component and a configuration object and returns a constructor for a new custom element class. The custom element class is then registered with the browser's CustomElementRegistry using customElements.define(), where it's associated with a given tag name. This step links the Angular component to the DOM API, enabling it to be instantiated as a standard HTML element.

import { createCustomElement } from '@angular/elements';
import { Injector } from '@angular/core';
import { MyCustomComponent } from './my-custom.component';

// Assume injector is an instance of Injector, created and configured for this purpose
const customElementConstructor = createCustomElement(MyCustomComponent, { injector });

// Register the custom element with the browser.
customElements.define('my-custom-element', customElementConstructor);

Once an Angular component is packaged as an Angular Element, its inputs and outputs must be treated as properties and events of the custom element, respectively. This requires developers to adapt any parent components or applications using the custom element to interact with it using property bindings and event listeners. It's a common mistake to forget this adaptation and attempt to use Angular's template syntax which is not available after packaging the component.

To navigate the intricacies of Angular Elements, consider leveraging strategies such as projecting content into custom elements using slots and effectively using lifecycle hooks to manage the state of enclosed logic. Another advanced aspect to keep in mind is the polyfills necessary for custom elements' full compatibility with all browsers. Each step of the process should be validated, ensuring that the converted component maintains function parity when deployed as a custom element and avoiding any regressions in feature availability or user experience.

Bridging Angular with the DOM: Integration Points and Techniques

Angular Elements serve as a conduit between Angular's robust component model and the browser's native DOM. When incorporating Angular Elements into existing applications, a common approach is to use one-way data binding to set properties on custom elements. For example, suppose an Angular Element exposes an items property. One can bind a parent component's data to this property in an Angular application like this:

<my-custom-element [items]='parentData'></my-custom-element>

In a non-Angular environment, this property can be set directly on the element since it is exposed on the DOM element instance:

const myElement = document.querySelector('my-custom-element');
myElement.items = someData;

Two-way data binding with Angular Elements within Angular can be achieved by leveraging the EventEmitter class along with the @Output decorator. Here's how you'd set it up to listen for changes and respond to events:

<my-custom-element (customChange)="handleUpdate($event)"></my-custom-element>

For a vanilla JavaScript scenario, adding event listeners to respond to custom events dispatched by the element would look similar:

myElement.addEventListener('customChange', (event) => {
  // Update your application state in response to the new value

Event handling with Angular Elements is uniform, regardless of the environment. Angular components use the @Output decorator to emit custom events that standard DOM event listeners can capture. As you bind to a custom event, say updateEvent, within an Angular application, it is done like so:

<my-custom-element (updateEvent)="handleUpdate($event)"></my-custom-element>

And, in a non-Angular setup, you attach an event listener in the same way you would for any other DOM events:

myElement.addEventListener('updateEvent', handleUpdate);

Within Angular applications, Angular Elements are typically bootstrapped automatically as part of the application initialization and not manually. In contrast, non-Angular environments must ensure Angular Elements are bootstrapped when the DOM is fully loaded. While DOMContentLoaded is common for vanilla JavaScript, frameworks like React handle the rendering lifecycle differently, and the integration may vary.

document.addEventListener('DOMContentLoaded', () => {
  // Code to bootstrap and interact with Angular Elements

Understanding these integration points and bootstrapping techniques is key to successfully incorporating Angular Elements with both Angular and non-Angular codebases. The overarching goal is to uphold Angular's reactivity and maintain a seamless user experience while leveraging the flexibility of custom elements in various application environments.

Performance Implications and Optimization Strategies for Angular Elements

One significant performance hurdle that Angular Elements must overcome is the initially loaded bundle size. The core Angular framework, despite all its benefits, can be quite hefty when included in its entirety. This can result in prolonged load times for applications that only require a small subset of Angular's capabilities when packaged as custom elements. However, the introduction of Ivy, Angular's next-generation rendering pipeline, provides an opportunity for sizeable reductions. Ivy's tree-shaking capabilities strip out unused code from the final bundle during the build process. Developers can capitalize on this feature by ensuring that components are lean and importing only the necessary modules, keeping the custom elements compact and performant.

Another strategy to mitigate performance issues is the use of lazy loading. Introducing Angular components as custom elements only when needed can drastically improve the initial load time of an application. Coupled with Angular's dynamic import() expressions, developers can split their code into smaller chunks that are only fetched as they become relevant to the user's experience. For instance, an application dashboard could progressively load the elements associated with different widgets as the user interacts with them:

async function loadDashboardWidget(widgetName) {
    const { DashboardWidgetModule } = await import(`./widgets/${widgetName}.module`);
    // Logic to bootstrap the custom element from the module

Advanced compilation techniques, such as Ahead-of-Time (AOT) compilation, should be leveraged to further enhance runtime performance. AOT compilation converts Angular HTML and TypeScript code into efficient JavaScript before the browser downloads and executes it, which reduces the performance cost of rendering UI components dynamically. It is also advisable to use build optimizers which can eliminate additional runtime checks and improve tree-shaking efficiency, leading to smaller, faster-loading bundles.

When optimizing for performance, robust profiling and benchmarking should be undertaken. Developers must analyze the bottlenecks specific to their applications, using tools such as Chrome DevTools for performance profiling. Continuous monitoring allows for the incremental refinement of the performance optimization strategies. It's entirely possible that the primary pain point for one application (e.g., initial load time) is of lesser consequence for another, where perhaps execution speed or memory usage might be more pressing issues.

Lastly, it's essential to recognize common coding mistakes, like overloading a single custom element with too much responsibility or complex logic, which can lead to suboptimal performance. A better approach would be to decompose complex elements into simpler, more focused elements that are easier to maintain and load on-demand. This not only adheres to the Single Responsibility Principle but also offers a modular and reusable architecture. For example:

// Instead of a monolithic component
class MonolithicElement extends HTMLElement {
    // complex logic that handles everything

// Consider split components with focused functionality
class UserListElement extends HTMLElement {
    // logic specific to user listing

class UserDetailElement extends HTMLElement {
    // logic specific to user detail view

By evaluating the performance implications and applying these optimization strategies thoughtfully, developers can successfully employ Angular Elements to enhance their apps without compromising on the user experience.

Best Practices for Scalable and Maintainable Angular Elements

Creating Angular Elements that scale well and remain maintainable is a multifaceted exercise, where careful consideration of architecture and design patterns is paramount. One of the cornerstones of maintainable Angular Elements is strict versioning. As with any software, introducing breaking changes without proper semantic versioning is a recipe for chaos. Ensure that your custom elements are versioned according to semver principles—major versions for breaking changes, minor for new features, and patches for bug fixes. This communicates the nature and risk of updates to your users and helps avoid integration issues when different teams use different versions of the same elements.

In terms of change detection strategies, opting for the OnPush change detection strategy in your Angular components turned elements is wise. This strategy is designed to optimize performance by reducing the number of times the view is updated. It ensures that the component only rerenders when its input properties change, rather than on every microtask or browser event. This not only improves performance but also enforces a more predictable data flow, thus preventing unexpected side-effects during state updates.

Reusability and modularity go hand-in-hand when it comes to Angular Elements. Refrain from building bulky, do-it-all custom elements. Instead, focus on single-responsibility components that can be assembled together when needed. By adhering to this principle, you'll improve the ease with which updates can be managed and tested. Abstract shared functionality into services and utilize Angular's dependency injection to provide these services to your elements. Consider scenarios like cross-framework reusability and ensure that your Angular Elements can be easily adopted in different projects, regardless of the underlying technology.

A common pitfall in developing Angular Elements is underestimating the impact of bundle size. The hefty bundles can negatively affect the loading time and performance. A best practice solution here is to leverage tools like Angular's upcoming Ivy compiler for more tree-shakable and smaller bundles. While creating your elements, be scrupulous about the dependencies; import only what you actually need. Minimize the weight of your elements by avoiding the inclusion of unnecessary Angular modules and features.

Lastly, think deeply about the content projection mechanisms within your Angular Elements. Traditional Angular apps use ng-content for content projection, but Angular Elements should preferably employ the more flexible and standard approach of using slots. However, be mindful that dynamically projected content can be tricky with custom elements. Regularly test content projection to ensure that it works consistently across different use cases and remember that support for ContentChild and ContentChildren may not be full-fledged at all times within the context of Angular Elements. This ensures that consumers of your element will have a seamless experience when incorporating dynamic content within these custom elements.


The article discusses the concept of Angular Elements, which allows Angular components to be used as custom elements in any web environment. It explores the benefits and challenges of integrating Angular Elements with the Custom Elements standard, as well as design considerations, bridging techniques, performance implications, and best practices. A key takeaway is that Angular developers can leverage Angular Elements to create reusable and framework-agnostic web components, enhancing code reusability and modularity. A challenging task for readers would be to transform an existing Angular component into an Angular Element, ensuring proper encapsulation, registration, and adaptation of inputs and outputs.

Don't Get Left Behind:
The Top 5 Career-Ending Mistakes Software Developers Make
FREE Cheat Sheet for Software Developers