JavaScript libraries – jQuery or Scriptaculous. What’s your flavor?

I didn’t really intend to start my week by ultimately working up a simple comparison of JavaScript libraries, but like many things, the end result is not always what the initial outcome was planned on becoming. My latest project at work is building a small music site which will be a content managed portal for smaller bands to be able to be featured, rotating out every 30 days. It’s a cool project, and one that I am deriving quite a bit of enjoyment from both technically and creatively.

After building out the framework, and basic page templates, I dropped in Nick Stakenburg’s Lightview modal window code using Script.aculo.us. I have to say I really like Nick’s code, and Lightview is easily one of the best modal window projects I have found. I’ve used about four others in production, and this is super easy, and very customizable. The only downside is that it uses Scriptaculous, well that and the fact that it’s not free, but I don’t have a problem paying for high quality work. Scriptaculous turns out to be a downside because (for my purposes) there are a lot more available examples, plug-ins, and open-source projects available for jQuery. Faced with either a lot of extra work to not use jQuery, or to give in and make the switch, I set out to find a better modal window than Thickbox. If you’re a Thickbox fan, I’m sorry, but I really don’t like it. It’s not pretty and just a pain in the butt in general. I have used Thickbox for a number of years, but for this project I have switched over to ColorBox. I briefly tried Topup before going with ColorBox, but it conflicted with another plug-in I want to use, Juitter, so it wasn’t an option. Topup is a nice option though, and I have no other reason to not use it than it just didn’t play nice with Juitter.

Combined with a nice little snippet for toggling a div, I have a good collection of plug-ins and bits assembled to create the look and feel I want within my new site – I just have to go and get them implemented and styled to match. Even though I had almost all of the functionality completed using Scriptaculous, including a nice accordion menu for the band’s bio page, it didn’t take me much more than an hour to pull out all of the Scriptaculous bits, and replace them with jQuery. With the switch completed, overall I am pretty happy with the results, although I have to say that Nick’s Lightview is still superior to the modal window I am using now, but I can live with it.

I haven’t really formed any opinions on which library is better, but I can say that if you are looking for existing code to modify and use in a project that jQuery seems like it would be the way to go. On the surface there seem to be more people using it, and sharing their work. This for me is the deal breaker. I’m a designer first, code monkey second, so I would prefer to find/buy the pieces I want to use than write them by hand myself.

If you are interested in taking a look at an awesome site using jQuery integrating Social Media, look at Crispin Porter + Bogusky.

And here are a few other resources I found helpful:

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