The designers of software frameworks aim to facilitate software development by allowing designers and programmers to devote their time to meeting software requirements rather than dealing with the more standard low-level details of providing a working system, thereby reducing overall development time. For example, a team using a web framework to develop a banking website can focus on writing code particular to banking rather than the mechanics of request handling and state management.
A framework is similar to an application programming interface (API), though technically a framework includes an API. As the name suggests, a framework serves as a foundation for programming, while an API provides access to the elements supported by the framework. A framework may also include code libraries, a compiler, and other programs used in the software development process.
Frameworks often add to the size of programs, a phenomenon termed “code bloat”. Due to customer-demand driven applications needs, both competing and complementary frameworks sometimes end up in a product. Further, due to the complexity of their APIs, the intended reduction in overall development time may not be achieved due to the need to spend additional time learning to use the framework; this criticism is clearly valid when a special or new framework is first encountered by development staff. If such a framework is not used in subsequent job taskings, the time invested in learning the framework can cost more than purpose-written code familiar to the project’s staff; many programmers keep copies of useful boilerplate for common needs.
However, once a framework is learned, future projects can be faster and easier to complete; the concept of a framework is to make a one-size-fits-all solution set, and with familiarity, code production should logically rise. There are no such claims made about the size of the code eventually bundled with the output product, nor its relative efficiency and conciseness. Using any library solution necessarily pulls in extras and unused extraneous assets unless the software is a compiler-object linker making a tight (small, wholly controlled, and specified) executable module.
The issue continues, but a decade-plus of industry experience has shown that the most effective frameworks turn out to be those that evolve from re-factoring the common code of the enterprise, instead of using a generic “one-size-fits-all” framework developed by third parties for general purposes. An example of that would be how the user interface in such an application package as an office suite grows to have common look, feel, and data-sharing attributes and methods, as the once disparate bundled applications grow unified into a suite which is tighter and smaller; the newer/evolved suite can be a product that shares integral utility libraries and user interfaces.
NOTE: While frameworks generally refer to broad software development platforms, the term can also be used to describe a specific framework within a larger programming environment. For example, multiple Java frameworks, such as Spring, ZK, and the Java Collections Framework (JCF) can be used to create Java programs. Additionally, Apple has created several specific frameworks that can be accessed by OS X programs. These frameworks are saved with a .FRAMEWORK file extension and are installed in the /System/Library/Frameworks directory.