Skip to content

HTTPS clone URL

Subversion checkout URL

You can clone with HTTPS or Subversion.

Download ZIP
A tool for making and composing asynchronous promises in JavaScript

This branch is 3 commits ahead, 550 commits behind kriskowal:v1

Fetching latest commit…

Cannot retrieve the latest commit at this time

Failed to load latest commit information.
design
examples
test
.gitignore
.travis.yml
CHANGES.md
LICENSE
README.md
package.json
q.js
q.min.js
ref_send.md

README.md

Build Status

If a function cannot return a value or throw an exception without blocking, it can return a promise instead. A promise is an object that represents the return value or the thrown exception that the function may eventually provide. A promise can also be used as a proxy for a remote object to overcome latency.

On the first pass, promises can mitigate the “Pyramid of Doom”: the situation where code marches to the right faster than it marches forward.

step1(function (value1) {
    step2(value1, function(value2) {
        step3(value2, function(value3) {
            step4(value3, function(value4) {
                // Do something with value4
            });
        });
    });
});

With a promise library, you can flatten the pyramid.

Q.call(step1)
.then(step2)
.then(step3)
.then(step4)
.then(function (value4) {
    // Do something with value4
}, function (error) {
    // Handle any error from step1 through step4
})
.end();

With this approach, you also get implicit error propagation, just like try, catch, and finally. An error in step1 will flow all the way to step5, where it’s caught and handled.

The callback approach is called an “inversion of control”. A function that accepts a callback instead of a return value is saying, “Don’t call me, I’ll call you.”. Promises un-invert the inversion, cleanly separating the input arguments from control flow arguments. This simplifies the use and creation of API’s, particularly variadic, rest and spread arguments.

Getting Started

The Q module can be loaded as:

  • a <script> tag (creating a Q global variable)
  • a NodeJS and CommonJS module available from NPM as the q package
  • a RequireJS module

Q can exchange promises with jQuery and Dojo and the following libraries are based on Q.

  • q-fs file system
  • q-http http client and server
  • q-comm remote objects
  • jaque promising HTTP server, JSGI middleware

Many other projects in NPM use Q internally or provide Q promises.

Please join the Q-Continuum mailing list.

Tutorial

Promises have a then method, which you can use to get the eventual return value (fulfillment) or thrown exception (rejection).

foo()
.then(function (value) {
}, function (reason) {
})

If foo returns a promise that gets fulfilled later with a return value, the first function (the value handler) will be called with the value. However, if the foo function gets rejected later by a thrown exception, the second function (the error handler) will be called with the error.

Propagation

The then method returns a promise, which in this example, I’m assigning to bar.

var bar = foo()
.then(function (value) {
}, function (reason) {
})

The bar variable becomes a new promise for the return value of either handler. Since a function can only either return a value or throw an exception, only one handler will ever be called and it will be responsible for resolving bar.

  • If you return a value in a handler, bar will get fulfilled.

  • If you throw an exception in a handler bar will get rejected.

  • If you return a promise in a handler, bar will “become” that promise. Being able to become a new promise is useful for managing delays, combining results, or recovering from errors.

If the foo() promise gets rejected and you omit the error handler, the error will go to bar:

var bar = foo()
.then(function (value) {
})

If the foo() promise gets fulfilled and you omit the value handler, the value will go to bar:

var bar = foo()
.then(null, function (error) {
})

Q promises provide a fail shorthand for then when you are only interested in handling the error:

var bar = foo()
.fail(function (error) {
})

They also have a fin function that is like a finally clause. The final handler gets called, with no arguments, when the promise returned by foo() either returns a value or throws an error. The value returned or error thrown by foo() passes directly to bar.

var bar = foo()
.fin(function () {
    // close files, database connections, stop servers, conclude tests
})
  • If the handler returns a value, the value is ignored
  • If the handler throws an error, the error passes to bar
  • If the handler returns a promise, bar gets postponed. The eventual value or error has the same effect as an immediate return value or thrown error: a value would be ignored, an error would be forwarded.

Chaining

There are two ways to chain promises. You can chain promises either inside or outside handlers. The next two examples are equivalent.

return foo()
.then(function (fooValue) {
    return bar(fooValue)
    .then(function (barValue) {
        // if we get here without an error,
        // the value retuned here
        // or the exception thrown here
        // resolves the promise returned
        // by the first line
    })
})
return foo()
.then(function (fooValue) {
    return bar(fooValue);
})
.then(function (barValue) {
    // if we get here without an error,
    // the value retuned here
    // or the exception thrown here
    // resolves the promise returned
    // by the first line
})

The only difference is nesting. It’s useful to nest handlers if you need to capture both fooValue and barValue in the last handler.

function eventualAdd(a, b) {
    return a.then(function (a) {
        return b.then(function (b) {
            return a + b;
        });
    });
}

Combination

You can turn an array of promises into a promise for the whole, fulfilled array using all.

return Q.all([
    eventualAdd(2, 2),
    eventualAdd(10, 20)
])

If you have a promise for an array, you can use spread as a replacement for then. The spread function “spreads” the values over the arguments of the value handler. The error handler will get called at the first sign of failure. That is, whichever of the recived promises fails first gets handled by the error handler.

function eventualAdd(a, b) {
    return Q.all([a, b])
    .spread(function (a, b) {
        return a + b;
    })
}

But spread calls all initially, so you can skip it in chains.

return foo()
.then(function (name, location) {
    return [name, FS.read(location, "utf-8")];
})
.spread(function (name, text) {
})

Handling Errors

One sometimes-unintuive aspect of promises is that if you throw an exception in the value handler, it will not be be caught by the error handler.

foo()
.then(function (value) {
    throw new Error("Can't bar.");
}, function (error) {
    // We only get here if "foo" fails
})

To see why this is, consider the parallel between promises and try/catch. We are try-ing to execute foo(): the error handler represents a catch for foo(), while the value handler represents code that happens after the try/catch block. That code then needs its own try/catch block.

In terms of promises, this means chaining your error handler:

foo()
.then(function (value) {
    throw new Error("Can't bar.");
})
.fail(function (error) {
    // We get here with either foo's error or bar's error
})

The End

When you get to the end of a chain of promises, you should either return the last promise or end the chain. Since handlers catch errors, it’s an unfortunate pattern that the exceptions can go unobserved.

So, either return it,

return foo()
.then(function () {
    return "bar";
})

Or, end it.

foo()
.then(function () {
    return "bar";
})
.end()

Ending a promise chain makes sure that, if an error doesn’t get handled before the end, it will get rethrown and reported.

This is a stopgap. We are exploring ways to make unhandled errors visible without any explicit handling.

The Beginning

Everything above assumes you get a promise from somewhere else. This is the common case. Every once in a while, you will need to create a promise from scratch.

You can create a promise from a value using Q.call. This returns a promise for 10.

return Q.call(function () {
    return 10;
});

You can also use call to get a promise for an exception.

return Q.call(function () {
    throw new Error("Can't do it");
})

As the name implies, call can call functions, or even promised functions. This uses the eventualAdd function above to add two numbers. The second argument is the this object to pass into the function.

return Q.call(eventualAdd, null, 2, 2);

When nothing else will do the job, you can use defer, which is where all promises ultimately come from.

var deferred = Q.defer();
FS.readFile("foo.txt", "utf-8", function (error, text) {
    if (error) {
        deferred.reject(new Error(error));
    } else {
        deferred.resolve(text);
    }
});
return deferred.promise;

Note that a deferred can be resolved with a value or a promise. The reject function is a shorthand for resolving with a rejected promise.

var rejection = Q.call(function () {
    throw new Error("Can't do it");
});
deferred.resolve(rejection);

This is a simplified implementation of Q.delay.

function delay(ms) {
    var deferred = Q.defer();
    setTimeout(deferred.resolve, ms);
    return deferred.promise;
}

This is a simplified implementation of Q.timeout

function timeout(promise, ms) {
    var deferred = Q.defer();
    Q.when(promise, deferred.resolve);
    Q.when(delay(ms), function () {
        deferred.reject("Timed out");
    });
    return deferred.promise;
}

The Middle

If you are using a function that may return a promise, but just might return a value if it doesn’t need to defer, you can use the “static” methods of the Q library.

The when function is the static equivalent for then.

return Q.when(valueOrPromise, function (value) {
}, function (error) {
});

All of the other methods on a promise have static analogs with the same name.

The following are equivalent:

return Q.all([a, b]);
return Q.call(function () {
    return [a, b];
})
.all();

When working with promises provided by other libraries, you should convert it to a Q promise. Not all promise libraries make the same guarantees as Q and certainly don’t provide all of the same methods. Most libraries only provide a partially functional then method. This thankfully is all we need to turn them into vibrant Q promises.

return Q.when($.ajax(...))
.then(function () {
})

If there is any chance that the promise you receive is not a Q promise as provided by your library, you should wrap it using a Q function. You can even use Q.call as a shorthand.

return Q.call($.ajax, $, ...)
.then(function () {
})

Over the Wire

A promise can serve as a proxy for another object, even a remote object. There are methods that allow you to optimistically manipulate properties or call functions. All of these interactions return promises, so they can be chained.

direct manipulation         using a promise as a proxy
--------------------------  -------------------------------
value.foo                   promise.get("foo")
value.foo = value           promise.put("foo", value)
delete value.foo            promise.del("foo")
value.foo(...args)          promise.post("foo", [args])
value.foo(...args)          promise.invoke("foo", ...args)
value(...args)              promise.apply(null, [args])
value(...args)              promise.call(null, ...args)
value.call(thisp, ...args)  promise.apply(thisp, [args])
value.apply(thisp, [args])  promise.call(thisp, ...args)

If the promise is a proxy for a remote object, you can shave round-trips by using these functions instead of then. To take advantage of promises for remote objects, check out Q-Comm.

Even in the case of non-remote objects, these methods can be used as shorthand for particularly-simple value handlers. For example, you can replace

return Q.call(function () {
    return [{ foo: "bar" }, { foo: "baz" }];
})
.then(function (value) {
    return value[0].foo;
})

with

return Q.call(function () {
    return [{ foo: "bar" }, { foo: "baz" }];
})
.get(0)
.get("foo")

Adapting Node

There is a node method on deferreds that is handy for the NodeJS callback pattern.

var deferred = Q.defer();
FS.readFile("foo.txt", "utf-8", deferred.node());
return deferred.promise;

And there’s a Q.ncall function for shorter.

return Q.ncall(FS.readFile, FS, "foo.txt", "utf-8");

There is also a Q.node function that that creates a reusable wrapper.

var readFile = Q.node(FS.readFile, FS)
return readFile("foo.txt", "utf-8");

Reference

promise.then(fulfilled_opt, rejected_opt) — Q.when(value, fulfilled_opt, rejected_opt)

Arranges for fulfilled to be called:

  • with the value as its sole argument
  • in a future turn of the event loop
  • if and when the value is or becomes a fully resolved

Arranges for rejected to be called:

  • with a value respresenting the reason why the object will never be resolved, typically an Error object.
  • in a future turn of the event loop
  • if the value is a promise and
    • if and when the promise is rejected

Returns a promise:

  • that will resolve to the value returned by either of the callbacks, if either of those functions are called, or
  • that will be rejected if the value is rejected and no rejected callback is provided, thus forwarding rejections by default.

The value may be truly any value. It can be a function. It can be a promise.

Either callback may be falsy, in which case it will not be called.

Guarantees:

  • fulfilled will not be called before when returns.
  • rejected will not be called before when returns.
  • fulfilled will not be called more than once.
  • rejected will not be called more than once.
  • If fulfilled is called, rejected will never be called.
  • If rejected is called, fulfilled will never be called.
  • If a promise is never resolved, neither callback will ever be called.

THIS IS COOL

  • You can set up an entire chain of causes and effects in the duration of a single event and be guaranteed that any invariants in your lexical scope will not...vary.
  • You can both receive a promise from a sketchy API and return a promise to some other sketchy API and, as long as you trust this module, all of these guarantees are still provided.
  • You can use when to compose promises in a variety of ways, for example:

INTERSECTION

function and(a, b) {
    return Q.when(a, function (a) {
        return Q.when(b, function (b) {
            // ...
        });
    })
}

promise.fail(callback()) — Q.fail(promise, callback())

Accepts a promise and captures rejection with the callback, giving the callback an opportunity to recover from the failure. If the promise gets rejected, the return value of the callback resolves the returned promise. Otherwise, the fulfillment gets forwarded.

promise.fin(callback()) — Q.fin(promise, callback())

Like a finally clause, allows you to observe either the fulfillment or rejection of a callback, but to do so without modifying the final value. This is useful for collecting resources regardless of whether a job succeeded, like closing a database connection, shutting a server down, or deleting an unneeded key from an object. The callback receives no arguments.

promise.end() — Q.end(value)

Accepts a promise and returns undefined, to terminate a chain of promises at the end of a program. If the promise is rejected, throws it as an exception in a future turn of the event loop.

Since exceptions thrown in when callbacks are consumed and transformed into rejections, exceptions are easy to accidentally silently ignore. It is furthermore non-trivial to get those exceptions reported since the obvious way to do this is to use when to register a rejection callback, where throw would just get consumed again. end arranges for the error to be thrown in a future turn of the event loop, so it won't be caught; it will cause the exception to emit a browser's onerror event or NodeJS's process "uncaughtException".

promise.get(name) — Q.get(object, name)

Returns a promise for the named property of an object, albeit a promise for an object.

promise.put(name, value) — Q.put(object, name, value)

Returns a promise to set the named property of an object, albeit a promise, to the given value.

promise.del(name) — Q.del(object, name)

Returns a promise to delete the named property of an object, albeit a promise.

promise.post(name, arguments) — Q.post(object, name, arguments)

Returns a promise to call the named function property of an eventually fulfilled object with the given array of arguments. The object itself is this in the function.

promise.invoke(name, ...arguments) — Q.invoke(object, name, ...arguments)

Returns a promise to call the named function property of an eventually fulfilled object with the given variadic arguments. The object itself is this in the function.

promise.keys() — Q.keys(object)

Returns a promise for an array of the property names of the eventually fulfilled object.

promiseForFunction.apply(this, arguments) — Q.apply(function, this, arguments)

Returns a promise for the result of calling an eventually fulfilled function, with the given values for the this and arguments array in that function.

promiseForFunction.call(this, ...arguments) — Q.call(function, this, ...arguments)

Returns a promise for the result of eventually calling the fulfilled function, with the given context and variadic arguments.

promiseForArrayOfPromises.all() — Q.all([...promises])

Returns a promise for an array of the fulfillment of each respective promise, or rejects when the first promise is rejected.

Q.defer()

Returns a "deferred" object with a:

  • promise property
  • resolve(value) function
  • reject(reason) function
  • node() function

The promise is suitable for passing as a value to the when function, among others.

Calling resolve with a promise notifies all observers that they must now wait for that promise to resolve.

Calling resolve with a rejected promise notifies all observers that the promise will never be fully resolved with the rejection reason. This forwards through the the chain of when calls and their returned promises until it reaches a when call that has a rejected callback.

Calling resolve with a fully resolved value notifies all observers that they may proceed with that value in a future turn. This forwards through the fulfilled chain of any pending when calls.

Calling reject with a reason is equivalent to resolving with a rejection.

In all cases where the resolution of a promise is set, (promise, rejection, value) the resolution is permanent and cannot be reset. All future observers of the resolution of the promise will be notified of the resolved value, so it is safe to call when on a promise regardless of whether it has been or will be resolved.

Calling node() returns a callback suitable for passing to a Node function.

THIS IS COOL

The Deferred separates the promise part from the resolver part. So:

  • You can give the promise to any number of consumers and all of them will observe the resolution independently. Because the capability of observing a promise is separated from the capability of resolving the promise, none of the recipients of the promise have the ability to "trick" other recipients with misinformation.

  • You can give the resolver to any number of producers and whoever resolves the promise first wins. Furthermore, none of the producers can observe that they lost unless you give them the promise part too.

UNION

function or(a, b) {
    var union = Q.defer();
    Q.when(a, union.resolve);
    Q.when(b, union.resolve);
    return union.promise;
}

Q.resolve(value)

If value is a promise, returns the promise.

If value is not a promise, returns a promise that has already been fulfilled with the given value.

Q.reject(reason)

Returns a promise that has already been rejected with the given reason.

This is useful for conditionally forwarding a rejection through an errback.

Q.when(API.getPromise(), function (value) {
    return doSomething(value);
}, function (reason) {
    if (API.stillPossible()) {
        return API.tryAgain();
    } else {
        return Q.reject(reason);
    }
})

Unconditionally forwarding a rejection is equivalent to omitting an errback on a when call.

Q.when(API.getPromise(), function (value) {
    return doSomething(value);
}, function (reason) {
    return Q.reject(reason);
})

Simplifies to:

Q.when(API.getPromise(), function (value) {
    return doSomething(value);
})

Q.isPromise(value)

Returns whether the given value is a promise.

promise.isResolved() — Q.isResolved(value)

Returns whether the given value is fulfilled or rejected. Non-promise values are equivalent to fulfilled promises.

promise.isFulfilled() — Q.isFulfilled(value)

Returns whether the given value is fulfilled. Non-promise values are equivalent to fulfilled promises.

promise.isRejected() — Q.isRejected(value)

Returns whether the given value is a rejected promise.

Q.async(generatorFunction)

This is an experimental tool for converting a generator function into a deferred function. This has the potential of reducing nested callbacks in engines that support yield. See examples/async-generators/README.md for further information.

Q.node(nodeFunction)

Wraps a Node function so that it returns a promise instead of accepting a callback.

var readFile = FS.node(FS.readFile);
readFile("foo.txt")
.then(function (text) {
});

The this of the call gets forwarded.

var readFile = FS.node(FS.readFile);
FS.readFile.call(FS, "foo.txt")
.then(function (text) {
});

The node call can also be used to bind and partially apply.

var readFoo = FS.node(FS.readFile, FS, "foo.txt");
readFoo()
.then(function (text) {
});

Q.ncall(nodeFunction, thisp, ...args)

Calls a Node function, returning a promise so you don’t have to pass a callback.

Q.ncall(FS.readFile, FS, "foo.txt")
.then(function (text) {
});

Q.enqueue(callback Function)

Calls callback in a future turn.

Advanced Reference

The resolve promise constructor establishes the basic API for performing operations on objects: "get", "put", "del", "post", "apply", and "keys". This set of "operators" can be extended by creating promises that respond to messages with other operator names, and by sending corresponding messages to those promises.

Q.makePromise(handlers, fallback_opt, valueOf_opt)

Creates a stand-alone promise that responds to messages. These messages have an operator like "when", "get", "put", and "post", corresponding to each of the above functions for sending messages to promises.

The handlers are an object with function properties corresponding to operators. When the made promise receives a message and a corresponding operator exists in the handlers, the function gets called with the variadic arguments sent to the promise. If no handlers object exists, the fallback function is called with the operator, and the subsequent variadic arguments instead. These functions return a promise for the eventual resolution of the promise returned by the message-sender. The default fallback returns a rejection.

The valueOf function, if provided, overrides the valueOf function of the returned promise. This is useful for providing information about the promise in the same turn of the event loop. For example, resolved promises return their resolution value and rejections return an object that is recognized by isRejected.

promise.send(operator, ...args) — Q.send(value, operator, ...args)

Sends an arbitrary message to a promise.

Care should be taken not to introduce control-flow hazards and security holes when forwarding messages to promises. The functions above, particularly when, are carefully crafted to prevent a poorly crafted or malicious promise from breaking the invariants like not applying callbacks multiple times or in the same turn of the event loop.

Copyright 2009-2011 Kristopher Michael Kowal MIT License (enclosed)

Something went wrong with that request. Please try again.