asyncjs

async.js it for the node fs module, what jQuery is for the DOM

npm install asyncjs
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async.js

A clean, composable way to manipulate sequences of values with asynchronous functions

Dealing with control flow in heavily asynchronous code can be a big challange. Without any helper functions the code can easily degenerate into a christmas tree shape because of the callback of a callback of a callback syndrome.

    asncFunction1(function(err, result) {
        asncFunction2(function(err, result) {
            asncFunction3(function(err, result) {
                asncFunction4(function(err, result) {
                    asncFunction5(function(err, result) {
                        // do something useful
                    })
                })
            })
        })
    })

With async.js this can be written as

    async.list([
        asncFunction1,
        asncFunction2,
        asncFunction3,
        asncFunction4,
        asncFunction5,
    ]).call().end(function(err, result) {
        // do something useful
    });

It gets even worse if an asynchronous function has to be applied to a sequence of values. There is a nice example of this in the howtonode.org article Control Flow in Node Part III:

    // Here is the async version without helpers
    function loaddir(path, callback) {
      fs.readdir(path, function (err, filenames) {
        if (err) { callback(err); return; }
        var realfiles = [];
        var count = filenames.length;
        filenames.forEach(function (filename) {
          fs.stat(filename, function (err, stat) {
            if (err) { callback(err); return; }
            if (stat.isFile()) {
              realfiles.push(filename);
            }
            count--;
            if (count === 0) {
              var results = [];
              realfiles.forEach(function (filename) {
                fs.readFile(filename, function (err, data) {
                  if (err) { callback(err); return; }
                  results.push(data);
                  if (results.length === realfiles.length) {
                    callback(null, results);
                  };
                });
              });
            }
          });
        });
      });
    }

This code reads the contents of a directory, filters out all directory and returns the contens of all files as an array. Without any helpers the whole control flow management totally obscures the intent of the code. With async.js it is possible to move the control flow aspects of the code out of the function and rewrite it like this:

    function loaddir(path, callback) {
        async.readdir(".")
            .stat()
            .filter(function(file) {
                return file.stat.isFile()
            })
            .readFile("utf8")
            .filter(function(file) {
                return file.data
            })
            .toString(callback)
    }

Features

Core

JavaScript Array like abstraction, which supports almost all JavaScript array functions with asynchronous versions of

  • filter
  • map
  • reduce
  • forEach
  • some
  • every

All functions are chainable.

node.js file system plugin

Most of the functions from the fs module in node.js are exposed as chainable filters.

  • stat (lstat, fstat)
  • unlink
  • mkdir/rmdir
  • realpath
  • open/close
  • exists (from path.exists)
  • chmod
  • readFile/writeFile

Constructors

  • files: convert a list of files into a file sequence
  • readdir: create a file sequence from the files in a directory
  • walkfiles: recursive file walker
  • glob: Unix style file matching. Creates a file sequence of all matching files.

Utility functions to work with the file system

  • abspath: convert a relative to an absolute path
  • copyfile: copy a single file
  • copytree: copy whole diroctory tree
  • rmtree: remove whole direcory tree (like rm -rf)

Utils plugin

Generic filters:

  • delay: wait a given time before returning the next value
  • timeout: If the source doesn't respond in a given time an error is returned.
  • inspect: print the source value as JSON
  • print: print the source value as string

How does it work?

Constructors

Constructors are the sources of async streams. They return an async.Generator instance which generates a sequence of values.

Filters

Filters work on the sequence generated by a source generator. They can remove, add and modify values in the sequence. Filters return themselves generator instances.

Drivers

Driver methods drive the actual execution of the iteration. The hole system is based on the principle of pulling the values from the end. Until any of the drivers is called no value will be generated.

TODO

  • Add documentation about the fs plugin
  • Add documentation about the unit testing framework
  • improve test coverage of the core functionality
  • create browser version

Continuous Integration status

This project is tested with Travis CI Build Status

Core API

Constructors

async.range([start=0], [stop], [step=1], [construct=async.Generator])

Creates a generator generating an arithmetic progression of integers. range(i, j) returns [i, i+1, i+2, ..., j-1] and start defaults to 0. When step is given, it specifies the increment (or decrement). If stop is not given an infinite number of values if generated. This generates all positive odd numbers:

    async.range(1, null, 2)

The optional construct argument must be a sub class of async.Generator and can be used to tell the function to return instances of the class.

async.list(arr, [construct=async.Generator])

Creates a generator, which returns the elements of the given array. This generates e.g. the values 1, 2 and 3:

    async.list([1, 2, 3])

The optional construct argument must be a sub class of async.Generator and can be used to tell the function to return instances of the class.

async.Generator(source)

Generators are implementing the 'Iterator' design pattern in an asynchronous way. It has a next(callback) method, which passes on each call the next generated value to the given callback. Generators can be chained and all construcors and filters return new Generator instances.

The source is either another async.Generator or a generator function. All filters in the generator operate on the values generated by the source.

    var i=0;
    var gen = new async.Generator(function(callback) {
        if (i>4)
            callback(async.STOP)
        else
            callback(null, i++) // no error
    })

gen in this example generates the sequence [0, 1, 2, 3, 4]. The first argument of the callback can be used to indicate an error the the end of the iteration, whicle the second argument is the generated value.

Constant: async.STOP

Special error value, which indicates the end of the iteration.

Method: next(callback)

Calls the callback with the next generated value:

    gen.next(function(err, value) {
        //
    })

The generated value is passed in the value argument. If an error occured while computing the value the err argument is set. In this case value the meaning of value is undefined. async.STOP can be passed as special error value to indicate the end of the iteration.

Usually this method is only needed to write custom filters.

Filter: map(mapper)

Applies the mapper function to all values of the generator's source and generates the result of the mapping.

    async.range(0, 3)
        .map(function(item, next) {
            next(null, item + 1)
        })

This will add one to each incoming item and thus generate the sequence [1, 2, 3].

The mapper can also be synchronous and simply return the result. In this case the mapper must not have the next argument.

Filter: filter(filter)

Calls filter for each of the generator's source values. If the filter returns false for a passed value, the value is dropped from the sequence, otherwise the value is forwarded.

    async.list([1, 2, 3, 4])
        .filter(function(item, next) {
            next(null, item % 2 == 0)
        })

This will filter out all odd values and generate the sequence [2, 4].

Filter: slice(begin, end)

Counts the generator's source values starting with 0 and skips all values with an index smaller then begin. If the index is >= end the sequence is stopped.

    async.range(0)
        .slice(1, 4)

The async.range call generates an infinite sequence of all integers and the slice call transforms this into the sequence [1, 2, 3] by dropping the first value and stopping the sequence after the 4th value.

Filter: reduce(reduce, [initialValue])

Sum up the number from 1 to 5:

    async.range(1, 5)
        .reduce(function(previousValue, currentValue) {        
            return previousValue + currentValue;
        })

Sum up the number from 1 to 5 but with a first 'initialValue' of 10:

    async.range(1, 5)
        .reduce(function(previousValue, currentValue, index, next) {
            next(null, previousValue + currentValue);
        }, 10)

Filter: forEach(fn)

Alias for each.

Filter: each(fn)

Calls fn for each of the source generator's values. The returned generator passes on the source values.

    async.range(1, 10)
        .each(function(item, next) {
            console.log(item);
        })

Prints the numbers from 1 to 9. Otherwise the source sequence is not changed.

Filter: some(condition)

Check if any of the values in the source sequence match the condition (i.e. the condition callback returns true). The returned generator generates a one elmement sequence, which contains the boolean value of the result.

Check if the source generates an even number:

    async.list([1, 8, 3, 5])
        .some(function odd(item) {
            return item % 2 == 0
        })

This generates [true].

Filter: every(condition)

Check if all of the values in the source sequence match the condition (i.e. the condition callback returns true). The returned generator generates a one elmement sequence, which contains the boolean value of the result.

Check if the source generates only even numbers:

    async.list([1, 8, 3, 5])
        .every(function odd(item) {
            return item % 2 == 0
        })

This returns [false]

Filter: call([context])

Calls each of source values in sequence, which have to be functions. The functions can either be synchronous and return a value of be asynchronous and call the passed callback on completion. The generated sequence are the function's return values. The optional context argument defines the this context of the called functions.

    async.list([
        function sync() {
            return "juhu"
        },    
        function async(next) {
            next(null, "kinners")
        }
    ]).call()

This calls the two functions in sequence and generates the sequence ["juhu", "kinners"].

Filter: concat(...)

Concatenates a variable number of generators with this generator.

    async.range(1, 4)
        .concat(async.range(10, 13))

This returns a generator, which generates the values of the first range followed by the values of the second range: [1, 2, 3, 10, 11, 12]

Filter: zip(...)

Returns a generator, which generates on each next() an arroy of the next values of this generator and each of the passed arguments. The length of the generated sequence is truncated to the lenght of the shortest input sequence. This function expects a variable list of generators as arguments.

    async.range(1, 4)
        .zip(async.range(10, 14))

This will generate [[1, 10], [2, 11], [3, 13]]

Filter: sort([compare])

Performs an Array.prototype.sort on the source values and returns a generator, which generates the result as one element sequence. Since this requires reading all source elements, the source must not generate an infinite number of values. Generates the read values in sorted order.

    async.list([4, 2, 3, 9])
        .sort()

This generates the sequence [2, 3, 4, 9]

Filter: join([separator])

Performs an Array.prototype.join on the source values and returns a generator, which generates the result as one element sequence. Since this requires reading all source elements, the source must not generate an infinite number of values.

    async.list([1, 4, 5])
        .join(" - ")

This will generate ["1 - 4 - 5"]

Filter: reverse()

Reverses the elements generated by the generator's source. Since this requires reading all source elements, the source must not generate an infinite number of values.

async.list([1, 4, 5])
    .revers()

This will generate [5, 4, 1]

Driver: end([callback])

Perform the iteration until the generator's source either returns async.STOP or indicates an error. The value of the last generated value is passed to the callback.

    async.list([1, 8, 3, 5])
        .every(function odd(item) {
            return item % 2 == 0
        })
        .end(function(err, allEven) {
            console.log("All values are even: " + allEven)
        })

This will print the last generated value (the result of very) on the console.

Driver: toArray([breakOnError=true], callback)

Perform the iteration until the generator's source either returns async.STOP. If breakOnError is true the iteration is stopped on the first error. Otherwise the iteration continues and all errors are collected in an error array. An array of all generated values is passed to the callback.

    async.list([1, 8, 3, 5])
        .map(function odd(item, next) {
            next(err, item * 10)
        })
        .toArray(function(err, values) {
            console.log(values)
        })

The last callback will be called with arr set to [10, 80, 30, 50].

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