How do I access previous promise results in a .then() chain?

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I have restructured my code to promises, and built a wonderful long flat promise chain, consisting of multiple .then() callbacks. In the end I want to return some composite value, and need to access multiple intermediate promise results. However the resolution values from the middle of the sequence are not in scope in the last callback, how do I access them?

function getExample() {
    return promiseA(…).then(function(resultA) {
        // Some processing
        return promiseB(…);
    }).then(function(resultB) {
        // More processing
        return // How do I gain access to resultA here?
    });
}

First answer

ECMAScript Harmony

Of course, this problem was recognized by the language designers as well. They did a lot of work and the async functions proposal finally made it into

ECMAScript 8

You don’t need a single then invocation or callback function any more, as in an asynchronous function (that returns a promise when being called) you can simply wait for promises to resolve directly. It also features arbitrary control structures like conditions, loops and try-catch-clauses, but for the sake of convenience we don’t need them here:

async function getExample() {
    var resultA = await promiseA(…);
    // some processing
    var resultB = await promiseB(…);
    // more processing
    return // something using both resultA and resultB
}

ECMAScript 6

While we were waiting for ES8, we already did use a very similar kind of syntax. ES6 came with generator functions, which allow to break the execution apart in pieces at arbitrarily placed yield keywords. Those slices can be run after each other, independently, even asynchronously – and that’s just what we do when we want to wait for a promise resolution before running the next step.

There are dedicated libraries (like co or task.js), but also many promise libraries have helper functions (Q, Bluebird, when, …) that do this async step-by-step execution for you when you give them a generator function that yields promises.

var getExample = Promise.coroutine(function* () {
//               ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Bluebird syntax
    var resultA = yield promiseA(…);
    // some processing
    var resultB = yield promiseB(…);
    // more processing
    return // something using both resultA and resultB
});

This did work in Node.js since version 4.0, also a few browsers (or their dev editions) did support generator syntax relatively early.

ECMAScript 5

However, if you want/need to be backwards-compatible you cannot use those without a transpiler. Both generator functions and async functions are supported by the current tooling, see for example the documentation of Babel on generators and async functions.

And then, there are also many other compile-to-JS languages
that are dedicated to easing asynchronous programming. They usually use a syntax similar to await, (e.g. Iced CoffeeScript), but there are also others that feature a Haskell-like do-notation (e.g. LatteJs, monadic, PureScript or LispyScript).

Second answer

Synchronous inspection

Assigning promises-for-later-needed-values to variables and then getting their value via synchronous inspection. The example uses bluebird’s .value() method but many libraries provide similar method.

function getExample() {
    var a = promiseA(…);

    return a.then(function() {
        // some processing
        return promiseB(…);
    }).then(function(resultB) {
        // a is guaranteed to be fulfilled here so we can just retrieve its
        // value synchronously
        var aValue = a.value();
    });
}

This can be used for as many values as you like:

function getExample() {
    var a = promiseA(…);

    var b = a.then(function() {
        return promiseB(…)
    });

    var c = b.then(function() {
        return promiseC(…);
    });

    var d = c.then(function() {
        return promiseD(…);
    });

    return d.then(function() {
        return a.value() + b.value() + c.value() + d.value();
    });
}

Third answer

Nesting (and) closures

Using closures for maintaining the scope of variables (in our case, the success callback function parameters) is the natural JavaScript solution. With promises, we can arbitrarily nest and flatten .then() callbacks – they are semantically equivalent, except for the scope of the inner one.

function getExample() {
    return promiseA(…).then(function(resultA) {
        // some processing
        return promiseB(…).then(function(resultB) {
            // more processing
            return // something using both resultA and resultB;
        });
    });
}

Of course, this is building an indentation pyramid. If indentation is getting too large, you still can apply the old tools to counter the pyramid of doom: modularize, use extra named functions, and flatten the promise chain as soon as you don’t need a variable any more.
In theory, you can always avoid more than two levels of nesting (by making all closures explicit), in practise use as many as are reasonable.

function getExample() {
    // preprocessing
    return promiseA(…).then(makeAhandler(…));
}
function makeAhandler(…)
    return function(resultA) {
        // some processing
        return promiseB(…).then(makeBhandler(resultA, …));
    };
}
function makeBhandler(resultA, …) {
    return function(resultB) {
        // more processing
        return // anything that uses the variables in scope
    };
}

You can also use helper functions for this kind of partial application, like _.partial from Underscore/lodash or the native .bind() method, to further decrease indentation:

function getExample() {
    // preprocessing
    return promiseA(…).then(handlerA);
}
function handlerA(resultA) {
    // some processing
    return promiseB(…).then(handlerB.bind(null, resultA));
}
function handlerB(resultA, resultB) {
    // more processing
    return // anything that uses resultA and resultB
}
Reprint:https://stackoverflow.com/questions/28250680/how-do-i-access-previous-promise-results-in-a-then-chain
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