How to make a promise from setTimeout [duplicate]

This is not a realworld problem, I'm just trying to understand how promises are created.

I need to understand how to make a promise for a function that returns nothing, like setTimeout.

Suppose I have:

function async(callback){ 
    setTimeout(function(){
        callback();
    }, 5000);
}

async(function(){
    console.log('async called back');
});

How do I create a promise that async can return after the setTimeout is ready to callback()?

I supposed wrapping it would take me somewhere:

function setTimeoutReturnPromise(){

    function promise(){}

    promise.prototype.then = function() {
        console.log('timed out');
    };

    setTimeout(function(){
        return ???
    },2000);


    return promise;
}

But I can't think beyond this.

Answers:

Answer

Update (2017)

Here in 2017, Promises are built into JavaScript, they were added by the ES2015 spec (polyfills are available for outdated environments like IE8-IE11). The syntax they went with uses a callback you pass into the Promise constructor (the Promise executor) which receives the functions for resolving/rejecting the promise as arguments.

First, since async now has a meaning in JavaScript (even though it's only a keyword in certain contexts), I'm going to use later as the name of the function to avoid confusion.

Basic Delay

Using native promises (or a faithful polyfill) it would look like this:

function later(delay) {
    return new Promise(function(resolve) {
        setTimeout(resolve, delay);
    });
}

Note that that assumes a version of setTimeout that's compliant with the definition for browsers where setTimeout doesn't pass any arguments to the callback unless you give them after the interval (this may not be true in non-browser environments, and didn't used to be true on Firefox, but is now; it's true on Chrome and even back on IE8).

Basic Delay with Value

If you want your function to optionally pass a resolution value, on any vaguely-modern browser that allows you to give extra arguments to setTimeout after the delay and then passes those to the callback when called, you can do this (current Firefox and Chrome; IE11+, presumably Edge; not IE8 or IE9, no idea about IE10):

function later(delay, value) {
    return new Promise(function(resolve) {
        setTimeout(resolve, delay, value); // Note the order, `delay` before `value`
        /* Or for outdated browsers that don't support doing that:
        setTimeout(function() {
            resolve(value);
        }, delay);
        Or alternately:
        setTimeout(resolve.bind(null, value), delay);
        */
    });
}

If you're using ES2015+ arrow functions, that can be more concise:

function later(delay, value) {
    return new Promise(resolve => setTimeout(resolve, delay, value));
}

or even

const later = (delay, value) =>
    new Promise(resolve => setTimeout(resolve, delay, value));

Cancellable Delay with Value

If you want to make it possible to cancel the timeout, you can't just return a promise from later, because promises can't be cancelled.

But we can easily return an object with a cancel method and an accessor for the promise, and reject the promise on cancel:

const later = (delay, value) => {
    let timer = 0;
    let reject = null;
    const promise = new Promise((resolve, _reject) => {
        reject = _reject;
        timer = setTimeout(resolve, delay, value);
    });
    return {
        get promise() { return promise; },
        cancel() {
            if (timer) {
                clearTimeout(timer);
                timer = 0;
                reject();
                reject = null;
            }
        }
    };
};

Live Example:

const later = (delay, value) => {
    let timer = 0;
    let reject = null;
    const promise = new Promise((resolve, _reject) => {
        reject = _reject;
        timer = setTimeout(resolve, delay, value);
    });
    return {
        get promise() { return promise; },
        cancel() {
            if (timer) {
                clearTimeout(timer);
                timer = 0;
                reject();
                reject = null;
            }
        }
    };
};

const l1 = later(100, "l1");
l1.promise
  .then(msg => { console.log(msg); })
  .catch(() => { console.log("l1 cancelled"); });

const l2 = later(200, "l2");
l2.promise
  .then(msg => { console.log(msg); })
  .catch(() => { console.log("l2 cancelled"); });
setTimeout(() => {
  l2.cancel();
}, 150);


Original Answer from 2014

Usually you'll have a promise library (one you write yourself, or one of the several out there). That library will usually have an object that you can create and later "resolve," and that object will have a "promise" you can get from it.

Then later would tend to look something like this:

function later() {
    var p = new PromiseThingy();
    setTimeout(function() {
        p.resolve();
    }, 2000);

    return p.promise(); // Note we're not returning `p` directly
}

In a comment on the question, I asked:

Are you trying to create your own promise library?

and you said

I wasn't but I guess now that's actually what I was trying to understand. That how a library would do it

To aid that understanding, here's a very very basic example, which isn't remotely Promises-A compliant: Live Copy

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html>
<head>
<meta charset=utf-8 />
<title>Very basic promises</title>
</head>
<body>
  <script>
    (function() {

      // ==== Very basic promise implementation, not remotely Promises-A compliant, just a very basic example
      var PromiseThingy = (function() {

        // Internal - trigger a callback
        function triggerCallback(callback, promise) {
          try {
            callback(promise.resolvedValue);
          }
          catch (e) {
          }
        }

        // The internal promise constructor, we don't share this
        function Promise() {
          this.callbacks = [];
        }

        // Register a 'then' callback
        Promise.prototype.then = function(callback) {
          var thispromise = this;

          if (!this.resolved) {
            // Not resolved yet, remember the callback
            this.callbacks.push(callback);
          }
          else {
            // Resolved; trigger callback right away, but always async
            setTimeout(function() {
              triggerCallback(callback, thispromise);
            }, 0);
          }
          return this;
        };

        // Our public constructor for PromiseThingys
        function PromiseThingy() {
          this.p = new Promise();
        }

        // Resolve our underlying promise
        PromiseThingy.prototype.resolve = function(value) {
          var n;

          if (!this.p.resolved) {
            this.p.resolved = true;
            this.p.resolvedValue = value;
            for (n = 0; n < this.p.callbacks.length; ++n) {
              triggerCallback(this.p.callbacks[n], this.p);
            }
          }
        };

        // Get our underlying promise
        PromiseThingy.prototype.promise = function() {
          return this.p;
        };

        // Export public
        return PromiseThingy;
      })();

      // ==== Using it

      function later() {
        var p = new PromiseThingy();
        setTimeout(function() {
          p.resolve();
        }, 2000);

        return p.promise(); // Note we're not returning `p` directly
      }

      display("Start " + Date.now());
      later().then(function() {
        display("Done1 " + Date.now());
      }).then(function() {
        display("Done2 " + Date.now());
      });

      function display(msg) {
        var p = document.createElement('p');
        p.innerHTML = String(msg);
        document.body.appendChild(p);
      }
    })();
  </script>
</body>
</html>

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