By Benaiah Mischenko in Guides & Tutorials

Clean up promise handling with resolvePromiseProperties

The problem

When working with REST APIs you’ll frequently end up in a situation where you want to return an object with bits of data from a couple different endpoints. This can end up leaving you with pretty messy code, especially if the shape of the object you’re returning is different than that of the API responses.

We ran into this multiple times while building Netlify CMS — we’d be using data from different parts of the GitHub API, some of which depend on each other, and we’d end up with very hairy code, having to split business logic across different .thens in order to get the desired set of data.

For instance, imagine you have three functions that return promises: getUserID(username), getFullName(userID), and getLatestPost(userID), and you want to return an object that has both. A naive implementation might look like the following:

const getUserData = (username) => {
  let userID, fullName
  return getUserID(username)
  .then((id) => {
    userID = id;
    return getFullName(id);
  })
  .then((name) => {
    fullName = name;
    return getLatestPost(id);
  })
  .then((latestPost) => ({
    id: userID,
    fullName,
    latestPost,
  }));
};

This works, but there are a couple problems with this implementation:

  • We’re introducing unnecessary mutations with the userID and fullName variables.
  • Despite the fact that the promises from getFullName and getLatestPost are independent of each other, they’re not running in parallel.

Fortunately, this is solvable using Promise.all, like so:

const getUserData = (username) => {
  const idPromise = getUserID(username);
  return Promise.all([
    idPromise,
    idPromise.then(id => getFullName(id)),
    idPromise.then(id => getLatestPost(id)),
  ]).then((id, fullName, latestPost) => ({
    id,
    fullName,
    latestPost,
  }));
};

This works well and is much more simple. However, the last part is a little superfluous and makes it a bit annoying to add new pieces of data, as you have to add them to both the Promise.all argument array and the object construction in the .then. Wouldn’t it be nicer to have our code look more like the data it’s returning?

Introducing resolvePromiseProperties

That usecase is exactly what resolvePromiseProperties is designed for. It takes an object that looks like this…

{
  prop1: Promise.resolve("this is prop 1"),
  prop2: Promise.resolve("this is prop 2"),
  prop3: "this isn't a promise, so it's left alone",
}

…and returns a promise that resolves to an object like this:

{
  prop1: "this is prop 1",
  prop2: "this is prop 2",
  prop3: "this isn't a promise, so it's left alone",
}

It finds any properties (one level deep) that have promise values, creates a promise that waits for all of them using Promise.all, and returns that promise with a .then that zips the object back together.

If you want to resolve deeper than one level, you can simply nest calls to resolvePromiseProperties indefinitely, like so:

resolvePromiseProperties({
  prop1: Promise.resolve("prop 1"),
  prop2: resolvePromiseProperties({
    prop3: Promise.resolve("prop 3"),
  }),
})

This will return a promise that resolves to the following object:

{
  prop1: "prop 1",
  prop2: {
    prop3: "prop 3",
  },
}

Implementation

The implementation is pretty straightforward. We’ll need zipObject from lodash to zip the object back together at the end:

import { zipObject } from 'lodash';

const resolvePromiseProperties = obj => {

Next, we need to find the keys of the obj which represent promises, and collect them into an array which we’ll pass to Promise.all:

  const promiseKeys = Object.keys(obj).filter(
    key => obj[key] instanceof Promise);

  const promises = promiseKeys.map(key => obj[key]);

We call Promise.all to wait on all the promise properties:

  Promise.all(promises)

And return a copy of the object with the promise properties overwritten with the resolved values of their promises:

    .then(resolvedPromises => resolve(
      Object.assign(obj, zipObject(promiseKeys, resolvedPromises)))
    );
  };

Full function:

import { zipObject } from 'lodash';

const resolvePromiseProperties = obj => {
  const promiseKeys = Object.keys(obj).filter(
    key => obj[key] instanceof Promise);

  const promises = promiseKeys.map(key => obj[key])

  Promise.all(promises).then(resolvedPromises =>
    Object.assign({}, obj, zipObject(promiseKeys, resolvedPromises))
  );
};

Rewriting our original function with resolvePromiseProperties

Our above function can now look like this:

const getUserData = (username) => {
  const idPromise = getUserID(username);
  return resolvePromiseProperties({
    id: idPromise,
    fullName: idPromise.then(id => getFullName(id)),
    latestPost: idPromise.then(id => getLatestPost(id)),
  })
}

Real world application

So let’s see how we can use this to clean up a messy function. When working on Netlify CMS, I ended up working on this function, readUnpublishedBranchFile:

readUnpublishedBranchFile(contentKey) {
  let metaData, fileData;
  const unpublishedPromise = this.retrieveMetadata(contentKey)
  .then((data) => {
    metaData = data;
    if (data.objects.entry.path) {
      return this.readFile(data.objects.entry.path, null, data.branch);
    }
    return Promise.reject(null);
  })
  .then((file) => {
    fileData = file;
    return this.isUnpublishedEntryModification(metaData.objects.entry.path);
  })
  .then(isModification => ({ metaData, fileData, isModification }))
  .catch(() => {
    throw new EditorialWorkflowError('content is not under editorial workflow', true);
  });
  return unpublishedPromise;
}

It has all the problems that our first imaginary function did above: promises are not being run in parallel when they should be, there’s unnecessary mutation, and the function is difficult to read. Using resolvePromiseProperties, I rewrote this to the following version:

readUnpublishedBranchFile(contentKey) {
  const metaDataPromise = this.retrieveMetadata(contentKey)
    .then(data => (data.objects.entry.path ? data : Promise.reject(null)));
  return resolvePromiseProperties({
    metaData: metaDataPromise,
    fileData: metaDataPromise.then(
      data => this.readFile(data.objects.entry.path, null, data.branch)),
    isModification: metaDataPromise.then(
      data => this.isUnpublishedEntryModification(data.objects.entry.path, this.branch)),
  })
  .catch(() => {
    throw new EditorialWorkflowError('content is not under editorial workflow', true);
  });
}

It’s much cleaner and easier to read, and even runs better to boot, since the promises are running in parallel where possible.

Conclusion

resolvePromiseProperties has been very useful for handling groups of related promises in Netlify CMS. I hope it can be useful in your JS projects! If you’d like to learn more about Netlify CMS and how it can help you build fast static sites with rich content, visit netlifycms.org.