Source Code

Support for promises. If an operation cannot return a value immediately without blocking, it may instead return a promise of the value. A promise is an object that represents the return value or the thrown exception that the operation eventually produces. Such an operation is sometimes called a long-running operation.

This module provides following abstractions:

  • The Completable interface abstracts objects which promise one or more values, accommodating the possibility of failure.
  • The Term interface abstracts Completables that may be combined to form a compound promise that produces multiple values.
  • The Promise class, a Completable that produces a single value, or fails.
  • The Deferred class, providing support for operations which return instances of the Promise interface.
  • The Future class, providing support for clients who wish to block which awaiting a Promise.


A Promise exists in one of three states:

  • In the promised state, the operation has not yet terminated.
  • In the fulfilled state, the operation has produced a value.
  • In the rejected state, the operation has terminated without producing a value. This situation is represented as an exception.

The method Completable.onComplete() allows interested parties to be notified when the promise makes a transition from the promised state to the fulfilled or the rejected state:

Promise<Document> promise = queryDocumentById(id);
promise.onComplete {
    (d) => print("Got the document: " + d.title);
    (e) => print("Document was not received: " + e.message);

The first function is called the onFulfilled callback and the second function is called the onRejected callback. The onRejected function is always optional.

Returning promises

A Deferred object is a factory that provides an instance of the Promise class and manages its lifecycle, providing operations to force its transition to a fulfilled or rejected state.

The instance of Deferred should remain private to the long-running operation, only the Promise should be exposed to the caller.

The Promise of a deferred can be retrieved from its promise field:

value deferred = Deferred<String>();
return deferred.promise;

The Deferred object implements the Resolver interface which provides two methods for controlling the state of the promise:

For example:

value deferred = Deferred<String>();
void doOperation() {
    try {
        String val = getValue();
    catch (Throwable e) {

Chaining promises

When composition is needed the method Completable.compose() should be used instead of the Completable.onComplete() method.

When invoking the Completable.compose() method the onFulfilled and onRejected callbacks can return a value. The compose() method returns a new promise that will be fulfilled with the value of the callback. This promise will be rejected if the callback invocation fails.

For example:

Promise<Integer> promiseOfInteger = promiseOfInteger();
Promise<String> promiseOfString = promiseOfInteger.compose((i) => i.string);
promiseOfString.compose((s) => print("Completed with " + s));

Or, more concisely:

    .compose((i) => i.string)
    .compose((s) => print("Completed with " + s));

Composing promises

Promises can be composed into a single promise that is fulfilled when every one of the individual composed promises is fulfilled. If one of the promise is rejected then the composed promise is rejected.

Promise<String> promiseOfInteger = promiseOfString();
Promise<Integer> promiseOfString = promiseOfInteger();
(promiseOfInteger and promiseOfString).onCompletion {
    (i, s) => print("All fulfilled");
    (e) => print("One failed");

Notice that:

  • The order of the parameters in the callback is in reverse order in which the corresponding promises are chained.
  • The return type of combined promise is not Promise but Completable.

The always() method

The always() method of a promise allows a single callback to be notified when the promise is fulfilled or rejected.

Promise<Document> promise = queryDocumentById(id);
promise.always {
    void (Document|Throwable result) {
        switch (result)
        case (Document) { print("Fulfilled"); }
        case (Throwable) { print("Rejected"); }

always() is most useful for implementing a finally clause in a chain of promises.

Feeding with a promise

Deferred can be transitioned with a promise instead of a value:

Deferred<String> deferred1 = getDeferred1();
Deferred<String> deferred2 = getDeferred2();

Similarly the callback may return a promise instead of a value:

Deferred<String> deferred = Deferred<String>();
promise.compose((s) => deferred.promise);


Sometimes it is convenient to block until a promise is resolved. For this purpose a promise may be transformed into a Future via the attribute Promise.future:

Promise<String> promise = getPromise();
Future<String> future = promise.future;
String|Throwable resolution = future.get(10k); //wait for 10 sec

Keep in mind that this is not the usual way you should use promises as this defeats the non blocking model. Nevertheless there are times when it is useful to block, for instance, in unit tests.

Thread safety

The implementation is thread safe and uses a non blocking algorithm for maintaining the state of a Deferred object.

Relationship to the A+ specification

This module is loosely based upon the A+ specification, with the following differences:

  • The then() method is named compose() in Ceylon
  • The requirement that then() must return before onFulfilled or onRejected is called is not implemented. Therefore the invocation occurs inside the invocation of compose().
  • The Promise Resolution Procedure is implemented for objects or promises but not for thenables since that would require a language with dynamic typing.
By: Julien Viet
License: Apache Software License
PromisableSource Codeshared Promisable<out Result>
=> Result|Promise<Result>
CompletableSource Codeshared Completable<out Value>

Completable provides the base support for promises. This interface satisfies the Promised interface, to be used when a Promise is needed.

FutureSource Codeshared Future<out Value>

A future value.

PromisedSource Codeshared Promised<out Value>

An object that provides a Promised.promise.

ResolverSource Codeshared Resolver<in Value>

Something that can go through a transition and is meant to be be fulfilled or rejected.

TermSource Codeshared Term<out Element,out T>

A term allows a Completable to be combined with a promise to form a new term.

DeferredSource Codeshared Deferred<Value>

The deferred class is the primary implementation of the Promise interface.

The promise is accessible using the promise attribute of the deferred.

The deferred can either be fulfilled or rejected via the Resolver.fulfill() or Resolver.reject() methods. Both methods accept an argument or a promise to the argument, allowing the deferred to react on a promise.

PromiseSource Codeshared abstract Promise<out Value>

A promise represents a value that may not be available yet. The primary method for interacting with a promise is its Completable.compose() method. A promise is a Completable element restricted to a single value.