javascript - jquery ajax post example - How do I return the response from an asynchronous call?

jquery ajax get example / javascript / jquery / ajax / asynchronous

I have a function foo which makes an asynchronous request. How can I return the response/result from foo?

function foo() {
    var result;

    $.ajax({
        url: '...',
        success: function(response) {
            result = response;
            // return response; // <- I tried that one as well
        }
    });

    return result; // It always returns `undefined`
}

Example using node.js:

function foo() {
    var result;

    fs.readFile("path/to/file", function(err, data) {
        result = data;
        // return data; // <- I tried that one as well
    });

    return result; // It always returns `undefined`
}
function foo() {
    var result;

    fetch(url).then(function(response) {
        result = response;
        // return response; // <- I tried that one as well
    });

    return result; // It always returns `undefined`
}

charlietfl



Answer #1

Most of the answers here give useful suggestions for when you have a single async operation, but sometimes, this comes up when you need to do an asynchronous operation for each entry in an array or other list-like structure. The temptation is to do this:

// WRONG
var results = [];
theArray.forEach(function(entry) {
    doSomethingAsync(entry, function(result) {
        results.push(result);
    });
});
console.log(results); // E.g., using them, returning them, etc.

Show code snippet

// WRONG
var theArray = [1, 2, 3];
var results = [];
theArray.forEach(function(entry) {
    doSomethingAsync(entry, function(result) {
        results.push(result);
    });
});
console.log("Results:", results); // E.g., using them, returning them, etc.

function doSomethingAsync(value, callback) {
    console.log("Starting async operation for " + value);
    setTimeout(function() {
        console.log("Completing async operation for " + value);
        callback(value * 2);
    }, Math.floor(Math.random() * 200));
}
.as-console-wrapper {
  max-height: 100% !important;
}

You can start all of them and keep track of how many callbacks you're expecting, and then use the results when you've gotten that many callbacks:

var results = [];
var expecting = theArray.length;
theArray.forEach(function(entry, index) {
    doSomethingAsync(entry, function(result) {
        results[index] = result;
        if (--expecting === 0) {
            // Done!
            console.log("Results:", results); // E.g., using the results
        }
    });
});
var theArray = [1, 2, 3];
var results = [];
var expecting = theArray.length;
theArray.forEach(function(entry, index) {
    doSomethingAsync(entry, function(result) {
        results[index] = result;
        if (--expecting === 0) {
            // Done!
            console.log("Results:", results); // E.g., using the results
        }
    });
});

function doSomethingAsync(value, callback) {
    console.log("Starting async operation for " + value);
    setTimeout(function() {
        console.log("Completing async operation for " + value);
        callback(value * 2);
    }, Math.floor(Math.random() * 200));
}
.as-console-wrapper {
  max-height: 100% !important;
}

But what if you need to return those results from a function? As the other answers have pointed out, you can't; you have to have your function accept and call a callback (or return a Promise). Here's a callback version:

function doSomethingWith(theArray, callback) {
    var results = [];
    var expecting = theArray.length;
    theArray.forEach(function(entry, index) {
        doSomethingAsync(entry, function(result) {
            results[index] = result;
            if (--expecting === 0) {
                // Done!
                callback(results);
            }
        });
    });
}
doSomethingWith(theArray, function(results) {
    console.log("Results:", results);
});
function doSomethingWith(theArray, callback) {
    var results = [];
    var expecting = theArray.length;
    theArray.forEach(function(entry, index) {
        doSomethingAsync(entry, function(result) {
            results[index] = result;
            if (--expecting === 0) {
                // Done!
                callback(results);
            }
        });
    });
}
doSomethingWith([1, 2, 3], function(results) {
    console.log("Results:", results);
});

function doSomethingAsync(value, callback) {
    console.log("Starting async operation for " + value);
    setTimeout(function() {
        console.log("Completing async operation for " + value);
        callback(value * 2);
    }, Math.floor(Math.random() * 200));
}
.as-console-wrapper {
  max-height: 100% !important;
}
function doSomethingWith(theArray) {
    return new Promise(function(resolve) {
        var results = [];
        var expecting = theArray.length;
        theArray.forEach(function(entry, index) {
            doSomethingAsync(entry, function(result) {
                results[index] = result;
                if (--expecting === 0) {
                    // Done!
                    resolve(results);
                }
            });
        });
    });
}
doSomethingWith(theArray).then(function(results) {
    console.log("Results:", results);
});
function doSomethingWith(theArray) {
    return new Promise(function(resolve) {
        var results = [];
        var expecting = theArray.length;
        theArray.forEach(function(entry, index) {
            doSomethingAsync(entry, function(result) {
                results[index] = result;
                if (--expecting === 0) {
                    // Done!
                    resolve(results);
                }
            });
        });
    });
}
doSomethingWith([1, 2, 3]).then(function(results) {
    console.log("Results:", results);
});

function doSomethingAsync(value, callback) {
    console.log("Starting async operation for " + value);
    setTimeout(function() {
        console.log("Completing async operation for " + value);
        callback(value * 2);
    }, Math.floor(Math.random() * 200));
}
.as-console-wrapper {
  max-height: 100% !important;
}
function doSomethingWith(theArray) {
    return Promise.all(theArray.map(function(entry) {
        return doSomethingAsync(entry);
    }));
}
doSomethingWith(theArray).then(function(results) {
    console.log("Results:", results);
});
function doSomethingWith(theArray) {
    return Promise.all(theArray.map(doSomethingAsync));
}
doSomethingWith(theArray).then(function(results) {
    console.log("Results:", results);
});
function doSomethingWith(theArray) {
    return Promise.all(theArray.map(doSomethingAsync));
}
doSomethingWith([1, 2, 3]).then(function(results) {
    console.log("Results:", results);
});

function doSomethingAsync(value) {
    console.log("Starting async operation for " + value);
    return new Promise(function(resolve) {
        setTimeout(function() {
            console.log("Completing async operation for " + value);
            resolve(value * 2);
        }, Math.floor(Math.random() * 200));
    });
}
.as-console-wrapper {
  max-height: 100% !important;
}

Suppose you don't want the operations to be in parallel? If you want to run them one after another, you need to wait for each operation to complete before you start the next. Here's an example of a function that does that and calls a callback with the result:

function doSomethingWith(theArray, callback) {
    var results = [];
    doOne(0);
    function doOne(index) {
        if (index < theArray.length) {
            doSomethingAsync(theArray[index], function(result) {
                results.push(result);
                doOne(index + 1);
            });
        } else {
            // Done!
            callback(results);
        }
    }
}
doSomethingWith(theArray, function(results) {
    console.log("Results:", results);
});
function doSomethingWith(theArray, callback) {
    var results = [];
    doOne(0);
    function doOne(index) {
        if (index < theArray.length) {
            doSomethingAsync(theArray[index], function(result) {
                results.push(result);
                doOne(index + 1);
            });
        } else {
            // Done!
            callback(results);
        }
    }
}
doSomethingWith([1, 2, 3], function(results) {
    console.log("Results:", results);
});

function doSomethingAsync(value, callback) {
    console.log("Starting async operation for " + value);
    setTimeout(function() {
        console.log("Completing async operation for " + value);
        callback(value * 2);
    }, Math.floor(Math.random() * 200));
}
.as-console-wrapper {
  max-height: 100% !important;
}
async function doSomethingWith(theArray) {
    const results = [];
    for (const entry of theArray) {
        results.push(await doSomethingAsync(entry));
    }
    return results;
}
doSomethingWith(theArray).then(results => {
    console.log("Results:", results);
});
async function doSomethingWith(theArray) {
    const results = [];
    for (const entry of theArray) {
        results.push(await doSomethingAsync(entry));
    }
    return results;
}
doSomethingWith([1, 2, 3]).then(function(results) {
    console.log("Results:", results);
});

function doSomethingAsync(value) {
    console.log("Starting async operation for " + value);
    return new Promise(function(resolve) {
        setTimeout(function() {
            console.log("Completing async operation for " + value);
            resolve(value * 2);
        }, Math.floor(Math.random() * 200));
    });
}
.as-console-wrapper {
  max-height: 100% !important;
}

If you can't use ES2017+ syntax (yet), you can use a variation on the "Promise reduce" pattern (this is more complex than the usual Promise reduce because we're not passing the result from one into the next, but instead gathering up their results in an array):

function doSomethingWith(theArray) {
    return theArray.reduce(function(p, entry) {
        return p.then(function(results) {
            return doSomethingAsync(entry).then(function(result) {
                results.push(result);
                return results;
            });
        });
    }, Promise.resolve([]));
}
doSomethingWith(theArray).then(function(results) {
    console.log("Results:", results);
});
function doSomethingWith(theArray) {
    return theArray.reduce(function(p, entry) {
        return p.then(function(results) {
            return doSomethingAsync(entry).then(function(result) {
                results.push(result);
                return results;
            });
        });
    }, Promise.resolve([]));
}
doSomethingWith([1, 2, 3]).then(function(results) {
    console.log("Results:", results);
});

function doSomethingAsync(value) {
    console.log("Starting async operation for " + value);
    return new Promise(function(resolve) {
        setTimeout(function() {
            console.log("Completing async operation for " + value);
            resolve(value * 2);
        }, Math.floor(Math.random() * 200));
    });
}
.as-console-wrapper {
  max-height: 100% !important;
}

...which is less cumbersome with ES2015+ arrow functions:

function doSomethingWith(theArray) {
    return theArray.reduce((p, entry) => p.then(results => doSomethingAsync(entry).then(result => {
        results.push(result);
        return results;
    })), Promise.resolve([]));
}
doSomethingWith(theArray).then(results => {
    console.log("Results:", results);
});
function doSomethingWith(theArray) {
    return theArray.reduce((p, entry) => p.then(results => doSomethingAsync(entry).then(result => {
        results.push(result);
        return results;
    })), Promise.resolve([]));
}
doSomethingWith([1, 2, 3]).then(function(results) {
    console.log("Results:", results);
});

function doSomethingAsync(value) {
    console.log("Starting async operation for " + value);
    return new Promise(function(resolve) {
        setTimeout(function() {
            console.log("Completing async operation for " + value);
            resolve(value * 2);
        }, Math.floor(Math.random() * 200));
    });
}
.as-console-wrapper {
  max-height: 100% !important;
}