A lock-free, asynchronous Result: a future Result, a promised Result, a deferred Result.

What's New

Improved queue handling


Deferred Build Status

A lock-free, asynchronous Result for Swift 5 and up.

Deferred<T> allows you to chain computations together. A Deferred starts with an indeterminate, unresolved value. At some later time it may become resolved. Its value is then immutable for as long as that particular Deferred instance exists. Until a Deferred becomes resolved, computations that depend on it can be saved for future execution using a lock-free, thread-safe algorithm. The results of these computations are also represented by Deferred instances. Errors thrown at any point in a Deferred context are propagated effortlessly.

Deferred started out as an approximation of OCaml's module Deferred.

let d = Deferred<Double, Never> { // holds a `Double`, cannot hold an `Error`
  usleep(50000) // or a long calculation
  return 1.0
print(d.value!) // 1.0, after 50 milliseconds

A Deferred can schedule blocks of code that depend on its result for future execution using the notify, map, and flatMap methods, among others. Any number of such blocks can depend on the result of a Deferred. When an Error is thrown, it is propagated to all Deferreds that depend on it. A recover step can be inserted in a chain of transforms in order to handle potential errors.

let transform = Deferred<(Int) -> Double, Never> { i throws in Double(7*i) }
let operand = Deferred<Int, Error>(value: 6).delay(seconds: 0.1)
let result = operand.apply(transform: transform)                        // Deferred<Double, Error>
print(result.value!)                                                    // 42.0

The result property of Deferred (and its adjuncts, value , error and get()) will block the current thread until its Deferred becomes resolved. The rest of Deferred is lock-free.

Deferred can run its closure on a specified DispatchQueue, or at the requested DispatchQoS. The notify, map, flatMap, apply and recover methods also have these options. By default, closures will be scheduled on a queue created at the current quality-of-service (qos) class.

Task execution scheduling

Tasks execute when a request exists. When creating a Deferred object, allocations are made, but no code is run immediately. When a code that depends on a Deferred requests the result, then the task is scheduled for execution. Requests are made by calling the notify(), onValue(), onError(), or beginExecution() methods (non-blocking); the result, value or error properties (blocking). Requests propagate up a chain of Deferreds.

Long computations, cancellations and timeouts

Long background computations that support cancellation and timeout can be implemented easily by using the callback-style initializer for Deferred<T>. It takes a closure whose parameter is a Resolver. Resolver is associated with a specific instance of Deferred, and allows your code to be the data source of that Deferred instance. It also allows the data source to monitor the state of the Deferred.

func bigComputation() -> Deferred<Double, Never>
  return Deferred {
    resolver in .utility).async {
      var progress = 0
      repeat {
        // first check that a result is still needed
        guard resolver.needsResolution else { return }
        // then work towards a partial computation
        Thread.sleep(until: Date() + 0.001)
        print(".", terminator: "")
        progress += 1
      } while progress < 20
      // we have an answer!
      resolver.resolve(value: .pi)

// let the child `Deferred` keep a reference to our big computation
let timeout = 0.1
let validated = bigComputation().validate(predicate: { $0 > 3.14159 && $0 < 3.14160 })
                                .timeout(seconds: timeout, reason: String(timeout))

do {
  print(validated.state)       // still waiting: no request yet
  let pi = try validated.get() // make the request and wait for value
  print(" ", pi)
catch Cancellation.timedOut(let message) {
  assert(message == String(timeout))

In the above example, our computation closure works hard to compute the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter, then performs a rough validation of the output by comparing it with a known approximation. Note that the Deferred object performing the primary computation is not retained directly by this user code. When the timeout is triggered, the computation is correctly abandoned and the object is deallocated. General cancellation can be performed in a similar manner.

Deferred is carefully written to support cancellation by leveraging the Swift runtime's reference counting. In every case, when a new Deferred is returned by a function from the package, that returned reference is the only strong reference in existence. This allows cancellation to work properly for entire chains of computations, even if it is applied to the final link of the chain, regardless of error types.

Using Deferred in a project

With the swift package manager, add the following to your package manifest's dependencies:

.package(url: "", from: "6.4.0")

To integrate in an Xcode 10 project, tools such as Accio and xspm are good options. The repository contains an Xcode 10 project with manually-assembled example iOS target. It requires some git submodules to be loaded using the command git submodule update --init.


This library is released under the MIT License. See LICENSE for details.


  • Swift Tools 5.0.0
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Last updated: Tue Mar 14 2023 04:37:42 GMT-0500 (GMT-05:00)