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Async and Await in JavaScript

EidorianAvi
My name is Adrian; currently a recent graduate of the Flatiron Software Engineering program. Broadening my knowledge base through posting and reading alike.
・4 min read

Do you really know JavaScript if you don't know how to use an asynchronous function? Sure, I'm not here to gatekeep but it doesn't mean you shouldn't know what they are and how to use them. Today I'll be briefly going over exactly that using the more recent async and await format.

What is an asynchronous function and why use them?

I'm glad you asked.

Asynchronous functions in JavaScript are functions that enable promise based behavior to be used within your code.

First thing you'll need to know is what the heck is a promise? Think of it as a placeholder you can work with for incoming data. This is necessary for handling data from an external API that is part of your page but takes a moment to fetch. So you're able to use a Promise in place of the data and set conditions for what happens to do the data if it successfully comes through or doesn't.

A promise can be in three separate states:

  • pending: initial state, neither fulfilled nor rejected.
  • fulfilled: meaning that the operation was completed successfully.
  • rejected: meaning that the operation failed.

The async and await keywords were added to make promise handling more readable. It use to be more prevalent to do callback functions but I won't be getting into that today.

Async

To create an asynchronous function you must first prepend it with the async keyword. When you do this you're stating that the function will be handling a Promise or a placeholder for incoming data. This could be done in the older function format or through the use of an arrow function like so.

async function fetchAPI(){
   console.log("fetched");
}

const fetchAPI = async() => {
   console.log("fetched");
}
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Now these functions clearly aren't doing much at the moment except logging the string "fetched". What matters is what they actually return upon invocation. If you invoke you will see in your console that actually logs a Promise object that should look like:

Promise {<fulfilled>: "fetched"}
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The promise is in the fulfilled state since the data was immediately available considering it's just a string within the function.

Where it counts is when the data takes time to load such as from a fetch. Today I will be using jsonplaceholder as my API to fetch from for examples sake. If you're not familiar with it it's a super useful resource for fetching dummy data for practice.

const fetchAPI = async () => {
    let data = fetch("https://jsonplaceholder.typicode.com/todos")

    console.log(data);
}
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Now what happens when you log the return of this fetch? It still logs a Promise yes but if you'll notice it is now pending.

Promise {<pending>}
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In both cases we have a Promise object to work with which is the point entirely. Even if the data you're reaching out is pending or still being fetched you at least have the Promise to work with which is crucial for working with APIs.

Await

Great we got a Promise after fetching an API. Now what?

Now my friend comes the await keyword.

We can place the await keyword inside async functions to indicate that piece of data will be the one that may take a moment to fulfill. We simply include it prior to the fetch.

const fetchAPI = async () => {
    let data = await fetch("https://jsonplaceholder.typicode.com/todos/1")

    console.log(data)
}
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This will now turn that promise into it's response once fulfilled.

Response {type: "cors", url: "https://jsonplaceholder.typicode.com/todos/1", redirected: false, status: 200, ok: true, …}body: (...)bodyUsed: falseheaders: Headers {}ok: trueredirected: falsestatus: 200statusText: ""type: "cors"url: "https://jsonplaceholder.typicode.com/todos/1"__proto__: Response
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Now we're getting somewhere.

You will want to translate it to it's actual data so you can perform a .json() on your fetch or do it to the variable its assigned. Since that data is asynchronous make sure to still include the await keyword.

const fetchAPI = async () => {
    let response = await fetch("https://jsonplaceholder.typicode.com/todos/1")
    let data = await response.json()
    console.log(data)
}
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Which will turn that response into it's JSON format and it should look like:

{userId: 1, id: 1, title: "delectus aut autem", completed: false}completed: falseid: 1title: "delectus aut autem"userId: 1__proto__: Object
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Error Handling: Try/Catch

The thing about pulling data from an external source is there can be hiccups along the way. Maybe it's on their end or maybe your fetch has a typo. Either way there can be errors when it comes to Promise handling.

In an async function you can use a try/catch block to determine how to process the Promise whether it was properly fulfilled or rejected.

const fetchAPI = async () => {
    try {
        let response = await fetch("https://jsonplaceholder.typicode.com/todos/1")
        let data = await response.json();

        console.log(data);
    } catch(e) {
        console.log(e);
    }
}
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First the function tries to get the response and if it works it will log the data in JSON format. If it doesn't work out it hits the catch and you will see what kind of error is occurring logged the console.

Wrap Up

There's just an introduction to the async/await format of promise handling JavaScript. There's of course always more to it but I'd recommend exploring the topic further on your own as there are plenty of nuances and approaches to how you work with these. If you're new to async functions I hope this shed some light on how they work and what they do. That'll be it for today. Happy coding!

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