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Introducing functionary.js

I am pleased to release another open source project, functionary.js.

functionary.js is a simple JS polyfill and enhancement for adding additional behavior to functions.  Fundamentally, it allows developers to modify and combine functions into new functions to develop novel patterns.  It is very similar to sugar.js, prototype.js, and the jQuery Deffered object and behavior.  It is sort of like Promise/A but not really like it at all.

Functionary is a prototypical modification to the Function object.  This may cause some users considerable consternation as there is some belief that JavaScript should not be used in such a manner.  I, however, believe that JavaScript was actually designed to do this very thing and should do it albeit with great care.  That said, functionary.js never will overwrite a function of the same name on the Function Prototype.  So if Function.prototype.defer is already created by another Library (like Prototype JS) functionary.js will not overwrite it, but use it instead.

functionary.js works in both browsers and node.js implementations.  However, functionary.js does modify the global Function prototype and should be used with care and full understanding.

It breaks down into two distinct classes: Threading enhancements and combination enhancements.

For purposes of the following discussion, the following things are true:

var f = function() {};
var g = function() {};
var h = f.something(g);

In the above example, f is the bound function of something and g is the passed in function.  Understanding this will help the discussion below be more clear.

Threading Enhancements

While javascript is inherently single-threaded, it is possible to create threaded like behavior using the single thread model and eventing.  This is not a replacement for true multi-threading, but an okay approximation and the fundamental underpinning of javascript and node.js.  functionary.js provides a set of function modifiers for working within the confines of this “threading” environment to produce cleaner and expanded function behaviors with regards to threading and event behaviors.

The following functions fall into this group: defer, delay, collapse, and wait. defer and delay will be familiar to many JS developers, but collapse and wait are the really interesting additions.

collapse basically will collapse multiple executions of a function (call it f) into a single execution. So regardless of the number of times you call f() the actual execution will only happen once… the executions are collapsed into a single execution.  collapse can be used in one of two forms: Managed or Timed.  In Managed mode, the execution of a function is not actually performed until manual execution of the f.now() is called.  Thus repeated calls to f() are short circuited until f.now() is called.  In Timed mode, the execution of a function is automatically performed x milliseconds after the first call to f() and then everything is reset.  This ensures that execution happens based on some period of time.

wait is used to defer execution of one or more functions which are passed as parameters to wait.  Once all those functions have been executed, regardless of results, the bound function of wait is executed.  In the following example f.wait(g,h,i) wait allows a developer to defer execution of function f() until g, h, and i have all executed.

Combination Enhancements

The other aspect of functionary.js is to provide some simple ways to combine functions with other functions in a clean and concise manner.  Sure, it is possible in unmodified javascript to combine functions, but functionary gives you a more clear way to do this.

At the core of this group of functions is bundle which takes the bound function and combines it with the passed in function(s) to produce one single function.  Think of it as taking function f and function g and bundling them together into function h.  Calls to function h then execute f and g in that order.  While in some cases it’s easy enough to just call f and g directly, in others being able to pass a single function like h can be incredibly useful.  Consider this:

var f = function() {};
var g = function() {};
var h = f.bundle(g);
h.defer();

The last line of this code ensure that f and g run together, but after being deferred.

Other functions include chain, before, and after.  These functions are all, in essences, some form of bundle above, although with different orders of execution.

functionary.js provides two new functional wrappers, completed and failedcompleted ensures that the passed in function will only execute if the bound function returned without an exception.  failed is the converse and will ensure that the passed in function will only execute if the bound function DID return an exception.  These two functions offer a unique approach to try/catch paradigms.  Coupled with bundle, a try/catch/finally model is easily possible as shown:

var compl = function() {};
var fail = function() {};
var fin = function() {};
var f = function() {};
var h = f.completed(compl).failed(fail).bundle(fin);

Finally, functionary.js offers a wrap function akin to sugar.js and prototype.js where once can wrap the passed function around the bound function.

Documentation

Please see the documentation on github for all the details of using these functions.  Also, play with the code, it probably won’t bite.

Installation and Details

You can get functionary from github.  I encourage you to check it out, fork it, and submit changes.  The ultimately goal is to make functionary the go to polyfill/add on to JS for functions.

 Thoughts, Comments, Suggestions?

If you have thoughts, comments or suggestions, please put them on github or contact me on twitter at @areinet