How to use async-await with a forEach loop? [Answered]

Query | JavaScript:

Are there any issues with using async/await in a forEach loop? I’m trying to loop through an array of files and await on the contents of each file.

import fs from 'fs-promise'

async function printFiles () {
  const files = await getFilePaths() // Assume this works fine

  files.forEach(async (file) => {
    const contents = await fs.readFile(file, 'utf8')
    console.log(contents)
  })
}

printFiles()

This code does work, but could something go wrong with this? I had someone tell me that you’re not supposed to use async/await in a higher-order function like this, so I just wanted to ask if there was any issue with this.

Using async-await with a forEach loop- Answer #1:

Sure the code does work, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t do what you expect it to do. It just fires off multiple asynchronous calls, but the printFiles function does immediately return after that.

Reading in sequence

If you want to read the files in sequence, you cannot use forEach indeed. Just use a modern for … of loop instead, in which await will work as expected:

async function printFiles () {
  const files = await getFilePaths();

  for (const file of files) {
    const contents = await fs.readFile(file, 'utf8');
    console.log(contents);
  }
}

Reading in parallel

If you want to read the files in parallel, you cannot use forEach indeed. Each of the async callback function calls does return a promise, but you’re throwing them away instead of awaiting them. Just use map instead, and you can await the array of promises that you’ll get with Promise.all:

async function printFiles () {
  const files = await getFilePaths();

  await Promise.all(files.map(async (file) => {
    const contents = await fs.readFile(file, 'utf8')
    console.log(contents)
  }));
}

Using async-await with a forEach loop- Answer #2:

With ES2018, you are able to greatly simplify all of the above answers to:

async function printFiles () {
  const files = await getFilePaths()

  for await (const contents of files.map(file => fs.readFile(file, 'utf8'))) {
    console.log(contents)
  }
}

Using async-await with a forEach loop- Answer #3:

Instead of Promise.all in conjunction with Array.prototype.map (which does not guarantee the order in which the Promises are resolved), I use Array.prototype.reduce, starting with a resolved Promise:

async function printFiles () {
  const files = await getFilePaths();

  await files.reduce(async (promise, file) => {
    // This line will wait for the last async function to finish.
    // The first iteration uses an already resolved Promise
    // so, it will immediately continue.
    await promise;
    const contents = await fs.readFile(file, 'utf8');
    console.log(contents);
  }, Promise.resolve());
}

Using async-await with a forEach loop- Answer #4:

The p-iteration module on npm implements the Array iteration methods so they can be used in a very straightforward way with async/await.

An example with your case:

const { forEach } = require('p-iteration');
const fs = require('fs-promise');

(async function printFiles () {
  const files = await getFilePaths();

  await forEach(files, async (file) => {
    const contents = await fs.readFile(file, 'utf8');
    console.log(contents);
  });
})();

Using async-await with a forEach loop- Answer #5:

Picture worth 1000 words – For Sequential Approach Only


Background : I was in similar situation last night. I used async function as foreach argument. The result was un-predictable. When I did testing for my code 3 times, it ran without issues 2 times and failed 1 time. (something weird)

Finally I got my head around & did some scratch pad testing.

Scenario 1 – How un-sequential it can get with async in foreach

enter image description here
const getPromise = (time) => { 
  return new Promise((resolve, reject) => {
    setTimeout(() => {
      resolve(`Promise resolved for ${time}s`)
    }, time)
  })
}

const main = async () => {
  const myPromiseArray = [getPromise(1000), getPromise(500), getPromise(3000)]
  console.log('Before For Each Loop')

  myPromiseArray.forEach(async (element, index) => {
    let result = await element;
    console.log(result);
  })

  console.log('After For Each Loop')
}

main();

Scenario 2 – Using for - of loop as suggested above

enter image description here
const getPromise = (time) => { 
  return new Promise((resolve, reject) => {
    setTimeout(() => {
      resolve(`Promise resolved for ${time}s`)
    }, time)
  })
}

const main = async () => {
  const myPromiseArray = [getPromise(1000), getPromise(500), getPromise(3000)]
  console.log('Before For Each Loop')

  // AVOID USING THIS
  // myPromiseArray.forEach(async (element, index) => {
  //   let result = await element;
  //   console.log(result);
  // })

  // This works well
  for (const element of myPromiseArray) {
    let result = await element;
    console.log(result)
  }

  console.log('After For Each Loop')
}

main();

If you are a little old school like me, you could simply use the classic for loop, that works too 🙂

const getPromise = (time) => { 
  return new Promise((resolve, reject) => {
    setTimeout(() => {
      resolve(`Promise resolved for ${time}s`)
    }, time)
  })
}

const main = async () => {
  const myPromiseArray = [getPromise(1000), getPromise(500), getPromise(3000)]
  console.log('Before For Each Loop')

  // AVOID USING THIS
  // myPromiseArray.forEach(async (element, index) => {
  //   let result = await element;
  //   console.log(result);
  // })

  // This works well too - the classic for loop :)
  for (let i = 0; i < myPromiseArray.length; i++) {
    const result = await myPromiseArray[i];
    console.log(result);
  }

  console.log('After For Each Loop')
}

main();

Hope this helped you.

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