Inspired by this question on Stack Overflow, I've attempted to code such animation, mostly to get some more practice with async, promises and Q.js:

(Live demo)

function addOutput(s) {
  //return Q.defer().promise;
  return Q.delay(100).then(function() { return addPrompt(); });

function addInput(s) {
  var l = $('.prompt:last');
  return addLettersRecursive(l, s);

function addPrompt() {
  var prompt = "kos@codepen % ";
  var l = $('<div>').text(prompt).addClass('prompt').appendTo(wnd);
  return Q.delay(900);

function addLettersRecursive(container, s) {
  container.append(s.charAt(0)); // dangerous :(
  var row_complete = Q.defer();
  Q.delay(100).then(function() {
    if (s.length <= 1) {
      Q.delay(300).then(function() {
    addLettersRecursive(container, s.substr(1)).then(function() {
  return row_complete.promise;

// Usage

addPrompt(">>> ")
.then(function() { return addInput("whoami"); })
.then(function() { return addOutput("kos"); })
.then(function() { return addInput("uname -a"); })
.then(function() { return addOutput("Javascript in codepen.io, powered by Q.js"); })
.then(function() { return addInput("raz dwa"); })
.then(function() { return addOutput("zsh: command not found: raz"); })
.then(function() { return addInput("trzy cztery"); })
.then(function() { return addOutput("zsh: command not found: trzy"); })

I'm not really satisfied by this implementation, though. How can I simplify it? Here are the specific concerns I have:

  1. I implemented addInput in terms of a recursive helper function addLettersRecursive which still is overly complicated according to my gut feeling.
  2. There's this .then(function() { return function_that_returns_promise(args); }); pattern all over, which seems like a very verbose way of chaining behaviour.

What I have tried:

  1. I attempted to unwind the recursion by stacking the promises one on top of another in a loop, which was a bit tricky to implement because of the selective closure involved. There's some improvement but still looks messy:

    function addInput(s) {
      var container = $('.prompt:last');
      var d = Q.delay(0);
      for (var i=0; i<s.length; ++i) {
        d = d.then(function(i) { return function() { // pass i by value
          return Q.delay(100);
      return d.then(function() { return Q.delay(300); });
  2. I'm not sure if this kind of pattern is typical to promise-driven code, or I'm just doing something sub-optimally. One thing that came to my mind is this substitution:

      /* before */ .then(function() { return addInput("whoami"); })
      /* after  */ .then(addInput.bind(null, "whoami"))
      /* before */ return d.then(function() { return Q.delay(300); });
      /* after  */ return d.then(Q.delay.bind(Q, 300));

    Is it a good track?

Generally I haven't seen much "real life" uses of promises yet except the book cases, so if anything else looks out of the ordinary or sub-optimal, please raise it.


1 Answer 1


This stuff is hard to get right, at this point good promise driven code seems more like an art than engineering.

From a CodeReview perspective, your code is fairly easy to follow, except for one thing which got me stumped for a little while, row_complete should really be named char_complete, and then suddenly addLettersRecursive will make more sense.

There are at least 3 additional ways you can deal with .then(function() { return function_that_returns_promise(args); });

  1. Change your functions ( like addInput ) to return a function, like this:

    function addInput(s) {
      return function addInputWrapper(){
        var l = $('.prompt:last');
        return addLettersRecursive(l, s);

    Then you can call simply .then( addInput( 'whoami' ) )

  2. Create a generic wrapper function like this:

    function wrap( f ){
      var args = Array.prototype.slice.call(arguments,1);
      return function wrapper(){
        return f.apply( this, args );

    Then you can call .then( wrap( addInput, 'whoami' ) )

  3. Generate a lambdafy function like this :

    function lambdafy( f )
      var lambda = function(){
        var args = Array.prototype.slice.call(arguments);
        return function(){
          f.apply( this , args );
      return lambda;

    Then you can addInput = lambdafy( addInput ) and .then( addInput( 'whoami' ) )

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks! 1 crossed my mind but probably isn't conventional, for instance Q.delay() returns the promise immediately. 2 looks very similar to Function.bind in usage, and I think I'll stick with this approach for now. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kos
    Apr 25, 2014 at 7:38

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