31 December 2018


Developing React custom hooks for abortable async functions with AbortController

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In my previous article, I introduced how the custom hook useAsyncTask handles async functions with AbortController and demonstrated a typeahead search example. In this article, I explain about the implementation of useAsyncTask.


JavaScript promise is not abortable. The fetch API is based on promise, and hence you can’t cancel it in pure JavaScript. To cancel fetch, the DOM spec introduced AbortController. The AbortController is a general interface and not specific to fetch. Technically, we can use it to cancel promises, and it would be nice to have an easy way to handle abortable async functions. In the React world, we are expecting the Hooks API soon. I’ve started a project to implement custom hooks for abortable async functions.



The implementation of useAsyncTask

The useAsyncTask hook is to create an async task that can be started by useAsyncRun which we describe later in this article. To create an async task, you need to pass a function that receives an AbortController instance and returns an abortable promise. As a concrete example, we describe how to implement a custom hook for fetch later.

The main part of the code is the following.

const useAsyncTask = (func, inputs) => {
  const forceUpdate = useForceUpdate();
  const task = useRef({});
  const newTask = useMemo(() => createTask(func, (t) => {
    if (task.current && task.current.taskId === t.taskId) {
      task.current = t;
  }), inputs);
  if (task.current && task.current.taskId !== newTask.taskId) {
    task.current = newTask;
  useEffect(() => {
    const cleanup = () => { task.current = null; };
    return cleanup;
  }, []);
  return task.current;

Three notes to read this code:

  • the task object is defined by useRef, and re-rendering is controlled by forceUpdate.
  • createTask is the core part which takes a callback function in the second argument, and use useMemo to call it only inputs are changed.
  • useEffect is to clean up the task object in order not to try rendering after unmounted.

The useForceUpdate hook is a general hook by the following impelementation.

const forcedReducer = state => !state;
const useForceUpdate = () => useReducer(forcedReducer, false)[1];

The code of createTask is a bit long.

const createTask = (func, notifyUpdate) => {
  const taskId = Symbol(`async_task_id_${idCounter += 1}`);
  let abortController = null;
  let task = {
    started: false,
    pending: true,
    error: null,
    result: null,
    start: async () => {
      if (task.started) return;
      abortController = new AbortController();
      task = { ...task, started: true };
      try {
        const result = await func(abortController);
        task = { ...task, pending: false, result };
      } catch (e) {
        task = { ...task, pending: false, error: e };
    abort: () => {
      if (abortController) {
  return task;
  • the task object has taskId and four properties: started, pending, error and result.
  • in addition to them, the task object contains start() and abort() functions to control the execution.
  • when start() is called, it calls notifyChange() back according to asynchronous state changes.
  • the first argument func is the function which receives an AbortController instance and returns a promise. The func is responsible to handle the AbortController correctly.

The implementation of useAsyncRun

The useAsyncTask hook is just to create an async task and make it ready to be started. The useAsyncRun hook is the one to actually start the async task. The reason we split the logic into two hooks is for allowing to combine multiple async tasks. The useAsyncCombineSeq hook is the one for combining, but we don’t go further in this article.

This code is rather simple.

const useAsyncRun = (asyncTask) => {
  useEffect(() => {
    if (asyncTask) {
    const cleanup = () => {
      if (asyncTask) {
    return cleanup;
  }, [asyncTask && asyncTask.taskId]);

It simply calls start() and abort(). Notice the input array passed to the second argument of useEffect.

The implementation of useAsyncTaskFetch

The useAsyncTaskFetch hook is a wrapper function of useAsyncTask. The basic implementation is the following. The full-featured one is here in the GitHub repository.

const useAsyncTaskFetch = url => useAsyncTask(
  async (abortController) => {
    const response = await fetch(url, {
      signal: abortController.signal,
    if (!response.ok) {
      throw new Error(response.statusText);
    const body = await response.json();
    return body;

Notice the AbortController signal is passed to fetch. This is because the Fetch API supports AbortController. For others, you need to implement handling it. For example, please check out how useAsyncTaskAxios is implemented here.


This article showed how useAsyncTask and other hooks are implemented. I hope they are straightforward with the convention of the use of AbortController. I’m looking for other use cases than fetch and would be happy for any feedback.

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