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Events

Stability: 2 - Stable

Much of the Node.js core API is built around an idiomatic asynchronous event-driven architecture in which certain kinds of objects (called "emitters") periodically emit named events that cause Function objects ("listeners") to be called.

For instance: a net.Server object emits an event each time a peer connects to it; a fs.ReadStream emits an event when the file is opened; a stream emits an event whenever data is available to be read.

All objects that emit events are instances of the EventEmitter class. These objects expose an eventEmitter.on() function that allows one or more functions to be attached to named events emitted by the object. Typically, event names are camel-cased strings but any valid JavaScript property key can be used.

When the EventEmitter object emits an event, all of the functions attached to that specific event are called synchronously. Any values returned by the called listeners are ignored and will be discarded.

The following example shows a simple EventEmitter instance with a single listener. The eventEmitter.on() method is used to register listeners, while the eventEmitter.emit() method is used to trigger the event.

const EventEmitter = require('events');

class MyEmitter extends EventEmitter {}

const myEmitter = new MyEmitter();
myEmitter.on('event', () => {
  console.log('an event occurred!');
});
myEmitter.emit('event');

Passing arguments and this to listeners

The eventEmitter.emit() method allows an arbitrary set of arguments to be passed to the listener functions. It is important to keep in mind that when an ordinary listener function is called by the EventEmitter, the standard this keyword is intentionally set to reference the EventEmitter to which the listener is attached.

const myEmitter = new MyEmitter();
myEmitter.on('event', function(a, b) {
  console.log(a, b, this);
  // Prints:
  //   a b MyEmitter {
  //     domain: null,
  //     _events: { event: [Function] },
  //     _eventsCount: 1,
  //     _maxListeners: undefined }
});
myEmitter.emit('event', 'a', 'b');

It is possible to use ES6 Arrow Functions as listeners, however, when doing so, the this keyword will no longer reference the EventEmitter instance:

const myEmitter = new MyEmitter();
myEmitter.on('event', (a, b) => {
  console.log(a, b, this);
  // Prints: a b {}
});
myEmitter.emit('event', 'a', 'b');

Asynchronous vs. Synchronous

The EventListener calls all listeners synchronously in the order in which they were registered. This is important to ensure the proper sequencing of events and to avoid race conditions or logic errors. When appropriate, listener functions can switch to an asynchronous mode of operation using the setImmediate() or process.nextTick() methods:

const myEmitter = new MyEmitter();
myEmitter.on('event', (a, b) => {
  setImmediate(() => {
    console.log('this happens asynchronously');
  });
});
myEmitter.emit('event', 'a', 'b');

Handling events only once

When a listener is registered using the eventEmitter.on() method, that listener will be invoked every time the named event is emitted.

const myEmitter = new MyEmitter();
let m = 0;
myEmitter.on('event', () => {
  console.log(++m);
});
myEmitter.emit('event');
// Prints: 1
myEmitter.emit('event');
// Prints: 2

Using the eventEmitter.once() method, it is possible to register a listener that is called at most once for a particular event. Once the event is emitted, the listener is unregistered and then called.

const myEmitter = new MyEmitter();
let m = 0;
myEmitter.once('event', () => {
  console.log(++m);
});
myEmitter.emit('event');
// Prints: 1
myEmitter.emit('event');
// Ignored

Error events

When an error occurs within an EventEmitter instance, the typical action is for an 'error' event to be emitted. These are treated as special cases within Node.js.

If an EventEmitter does not have at least one listener registered for the 'error' event, and an 'error' event is emitted, the error is thrown, a stack trace is printed, and the Node.js process exits.

const myEmitter = new MyEmitter();
myEmitter.emit('error', new Error('whoops!'));
// Throws and crashes Node.js

To guard against crashing the Node.js process, a listener can be registered on the process object's uncaughtException event or the domain module can be used. (Note, however, that the domain module has been deprecated.)

const myEmitter = new MyEmitter();

process.on('uncaughtException', (err) => {
  console.error('whoops! there was an error');
});

myEmitter.emit('error', new Error('whoops!'));
// Prints: whoops! there was an error

As a best practice, listeners should always be added for the 'error' events.

const myEmitter = new MyEmitter();
myEmitter.on('error', (err) => {
  console.error('whoops! there was an error');
});
myEmitter.emit('error', new Error('whoops!'));
// Prints: whoops! there was an error

Class: EventEmitter

The EventEmitter class is defined and exposed by the events module:

const EventEmitter = require('events');

All EventEmitters emit the event 'newListener' when new listeners are added and 'removeListener' when existing listeners are removed.

Event: 'newListener'

  • eventName <any> The name of the event being listened for
  • listener <Function> The event handler function

The EventEmitter instance will emit its own 'newListener' event before a listener is added to its internal array of listeners.

Listeners registered for the 'newListener' event will be passed the event name and a reference to the listener being added.

The fact that the event is triggered before adding the listener has a subtle but important side effect: any additional listeners registered to the same name within the 'newListener' callback will be inserted before the listener that is in the process of being added.

const myEmitter = new MyEmitter();
// Only do this once so we don't loop forever
myEmitter.once('newListener', (event, listener) => {
  if (event === 'event') {
    // Insert a new listener in front
    myEmitter.on('event', () => {
      console.log('B');
    });
  }
});
myEmitter.on('event', () => {
  console.log('A');
});
myEmitter.emit('event');
// Prints:
//   B
//   A

Event: 'removeListener'

  • eventName <any> The event name
  • listener <Function> The event handler function

The 'removeListener' event is emitted after the listener is removed.

EventEmitter.listenerCount(emitter, eventName)

Stability: 0 - Deprecated: Use emitter.listenerCount() instead.

A class method that returns the number of listeners for the given eventName registered on the given emitter.

const myEmitter = new MyEmitter();
myEmitter.on('event', () => {});
myEmitter.on('event', () => {});
console.log(EventEmitter.listenerCount(myEmitter, 'event'));
// Prints: 2

EventEmitter.defaultMaxListeners

By default, a maximum of 10 listeners can be registered for any single event. This limit can be changed for individual EventEmitter instances using the emitter.setMaxListeners(n) method. To change the default for all EventEmitter instances, the EventEmitter.defaultMaxListeners property can be used. If this value is not a positive number, a TypeError will be thrown.

Take caution when setting the EventEmitter.defaultMaxListeners because the change effects all EventEmitter instances, including those created before the change is made. However, calling emitter.setMaxListeners(n) still has precedence over EventEmitter.defaultMaxListeners.

Note that this is not a hard limit. The EventEmitter instance will allow more listeners to be added but will output a trace warning to stderr indicating that a "possible EventEmitter memory leak" has been detected. For any single EventEmitter, the emitter.getMaxListeners() and emitter.setMaxListeners() methods can be used to temporarily avoid this warning:

emitter.setMaxListeners(emitter.getMaxListeners() + 1);
emitter.once('event', () => {
  // do stuff
  emitter.setMaxListeners(Math.max(emitter.getMaxListeners() - 1, 0));
});

The --trace-warnings command line flag can be used to display the stack trace for such warnings.

The emitted warning can be inspected with process.on('warning') and will have the additional emitter, type and count properties, referring to the event emitter instance, the event’s name and the number of attached listeners, respectively. Its name property is set to 'MaxListenersExceededWarning'.

emitter.addListener(eventName, listener)

Alias for emitter.on(eventName, listener).

emitter.emit(eventName[, ...args])

  • eventName <any>
  • ...args <any>

Synchronously calls each of the listeners registered for the event named eventName, in the order they were registered, passing the supplied arguments to each.

Returns true if the event had listeners, false otherwise.

emitter.eventNames()

Returns an array listing the events for which the emitter has registered listeners. The values in the array will be strings or Symbols.

const EventEmitter = require('events');
const myEE = new EventEmitter();
myEE.on('foo', () => {});
myEE.on('bar', () => {});

const sym = Symbol('symbol');
myEE.on(sym, () => {});

console.log(myEE.eventNames());
// Prints: [ 'foo', 'bar', Symbol(symbol) ]

emitter.getMaxListeners()

Returns the current max listener value for the EventEmitter which is either set by emitter.setMaxListeners(n) or defaults to EventEmitter.defaultMaxListeners.

emitter.listenerCount(eventName)

  • eventName <any> The name of the event being listened for

Returns the number of listeners listening to the event named eventName.

emitter.listeners(eventName)

  • eventName <any>

Returns a copy of the array of listeners for the event named eventName.

server.on('connection', (stream) => {
  console.log('someone connected!');
});
console.log(util.inspect(server.listeners('connection')));
// Prints: [ [Function] ]

emitter.on(eventName, listener)

  • eventName <any> The name of the event.
  • listener <Function> The callback function

Adds the listener function to the end of the listeners array for the event named eventName. No checks are made to see if the listener has already been added. Multiple calls passing the same combination of eventName and listener will result in the listener being added, and called, multiple times.

server.on('connection', (stream) => {
  console.log('someone connected!');
});

Returns a reference to the EventEmitter, so that calls can be chained.

By default, event listeners are invoked in the order they are added. The emitter.prependListener() method can be used as an alternative to add the event listener to the beginning of the listeners array.

const myEE = new EventEmitter();
myEE.on('foo', () => console.log('a'));
myEE.prependListener('foo', () => console.log('b'));
myEE.emit('foo');
// Prints:
//   b
//   a

emitter.once(eventName, listener)

  • eventName <any> The name of the event.
  • listener <Function> The callback function

Adds a one time listener function for the event named eventName. The next time eventName is triggered, this listener is removed and then invoked.

server.once('connection', (stream) => {
  console.log('Ah, we have our first user!');
});

Returns a reference to the EventEmitter, so that calls can be chained.

By default, event listeners are invoked in the order they are added. The emitter.prependOnceListener() method can be used as an alternative to add the event listener to the beginning of the listeners array.

const myEE = new EventEmitter();
myEE.once('foo', () => console.log('a'));
myEE.prependOnceListener('foo', () => console.log('b'));
myEE.emit('foo');
// Prints:
//   b
//   a

emitter.prependListener(eventName, listener)

  • eventName <any> The name of the event.
  • listener <Function> The callback function

Adds the listener function to the beginning of the listeners array for the event named eventName. No checks are made to see if the listener has already been added. Multiple calls passing the same combination of eventName and listener will result in the listener being added, and called, multiple times.

server.prependListener('connection', (stream) => {
  console.log('someone connected!');
});

Returns a reference to the EventEmitter, so that calls can be chained.

emitter.prependOnceListener(eventName, listener)

  • eventName <any> The name of the event.
  • listener <Function> The callback function

Adds a one time listener function for the event named eventName to the beginning of the listeners array. The next time eventName is triggered, this listener is removed, and then invoked.

server.prependOnceListener('connection', (stream) => {
  console.log('Ah, we have our first user!');
});

Returns a reference to the EventEmitter, so that calls can be chained.

emitter.removeAllListeners([eventName])

  • eventName <any>

Removes all listeners, or those of the specified eventName.

Note that it is bad practice to remove listeners added elsewhere in the code, particularly when the EventEmitter instance was created by some other component or module (e.g. sockets or file streams).

Returns a reference to the EventEmitter, so that calls can be chained.

emitter.removeListener(eventName, listener)

Removes the specified listener from the listener array for the event named eventName.

const callback = (stream) => {
  console.log('someone connected!');
};
server.on('connection', callback);
// ...
server.removeListener('connection', callback);

removeListener will remove, at most, one instance of a listener from the listener array. If any single listener has been added multiple times to the listener array for the specified eventName, then removeListener must be called multiple times to remove each instance.

Note that once an event has been emitted, all listeners attached to it at the time of emitting will be called in order. This implies that any removeListener() or removeAllListeners() calls after emitting and before the last listener finishes execution will not remove them from emit() in progress. Subsequent events will behave as expected.

const myEmitter = new MyEmitter();

const callbackA = () => {
  console.log('A');
  myEmitter.removeListener('event', callbackB);
};

const callbackB = () => {
  console.log('B');
};

myEmitter.on('event', callbackA);

myEmitter.on('event', callbackB);

// callbackA removes listener callbackB but it will still be called.
// Internal listener array at time of emit [callbackA, callbackB]
myEmitter.emit('event');
// Prints:
//   A
//   B

// callbackB is now removed.
// Internal listener array [callbackA]
myEmitter.emit('event');
// Prints:
//   A

Because listeners are managed using an internal array, calling this will change the position indices of any listener registered after the listener being removed. This will not impact the order in which listeners are called, but it means that any copies of the listener array as returned by the emitter.listeners() method will need to be recreated.

Returns a reference to the EventEmitter, so that calls can be chained.

emitter.setMaxListeners(n)

By default EventEmitters will print a warning if more than 10 listeners are added for a particular event. This is a useful default that helps finding memory leaks. Obviously, not all events should be limited to just 10 listeners. The emitter.setMaxListeners() method allows the limit to be modified for this specific EventEmitter instance. The value can be set to Infinity (or 0) to indicate an unlimited number of listeners.

Returns a reference to the EventEmitter, so that calls can be chained.

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https://nodejs.org/dist/latest-v8.x/docs/api/events.html