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Stream

Stability: 2 - Stable

A stream is an abstract interface for working with streaming data in Node.js. The stream module provides a base API that makes it easy to build objects that implement the stream interface.

There are many stream objects provided by Node.js. For instance, a request to an HTTP server and process.stdout are both stream instances.

Streams can be readable, writable, or both. All streams are instances of EventEmitter.

The stream module can be accessed using:

const stream = require('stream');

While it is important for all Node.js users to understand how streams work, the stream module itself is most useful for developers that are creating new types of stream instances. Developers who are primarily consuming stream objects will rarely (if ever) have need to use the stream module directly.

Organization of this Document

This document is divided into two primary sections with a third section for additional notes. The first section explains the elements of the stream API that are required to use streams within an application. The second section explains the elements of the API that are required to implement new types of streams.

Types of Streams

There are four fundamental stream types within Node.js:

Object Mode

All streams created by Node.js APIs operate exclusively on strings and Buffer (or Uint8Array) objects. It is possible, however, for stream implementations to work with other types of JavaScript values (with the exception of null, which serves a special purpose within streams). Such streams are considered to operate in "object mode".

Stream instances are switched into object mode using the objectMode option when the stream is created. Attempting to switch an existing stream into object mode is not safe.

Buffering

Both Writable and Readable streams will store data in an internal buffer that can be retrieved using writable._writableState.getBuffer() or readable._readableState.buffer, respectively.

The amount of data potentially buffered depends on the highWaterMark option passed into the streams constructor. For normal streams, the highWaterMark option specifies a total number of bytes. For streams operating in object mode, the highWaterMark specifies a total number of objects.

Data is buffered in Readable streams when the implementation calls stream.push(chunk). If the consumer of the Stream does not call stream.read(), the data will sit in the internal queue until it is consumed.

Once the total size of the internal read buffer reaches the threshold specified by highWaterMark, the stream will temporarily stop reading data from the underlying resource until the data currently buffered can be consumed (that is, the stream will stop calling the internal readable._read() method that is used to fill the read buffer).

Data is buffered in Writable streams when the writable.write(chunk) method is called repeatedly. While the total size of the internal write buffer is below the threshold set by highWaterMark, calls to writable.write() will return true. Once the size of the internal buffer reaches or exceeds the highWaterMark, false will be returned.

A key goal of the stream API, particularly the stream.pipe() method, is to limit the buffering of data to acceptable levels such that sources and destinations of differing speeds will not overwhelm the available memory.

Because Duplex and Transform streams are both Readable and Writable, each maintain two separate internal buffers used for reading and writing, allowing each side to operate independently of the other while maintaining an appropriate and efficient flow of data. For example, net.Socket instances are Duplex streams whose Readable side allows consumption of data received from the socket and whose Writable side allows writing data to the socket. Because data may be written to the socket at a faster or slower rate than data is received, it is important for each side to operate (and buffer) independently of the other.

API for Stream Consumers

Almost all Node.js applications, no matter how simple, use streams in some manner. The following is an example of using streams in a Node.js application that implements an HTTP server:

const http = require('http');

const server = http.createServer((req, res) => {
  // req is an http.IncomingMessage, which is a Readable Stream
  // res is an http.ServerResponse, which is a Writable Stream

  let body = '';
  // Get the data as utf8 strings.
  // If an encoding is not set, Buffer objects will be received.
  req.setEncoding('utf8');

  // Readable streams emit 'data' events once a listener is added
  req.on('data', (chunk) => {
    body += chunk;
  });

  // the end event indicates that the entire body has been received
  req.on('end', () => {
    try {
      const data = JSON.parse(body);
      // write back something interesting to the user:
      res.write(typeof data);
      res.end();
    } catch (er) {
      // uh oh! bad json!
      res.statusCode = 400;
      return res.end(`error: ${er.message}`);
    }
  });
});

server.listen(1337);

// $ curl localhost:1337 -d "{}"
// object
// $ curl localhost:1337 -d "\"foo\""
// string
// $ curl localhost:1337 -d "not json"
// error: Unexpected token o in JSON at position 1

Writable streams (such as res in the example) expose methods such as write() and end() that are used to write data onto the stream.

Readable streams use the EventEmitter API for notifying application code when data is available to be read off the stream. That available data can be read from the stream in multiple ways.

Both Writable and Readable streams use the EventEmitter API in various ways to communicate the current state of the stream.

Duplex and Transform streams are both Writable and Readable.

Applications that are either writing data to or consuming data from a stream are not required to implement the stream interfaces directly and will generally have no reason to call require('stream').

Developers wishing to implement new types of streams should refer to the section API for Stream Implementers.

Writable Streams

Writable streams are an abstraction for a destination to which data is written.

Examples of Writable streams include:

Note: Some of these examples are actually Duplex streams that implement the Writable interface.

All Writable streams implement the interface defined by the stream.Writable class.

While specific instances of Writable streams may differ in various ways, all Writable streams follow the same fundamental usage pattern as illustrated in the example below:

const myStream = getWritableStreamSomehow();
myStream.write('some data');
myStream.write('some more data');
myStream.end('done writing data');

Class: stream.Writable

Event: 'close'

The 'close' event is emitted when the stream and any of its underlying resources (a file descriptor, for example) have been closed. The event indicates that no more events will be emitted, and no further computation will occur.

Not all Writable streams will emit the 'close' event.

Event: 'drain'

If a call to stream.write(chunk) returns false, the 'drain' event will be emitted when it is appropriate to resume writing data to the stream.

// Write the data to the supplied writable stream one million times.
// Be attentive to back-pressure.
function writeOneMillionTimes(writer, data, encoding, callback) {
  let i = 1000000;
  write();
  function write() {
    let ok = true;
    do {
      i--;
      if (i === 0) {
        // last time!
        writer.write(data, encoding, callback);
      } else {
        // see if we should continue, or wait
        // don't pass the callback, because we're not done yet.
        ok = writer.write(data, encoding);
      }
    } while (i > 0 && ok);
    if (i > 0) {
      // had to stop early!
      // write some more once it drains
      writer.once('drain', write);
    }
  }
}
Event: 'error'

The 'error' event is emitted if an error occurred while writing or piping data. The listener callback is passed a single Error argument when called.

Note: The stream is not closed when the 'error' event is emitted.

Event: 'finish'

The 'finish' event is emitted after the stream.end() method has been called, and all data has been flushed to the underlying system.

const writer = getWritableStreamSomehow();
for (let i = 0; i < 100; i++) {
  writer.write(`hello, #${i}!\n`);
}
writer.end('This is the end\n');
writer.on('finish', () => {
  console.error('All writes are now complete.');
});
Event: 'pipe'

The 'pipe' event is emitted when the stream.pipe() method is called on a readable stream, adding this writable to its set of destinations.

const writer = getWritableStreamSomehow();
const reader = getReadableStreamSomehow();
writer.on('pipe', (src) => {
  console.error('something is piping into the writer');
  assert.equal(src, reader);
});
reader.pipe(writer);
Event: 'unpipe'

The 'unpipe' event is emitted when the stream.unpipe() method is called on a Readable stream, removing this Writable from its set of destinations.

const writer = getWritableStreamSomehow();
const reader = getReadableStreamSomehow();
writer.on('unpipe', (src) => {
  console.error('Something has stopped piping into the writer.');
  assert.equal(src, reader);
});
reader.pipe(writer);
reader.unpipe(writer);
writable.cork()

The writable.cork() method forces all written data to be buffered in memory. The buffered data will be flushed when either the stream.uncork() or stream.end() methods are called.

The primary intent of writable.cork() is to avoid a situation where writing many small chunks of data to a stream do not cause a backup in the internal buffer that would have an adverse impact on performance. In such situations, implementations that implement the writable._writev() method can perform buffered writes in a more optimized manner.

See also: writable.uncork().

writable.end([chunk][, encoding][, callback])
  • chunk <string> | <Buffer> | <Uint8Array> | <any> Optional data to write. For streams not operating in object mode, chunk must be a string, Buffer or Uint8Array. For object mode streams, chunk may be any JavaScript value other than null.
  • encoding <string> The encoding, if chunk is a string
  • callback <Function> Optional callback for when the stream is finished

Calling the writable.end() method signals that no more data will be written to the Writable. The optional chunk and encoding arguments allow one final additional chunk of data to be written immediately before closing the stream. If provided, the optional callback function is attached as a listener for the 'finish' event.

Calling the stream.write() method after calling stream.end() will raise an error.

// write 'hello, ' and then end with 'world!'
const file = fs.createWriteStream('example.txt');
file.write('hello, ');
file.end('world!');
// writing more now is not allowed!
writable.setDefaultEncoding(encoding)
  • encoding <string> The new default encoding
  • Returns: this

The writable.setDefaultEncoding() method sets the default encoding for a Writable stream.

writable.uncork()

The writable.uncork() method flushes all data buffered since stream.cork() was called.

When using writable.cork() and writable.uncork() to manage the buffering of writes to a stream, it is recommended that calls to writable.uncork() be deferred using process.nextTick(). Doing so allows batching of all writable.write() calls that occur within a given Node.js event loop phase.

stream.cork();
stream.write('some ');
stream.write('data ');
process.nextTick(() => stream.uncork());

If the writable.cork() method is called multiple times on a stream, the same number of calls to writable.uncork() must be called to flush the buffered data.

stream.cork();
stream.write('some ');
stream.cork();
stream.write('data ');
process.nextTick(() => {
  stream.uncork();
  // The data will not be flushed until uncork() is called a second time.
  stream.uncork();
});

See also: writable.cork().

writable.write(chunk[, encoding][, callback])
  • chunk <string> | <Buffer> | <Uint8Array> | <any> Optional data to write. For streams not operating in object mode, chunk must be a string, Buffer or Uint8Array. For object mode streams, chunk may be any JavaScript value other than null.
  • encoding <string> The encoding, if chunk is a string
  • callback <Function> Callback for when this chunk of data is flushed
  • Returns: <boolean> false if the stream wishes for the calling code to wait for the 'drain' event to be emitted before continuing to write additional data; otherwise true.

The writable.write() method writes some data to the stream, and calls the supplied callback once the data has been fully handled. If an error occurs, the callback may or may not be called with the error as its first argument. To reliably detect write errors, add a listener for the 'error' event.

The return value is true if the internal buffer is less than the highWaterMark configured when the stream was created after admitting chunk. If false is returned, further attempts to write data to the stream should stop until the 'drain' event is emitted.

While a stream is not draining, calls to write() will buffer chunk, and return false. Once all currently buffered chunks are drained (accepted for delivery by the operating system), the 'drain' event will be emitted. It is recommended that once write() returns false, no more chunks be written until the 'drain' event is emitted. While calling write() on a stream that is not draining is allowed, Node.js will buffer all written chunks until maximum memory usage occurs, at which point it will abort unconditionally. Even before it aborts, high memory usage will cause poor garbage collector performance and high RSS (which is not typically released back to the system, even after the memory is no longer required). Since TCP sockets may never drain if the remote peer does not read the data, writing a socket that is not draining may lead to a remotely exploitable vulnerability.

Writing data while the stream is not draining is particularly problematic for a Transform, because the Transform streams are paused by default until they are piped or an 'data' or 'readable' event handler is added.

If the data to be written can be generated or fetched on demand, it is recommended to encapsulate the logic into a Readable and use stream.pipe(). However, if calling write() is preferred, it is possible to respect backpressure and avoid memory issues using the 'drain' event:

function write(data, cb) {
  if (!stream.write(data)) {
    stream.once('drain', cb);
  } else {
    process.nextTick(cb);
  }
}

// Wait for cb to be called before doing any other write.
write('hello', () => {
  console.log('write completed, do more writes now');
});

A Writable stream in object mode will always ignore the encoding argument.

writable.destroy([error])
  • Returns: this

Destroy the stream, and emit the passed error. After this call, the writable stream has ended. Implementors should not override this method, but instead implement writable._destroy.

Readable Streams

Readable streams are an abstraction for a source from which data is consumed.

Examples of Readable streams include:

All Readable streams implement the interface defined by the stream.Readable class.

Two Modes

Readable streams effectively operate in one of two modes: flowing and paused.

When in flowing mode, data is read from the underlying system automatically and provided to an application as quickly as possible using events via the EventEmitter interface.

In paused mode, the stream.read() method must be called explicitly to read chunks of data from the stream.

All Readable streams begin in paused mode but can be switched to flowing mode in one of the following ways:

The Readable can switch back to paused mode using one of the following:

  • If there are no pipe destinations, by calling the stream.pause() method.
  • If there are pipe destinations, by removing any 'data' event handlers, and removing all pipe destinations by calling the stream.unpipe() method.

The important concept to remember is that a Readable will not generate data until a mechanism for either consuming or ignoring that data is provided. If the consuming mechanism is disabled or taken away, the Readable will attempt to stop generating the data.

Note: For backwards compatibility reasons, removing 'data' event handlers will not automatically pause the stream. Also, if there are piped destinations, then calling stream.pause() will not guarantee that the stream will remain paused once those destinations drain and ask for more data.

Note: If a Readable is switched into flowing mode and there are no consumers available to handle the data, that data will be lost. This can occur, for instance, when the readable.resume() method is called without a listener attached to the 'data' event, or when a 'data' event handler is removed from the stream.

Three States

The "two modes" of operation for a Readable stream are a simplified abstraction for the more complicated internal state management that is happening within the Readable stream implementation.

Specifically, at any given point in time, every Readable is in one of three possible states:

  • readable._readableState.flowing = null
  • readable._readableState.flowing = false
  • readable._readableState.flowing = true

When readable._readableState.flowing is null, no mechanism for consuming the streams data is provided so the stream will not generate its data. While in this state, attaching a listener for the 'data' event, calling the readable.pipe() method, or calling the readable.resume() method will switch readable._readableState.flowing to true, causing the Readable to begin actively emitting events as data is generated.

Calling readable.pause(), readable.unpipe(), or receiving "back pressure" will cause the readable._readableState.flowing to be set as false, temporarily halting the flowing of events but not halting the generation of data. While in this state, attaching a listener for the 'data' event would not cause readable._readableState.flowing to switch to true.

const { PassThrough, Writable } = require('stream');
const pass = new PassThrough();
const writable = new Writable();

pass.pipe(writable);
pass.unpipe(writable);
// flowing is now false

pass.on('data', (chunk) => { console.log(chunk.toString()); });
pass.write('ok'); // will not emit 'data'
pass.resume(); // must be called to make 'data' being emitted

While readable._readableState.flowing is false, data may be accumulating within the streams internal buffer.

Choose One

The Readable stream API evolved across multiple Node.js versions and provides multiple methods of consuming stream data. In general, developers should choose one of the methods of consuming data and should never use multiple methods to consume data from a single stream.

Use of the readable.pipe() method is recommended for most users as it has been implemented to provide the easiest way of consuming stream data. Developers that require more fine-grained control over the transfer and generation of data can use the EventEmitter and readable.pause()/readable.resume() APIs.

Class: stream.Readable

Event: 'close'

The 'close' event is emitted when the stream and any of its underlying resources (a file descriptor, for example) have been closed. The event indicates that no more events will be emitted, and no further computation will occur.

Not all Readable streams will emit the 'close' event.

Event: 'data'
  • chunk <Buffer> | <string> | <any> The chunk of data. For streams that are not operating in object mode, the chunk will be either a string or Buffer. For streams that are in object mode, the chunk can be any JavaScript value other than null.

The 'data' event is emitted whenever the stream is relinquishing ownership of a chunk of data to a consumer. This may occur whenever the stream is switched in flowing mode by calling readable.pipe(), readable.resume(), or by attaching a listener callback to the 'data' event. The 'data' event will also be emitted whenever the readable.read() method is called and a chunk of data is available to be returned.

Attaching a 'data' event listener to a stream that has not been explicitly paused will switch the stream into flowing mode. Data will then be passed as soon as it is available.

The listener callback will be passed the chunk of data as a string if a default encoding has been specified for the stream using the readable.setEncoding() method; otherwise the data will be passed as a Buffer.

const readable = getReadableStreamSomehow();
readable.on('data', (chunk) => {
  console.log(`Received ${chunk.length} bytes of data.`);
});
Event: 'end'

The 'end' event is emitted when there is no more data to be consumed from the stream.

Note: The 'end' event will not be emitted unless the data is completely consumed. This can be accomplished by switching the stream into flowing mode, or by calling stream.read() repeatedly until all data has been consumed.

const readable = getReadableStreamSomehow();
readable.on('data', (chunk) => {
  console.log(`Received ${chunk.length} bytes of data.`);
});
readable.on('end', () => {
  console.log('There will be no more data.');
});
Event: 'error'

The 'error' event may be emitted by a Readable implementation at any time. Typically, this may occur if the underlying stream is unable to generate data due to an underlying internal failure, or when a stream implementation attempts to push an invalid chunk of data.

The listener callback will be passed a single Error object.

Event: 'readable'

The 'readable' event is emitted when there is data available to be read from the stream. In some cases, attaching a listener for the 'readable' event will cause some amount of data to be read into an internal buffer.

const readable = getReadableStreamSomehow();
readable.on('readable', () => {
  // there is some data to read now
});

The 'readable' event will also be emitted once the end of the stream data has been reached but before the 'end' event is emitted.

Effectively, the 'readable' event indicates that the stream has new information: either new data is available or the end of the stream has been reached. In the former case, stream.read() will return the available data. In the latter case, stream.read() will return null. For instance, in the following example, foo.txt is an empty file:

const fs = require('fs');
const rr = fs.createReadStream('foo.txt');
rr.on('readable', () => {
  console.log('readable:', rr.read());
});
rr.on('end', () => {
  console.log('end');
});

The output of running this script is:

$ node test.js
readable: null
end

Note: In general, the readable.pipe() and 'data' event mechanisms are easier to understand than the 'readable' event. However, handling 'readable' might result in increased throughput.

readable.isPaused()

The readable.isPaused() method returns the current operating state of the Readable. This is used primarily by the mechanism that underlies the readable.pipe() method. In most typical cases, there will be no reason to use this method directly.

const readable = new stream.Readable();

readable.isPaused(); // === false
readable.pause();
readable.isPaused(); // === true
readable.resume();
readable.isPaused(); // === false
readable.pause()
  • Returns: this

The readable.pause() method will cause a stream in flowing mode to stop emitting 'data' events, switching out of flowing mode. Any data that becomes available will remain in the internal buffer.

const readable = getReadableStreamSomehow();
readable.on('data', (chunk) => {
  console.log(`Received ${chunk.length} bytes of data.`);
  readable.pause();
  console.log('There will be no additional data for 1 second.');
  setTimeout(() => {
    console.log('Now data will start flowing again.');
    readable.resume();
  }, 1000);
});
readable.pipe(destination[, options])

The readable.pipe() method attaches a Writable stream to the readable, causing it to switch automatically into flowing mode and push all of its data to the attached Writable. The flow of data will be automatically managed so that the destination Writable stream is not overwhelmed by a faster Readable stream.

The following example pipes all of the data from the readable into a file named file.txt:

const readable = getReadableStreamSomehow();
const writable = fs.createWriteStream('file.txt');
// All the data from readable goes into 'file.txt'
readable.pipe(writable);

It is possible to attach multiple Writable streams to a single Readable stream.

The readable.pipe() method returns a reference to the destination stream making it possible to set up chains of piped streams:

const r = fs.createReadStream('file.txt');
const z = zlib.createGzip();
const w = fs.createWriteStream('file.txt.gz');
r.pipe(z).pipe(w);

By default, stream.end() is called on the destination Writable stream when the source Readable stream emits 'end', so that the destination is no longer writable. To disable this default behavior, the end option can be passed as false, causing the destination stream to remain open, as illustrated in the following example:

reader.pipe(writer, { end: false });
reader.on('end', () => {
  writer.end('Goodbye\n');
});

One important caveat is that if the Readable stream emits an error during processing, the Writable destination is not closed automatically. If an error occurs, it will be necessary to manually close each stream in order to prevent memory leaks.

Note: The process.stderr and process.stdout Writable streams are never closed until the Node.js process exits, regardless of the specified options.

readable.read([size])

The readable.read() method pulls some data out of the internal buffer and returns it. If no data available to be read, null is returned. By default, the data will be returned as a Buffer object unless an encoding has been specified using the readable.setEncoding() method or the stream is operating in object mode.

The optional size argument specifies a specific number of bytes to read. If size bytes are not available to be read, null will be returned unless the stream has ended, in which case all of the data remaining in the internal buffer will be returned (even if it exceeds size bytes).

If the size argument is not specified, all of the data contained in the internal buffer will be returned.

The readable.read() method should only be called on Readable streams operating in paused mode. In flowing mode, readable.read() is called automatically until the internal buffer is fully drained.

const readable = getReadableStreamSomehow();
readable.on('readable', () => {
  let chunk;
  while (null !== (chunk = readable.read())) {
    console.log(`Received ${chunk.length} bytes of data.`);
  }
});

In general, it is recommended that developers avoid the use of the 'readable' event and the readable.read() method in favor of using either readable.pipe() or the 'data' event.

A Readable stream in object mode will always return a single item from a call to readable.read(size), regardless of the value of the size argument.

Note: If the readable.read() method returns a chunk of data, a 'data' event will also be emitted.

Note: Calling stream.read([size]) after the 'end' event has been emitted will return null. No runtime error will be raised.

readable.resume()
  • Returns: this

The readable.resume() method causes an explicitly paused Readable stream to resume emitting 'data' events, switching the stream into flowing mode.

The readable.resume() method can be used to fully consume the data from a stream without actually processing any of that data as illustrated in the following example:

getReadableStreamSomehow()
  .resume()
  .on('end', () => {
    console.log('Reached the end, but did not read anything.');
  });
readable.setEncoding(encoding)
  • encoding <string> The encoding to use.
  • Returns: this

The readable.setEncoding() method sets the character encoding for data read from the Readable stream.

By default, no encoding is assigned and stream data will be returned as Buffer objects. Setting an encoding causes the stream data to be returned as strings of the specified encoding rather than as Buffer objects. For instance, calling readable.setEncoding('utf8') will cause the output data to be interpreted as UTF-8 data, and passed as strings. Calling readable.setEncoding('hex') will cause the data to be encoded in hexadecimal string format.

The Readable stream will properly handle multi-byte characters delivered through the stream that would otherwise become improperly decoded if simply pulled from the stream as Buffer objects.

const readable = getReadableStreamSomehow();
readable.setEncoding('utf8');
readable.on('data', (chunk) => {
  assert.equal(typeof chunk, 'string');
  console.log('got %d characters of string data', chunk.length);
});
readable.unpipe([destination])

The readable.unpipe() method detaches a Writable stream previously attached using the stream.pipe() method.

If the destination is not specified, then all pipes are detached.

If the destination is specified, but no pipe is set up for it, then the method does nothing.

const readable = getReadableStreamSomehow();
const writable = fs.createWriteStream('file.txt');
// All the data from readable goes into 'file.txt',
// but only for the first second
readable.pipe(writable);
setTimeout(() => {
  console.log('Stop writing to file.txt');
  readable.unpipe(writable);
  console.log('Manually close the file stream');
  writable.end();
}, 1000);
readable.unshift(chunk)
  • chunk <Buffer> | <Uint8Array> | <string> | <any> Chunk of data to unshift onto the read queue. For streams not operating in object mode, chunk must be a string, Buffer or Uint8Array. For object mode streams, chunk may be any JavaScript value other than null.

The readable.unshift() method pushes a chunk of data back into the internal buffer. This is useful in certain situations where a stream is being consumed by code that needs to "un-consume" some amount of data that it has optimistically pulled out of the source, so that the data can be passed on to some other party.

Note: The stream.unshift(chunk) method cannot be called after the 'end' event has been emitted or a runtime error will be thrown.

Developers using stream.unshift() often should consider switching to use of a Transform stream instead. See the API for Stream Implementers section for more information.

// Pull off a header delimited by \n\n
// use unshift() if we get too much
// Call the callback with (error, header, stream)
const { StringDecoder } = require('string_decoder');
function parseHeader(stream, callback) {
  stream.on('error', callback);
  stream.on('readable', onReadable);
  const decoder = new StringDecoder('utf8');
  let header = '';
  function onReadable() {
    let chunk;
    while (null !== (chunk = stream.read())) {
      const str = decoder.write(chunk);
      if (str.match(/\n\n/)) {
        // found the header boundary
        const split = str.split(/\n\n/);
        header += split.shift();
        const remaining = split.join('\n\n');
        const buf = Buffer.from(remaining, 'utf8');
        stream.removeListener('error', callback);
        // remove the readable listener before unshifting
        stream.removeListener('readable', onReadable);
        if (buf.length)
          stream.unshift(buf);
        // now the body of the message can be read from the stream.
        callback(null, header, stream);
      } else {
        // still reading the header.
        header += str;
      }
    }
  }
}

Note: Unlike stream.push(chunk), stream.unshift(chunk) will not end the reading process by resetting the internal reading state of the stream. This can cause unexpected results if readable.unshift() is called during a read (i.e. from within a stream._read() implementation on a custom stream). Following the call to readable.unshift() with an immediate stream.push('') will reset the reading state appropriately, however it is best to simply avoid calling readable.unshift() while in the process of performing a read.

readable.wrap(stream)
  • stream <Stream> An "old style" readable stream

Versions of Node.js prior to v0.10 had streams that did not implement the entire stream module API as it is currently defined. (See Compatibility for more information.)

When using an older Node.js library that emits 'data' events and has a stream.pause() method that is advisory only, the readable.wrap() method can be used to create a Readable stream that uses the old stream as its data source.

It will rarely be necessary to use readable.wrap() but the method has been provided as a convenience for interacting with older Node.js applications and libraries.

For example:

const { OldReader } = require('./old-api-module.js');
const { Readable } = require('stream');
const oreader = new OldReader();
const myReader = new Readable().wrap(oreader);

myReader.on('readable', () => {
  myReader.read(); // etc.
});
readable.destroy([error])

Destroy the stream, and emit 'error'. After this call, the readable stream will release any internal resources. Implementors should not override this method, but instead implement readable._destroy.

Duplex and Transform Streams

Class: stream.Duplex

Duplex streams are streams that implement both the Readable and Writable interfaces.

Examples of Duplex streams include:

Class: stream.Transform

Transform streams are Duplex streams where the output is in some way related to the input. Like all Duplex streams, Transform streams implement both the Readable and Writable interfaces.

Examples of Transform streams include:

transform.destroy([error])

Destroy the stream, and emit 'error'. After this call, the transform stream would release any internal resources. implementors should not override this method, but instead implement readable._destroy. The default implementation of _destroy for Transform also emit 'close'.

API for Stream Implementers

The stream module API has been designed to make it possible to easily implement streams using JavaScript's prototypal inheritance model.

First, a stream developer would declare a new JavaScript class that extends one of the four basic stream classes (stream.Writable, stream.Readable, stream.Duplex, or stream.Transform), making sure they call the appropriate parent class constructor:

const { Writable } = require('stream');

class MyWritable extends Writable {
  constructor(options) {
    super(options);
    // ...
  }
}

The new stream class must then implement one or more specific methods, depending on the type of stream being created, as detailed in the chart below:

Use-case

Class

Method(s) to implement

Reading only

Readable

_read

Writing only

Writable

_write, _writev, _final

Reading and writing

Duplex

_read, _write, _writev, _final

Operate on written data, then read the result

Transform

_transform, _flush, _final

Note: The implementation code for a stream should never call the "public" methods of a stream that are intended for use by consumers (as described in the API for Stream Consumers section). Doing so may lead to adverse side effects in application code consuming the stream.

Simplified Construction

For many simple cases, it is possible to construct a stream without relying on inheritance. This can be accomplished by directly creating instances of the stream.Writable, stream.Readable, stream.Duplex or stream.Transform objects and passing appropriate methods as constructor options.

For example:

const { Writable } = require('stream');

const myWritable = new Writable({
  write(chunk, encoding, callback) {
    // ...
  }
});

Implementing a Writable Stream

The stream.Writable class is extended to implement a Writable stream.

Custom Writable streams must call the new stream.Writable([options]) constructor and implement the writable._write() method. The writable._writev() method may also be implemented.

Constructor: new stream.Writable([options])

For example:

const { Writable } = require('stream');

class MyWritable extends Writable {
  constructor(options) {
    // Calls the stream.Writable() constructor
    super(options);
    // ...
  }
}

Or, when using pre-ES6 style constructors:

const { Writable } = require('stream');
const util = require('util');

function MyWritable(options) {
  if (!(this instanceof MyWritable))
    return new MyWritable(options);
  Writable.call(this, options);
}
util.inherits(MyWritable, Writable);

Or, using the Simplified Constructor approach:

const { Writable } = require('stream');

const myWritable = new Writable({
  write(chunk, encoding, callback) {
    // ...
  },
  writev(chunks, callback) {
    // ...
  }
});

writable._write(chunk, encoding, callback)

  • chunk <Buffer> | <string> | <any> The chunk to be written. Will always be a buffer unless the decodeStrings option was set to false or the stream is operating in object mode.
  • encoding <string> If the chunk is a string, then encoding is the character encoding of that string. If chunk is a Buffer, or if the stream is operating in object mode, encoding may be ignored.
  • callback <Function> Call this function (optionally with an error argument) when processing is complete for the supplied chunk.

All Writable stream implementations must provide a writable._write() method to send data to the underlying resource.

Note: Transform streams provide their own implementation of the writable._write().

Note: This function MUST NOT be called by application code directly. It should be implemented by child classes, and called only by the internal Writable class methods only.

The callback method must be called to signal either that the write completed successfully or failed with an error. The first argument passed to the callback must be the Error object if the call failed or null if the write succeeded.

It is important to note that all calls to writable.write() that occur between the time writable._write() is called and the callback is called will cause the written data to be buffered. Once the callback is invoked, the stream will emit a 'drain' event. If a stream implementation is capable of processing multiple chunks of data at once, the writable._writev() method should be implemented.

If the decodeStrings property is set in the constructor options, then chunk may be a string rather than a Buffer, and encoding will indicate the character encoding of the string. This is to support implementations that have an optimized handling for certain string data encodings. If the decodeStrings property is explicitly set to false, the encoding argument can be safely ignored, and chunk will remain the same object that is passed to .write().

The writable._write() method is prefixed with an underscore because it is internal to the class that defines it, and should never be called directly by user programs.

writable._writev(chunks, callback)

  • chunks <Array> The chunks to be written. Each chunk has following format: { chunk: ..., encoding: ... }.
  • callback <Function> A callback function (optionally with an error argument) to be invoked when processing is complete for the supplied chunks.

Note: This function MUST NOT be called by application code directly. It should be implemented by child classes, and called only by the internal Writable class methods only.

The writable._writev() method may be implemented in addition to writable._write() in stream implementations that are capable of processing multiple chunks of data at once. If implemented, the method will be called with all chunks of data currently buffered in the write queue.

The writable._writev() method is prefixed with an underscore because it is internal to the class that defines it, and should never be called directly by user programs.

writable._destroy(err, callback)

  • err <Error> An error.
  • callback <Function> A callback function that takes an optional error argument which is invoked when the writable is destroyed.

writable._final(callback)

  • callback <Function> Call this function (optionally with an error argument) when you are done writing any remaining data.

Note: _final() must not be called directly. It MAY be implemented by child classes, and if so, will be called by the internal Writable class methods only.

This optional function will be called before the stream closes, delaying the finish event until callback is called. This is useful to close resources or write buffered data before a stream ends.

Errors While Writing

It is recommended that errors occurring during the processing of the writable._write() and writable._writev() methods are reported by invoking the callback and passing the error as the first argument. This will cause an 'error' event to be emitted by the Writable. Throwing an Error from within writable._write() can result in unexpected and inconsistent behavior depending on how the stream is being used. Using the callback ensures consistent and predictable handling of errors.

const { Writable } = require('stream');

const myWritable = new Writable({
  write(chunk, encoding, callback) {
    if (chunk.toString().indexOf('a') >= 0) {
      callback(new Error('chunk is invalid'));
    } else {
      callback();
    }
  }
});

An Example Writable Stream

The following illustrates a rather simplistic (and somewhat pointless) custom Writable stream implementation. While this specific Writable stream instance is not of any real particular usefulness, the example illustrates each of the required elements of a custom Writable stream instance:

const { Writable } = require('stream');

class MyWritable extends Writable {
  constructor(options) {
    super(options);
    // ...
  }

  _write(chunk, encoding, callback) {
    if (chunk.toString().indexOf('a') >= 0) {
      callback(new Error('chunk is invalid'));
    } else {
      callback();
    }
  }
}

Implementing a Readable Stream

The stream.Readable class is extended to implement a Readable stream.

Custom Readable streams must call the new stream.Readable([options]) constructor and implement the readable._read() method.

new stream.Readable([options])

  • options <Object>
    • highWaterMark <number> The maximum number of bytes to store in the internal buffer before ceasing to read from the underlying resource. Defaults to 16384 (16kb), or 16 for objectMode streams
    • encoding <string> If specified, then buffers will be decoded to strings using the specified encoding. Defaults to null
    • objectMode <boolean> Whether this stream should behave as a stream of objects. Meaning that stream.read(n) returns a single value instead of a Buffer of size n. Defaults to false
    • read <Function> Implementation for the stream._read() method.
    • destroy <Function> Implementation for the stream._destroy() method.

For example:

const { Readable } = require('stream');

class MyReadable extends Readable {
  constructor(options) {
    // Calls the stream.Readable(options) constructor
    super(options);
    // ...
  }
}

Or, when using pre-ES6 style constructors:

const { Readable } = require('stream');
const util = require('util');

function MyReadable(options) {
  if (!(this instanceof MyReadable))
    return new MyReadable(options);
  Readable.call(this, options);
}
util.inherits(MyReadable, Readable);

Or, using the Simplified Constructor approach:

const { Readable } = require('stream');

const myReadable = new Readable({
  read(size) {
    // ...
  }
});

readable._read(size)

  • size <number> Number of bytes to read asynchronously

Note: This function MUST NOT be called by application code directly. It should be implemented by child classes, and called only by the internal Readable class methods only.

All Readable stream implementations must provide an implementation of the readable._read() method to fetch data from the underlying resource.

When readable._read() is called, if data is available from the resource, the implementation should begin pushing that data into the read queue using the this.push(dataChunk) method. _read() should continue reading from the resource and pushing data until readable.push() returns false. Only when _read() is called again after it has stopped should it resume pushing additional data onto the queue.

Note: Once the readable._read() method has been called, it will not be called again until the readable.push() method is called.

The size argument is advisory. For implementations where a "read" is a single operation that returns data can use the size argument to determine how much data to fetch. Other implementations may ignore this argument and simply provide data whenever it becomes available. There is no need to "wait" until size bytes are available before calling stream.push(chunk).

The readable._read() method is prefixed with an underscore because it is internal to the class that defines it, and should never be called directly by user programs.

readable.push(chunk[, encoding])

  • chunk <Buffer> | <Uint8Array> | <string> | <null> | <any> Chunk of data to push into the read queue. For streams not operating in object mode, chunk must be a string, Buffer or Uint8Array. For object mode streams, chunk may be any JavaScript value.
  • encoding <string> Encoding of string chunks. Must be a valid Buffer encoding, such as 'utf8' or 'ascii'
  • Returns <boolean> true if additional chunks of data may continued to be pushed; false otherwise.

When chunk is a Buffer, Uint8Array or string, the chunk of data will be added to the internal queue for users of the stream to consume. Passing chunk as null signals the end of the stream (EOF), after which no more data can be written.

When the Readable is operating in paused mode, the data added with readable.push() can be read out by calling the readable.read() method when the 'readable' event is emitted.

When the Readable is operating in flowing mode, the data added with readable.push() will be delivered by emitting a 'data' event.

The readable.push() method is designed to be as flexible as possible. For example, when wrapping a lower-level source that provides some form of pause/resume mechanism, and a data callback, the low-level source can be wrapped by the custom Readable instance as illustrated in the following example:

// source is an object with readStop() and readStart() methods,
// and an `ondata` member that gets called when it has data, and
// an `onend` member that gets called when the data is over.

class SourceWrapper extends Readable {
  constructor(options) {
    super(options);

    this._source = getLowlevelSourceObject();

    // Every time there's data, push it into the internal buffer.
    this._source.ondata = (chunk) => {
      // if push() returns false, then stop reading from source
      if (!this.push(chunk))
        this._source.readStop();
    };

    // When the source ends, push the EOF-signaling `null` chunk
    this._source.onend = () => {
      this.push(null);
    };
  }
  // _read will be called when the stream wants to pull more data in
  // the advisory size argument is ignored in this case.
  _read(size) {
    this._source.readStart();
  }
}

Note: The readable.push() method is intended be called only by Readable Implementers, and only from within the readable._read() method.

Errors While Reading

It is recommended that errors occurring during the processing of the readable._read() method are emitted using the 'error' event rather than being thrown. Throwing an Error from within readable._read() can result in unexpected and inconsistent behavior depending on whether the stream is operating in flowing or paused mode. Using the 'error' event ensures consistent and predictable handling of errors.

const { Readable } = require('stream');

const myReadable = new Readable({
  read(size) {
    if (checkSomeErrorCondition()) {
      process.nextTick(() => this.emit('error', err));
      return;
    }
    // do some work
  }
});

An Example Counting Stream

The following is a basic example of a Readable stream that emits the numerals from 1 to 1,000,000 in ascending order, and then ends.

const { Readable } = require('stream');

class Counter extends Readable {
  constructor(opt) {
    super(opt);
    this._max = 1000000;
    this._index = 1;
  }

  _read() {
    const i = this._index++;
    if (i > this._max)
      this.push(null);
    else {
      const str = '' + i;
      const buf = Buffer.from(str, 'ascii');
      this.push(buf);
    }
  }
}

Implementing a Duplex Stream

A Duplex stream is one that implements both Readable and Writable, such as a TCP socket connection.

Because JavaScript does not have support for multiple inheritance, the stream.Duplex class is extended to implement a Duplex stream (as opposed to extending the stream.Readable and stream.Writable classes).

Note: The stream.Duplex class prototypically inherits from stream.Readable and parasitically from stream.Writable, but instanceof will work properly for both base classes due to overriding Symbol.hasInstance on stream.Writable.

Custom Duplex streams must call the new stream.Duplex([options]) constructor and implement both the readable._read() and writable._write() methods.

new stream.Duplex(options)

  • options <Object> Passed to both Writable and Readable constructors. Also has the following fields:
    • allowHalfOpen <boolean> Defaults to true. If set to false, then the stream will automatically end the writable side when the readable side ends.
    • readableObjectMode <boolean> Defaults to false. Sets objectMode for readable side of the stream. Has no effect if objectMode is true.
    • writableObjectMode <boolean> Defaults to false. Sets objectMode for writable side of the stream. Has no effect if objectMode is true.

For example:

const { Duplex } = require('stream');

class MyDuplex extends Duplex {
  constructor(options) {
    super(options);
    // ...
  }
}

Or, when using pre-ES6 style constructors:

const { Duplex } = require('stream');
const util = require('util');

function MyDuplex(options) {
  if (!(this instanceof MyDuplex))
    return new MyDuplex(options);
  Duplex.call(this, options);
}
util.inherits(MyDuplex, Duplex);

Or, using the Simplified Constructor approach:

const { Duplex } = require('stream');

const myDuplex = new Duplex({
  read(size) {
    // ...
  },
  write(chunk, encoding, callback) {
    // ...
  }
});

An Example Duplex Stream

The following illustrates a simple example of a Duplex stream that wraps a hypothetical lower-level source object to which data can be written, and from which data can be read, albeit using an API that is not compatible with Node.js streams. The following illustrates a simple example of a Duplex stream that buffers incoming written data via the Writable interface that is read back out via the Readable interface.

const { Duplex } = require('stream');
const kSource = Symbol('source');

class MyDuplex extends Duplex {
  constructor(source, options) {
    super(options);
    this[kSource] = source;
  }

  _write(chunk, encoding, callback) {
    // The underlying source only deals with strings
    if (Buffer.isBuffer(chunk))
      chunk = chunk.toString();
    this[kSource].writeSomeData(chunk);
    callback();
  }

  _read(size) {
    this[kSource].fetchSomeData(size, (data, encoding) => {
      this.push(Buffer.from(data, encoding));
    });
  }
}

The most important aspect of a Duplex stream is that the Readable and Writable sides operate independently of one another despite co-existing within a single object instance.

Object Mode Duplex Streams

For Duplex streams, objectMode can be set exclusively for either the Readable or Writable side using the readableObjectMode and writableObjectMode options respectively.

In the following example, for instance, a new Transform stream (which is a type of Duplex stream) is created that has an object mode Writable side that accepts JavaScript numbers that are converted to hexadecimal strings on the Readable side.

const { Transform } = require('stream');

// All Transform streams are also Duplex Streams
const myTransform = new Transform({
  writableObjectMode: true,

  transform(chunk, encoding, callback) {
    // Coerce the chunk to a number if necessary
    chunk |= 0;

    // Transform the chunk into something else.
    const data = chunk.toString(16);

    // Push the data onto the readable queue.
    callback(null, '0'.repeat(data.length % 2) + data);
  }
});

myTransform.setEncoding('ascii');
myTransform.on('data', (chunk) => console.log(chunk));

myTransform.write(1);
// Prints: 01
myTransform.write(10);
// Prints: 0a
myTransform.write(100);
// Prints: 64

Implementing a Transform Stream

A Transform stream is a Duplex stream where the output is computed in some way from the input. Examples include zlib streams or crypto streams that compress, encrypt, or decrypt data.

Note: There is no requirement that the output be the same size as the input, the same number of chunks, or arrive at the same time. For example, a Hash stream will only ever have a single chunk of output which is provided when the input is ended. A zlib stream will produce output that is either much smaller or much larger than its input.

The stream.Transform class is extended to implement a Transform stream.

The stream.Transform class prototypically inherits from stream.Duplex and implements its own versions of the writable._write() and readable._read() methods. Custom Transform implementations must implement the transform._transform() method and may also implement the transform._flush() method.

Note: Care must be taken when using Transform streams in that data written to the stream can cause the Writable side of the stream to become paused if the output on the Readable side is not consumed.

new stream.Transform([options])

For example:

const { Transform } = require('stream');

class MyTransform extends Transform {
  constructor(options) {
    super(options);
    // ...
  }
}

Or, when using pre-ES6 style constructors:

const { Transform } = require('stream');
const util = require('util');

function MyTransform(options) {
  if (!(this instanceof MyTransform))
    return new MyTransform(options);
  Transform.call(this, options);
}
util.inherits(MyTransform, Transform);

Or, using the Simplified Constructor approach:

const { Transform } = require('stream');

const myTransform = new Transform({
  transform(chunk, encoding, callback) {
    // ...
  }
});

Events: 'finish' and 'end'

The 'finish' and 'end' events are from the stream.Writable and stream.Readable classes, respectively. The 'finish' event is emitted after stream.end() is called and all chunks have been processed by stream._transform(). The 'end' event is emitted after all data has been output, which occurs after the callback in transform._flush() has been called.

transform._flush(callback)

  • callback <Function> A callback function (optionally with an error argument and data) to be called when remaining data has been flushed.

Note: This function MUST NOT be called by application code directly. It should be implemented by child classes, and called only by the internal Readable class methods only.

In some cases, a transform operation may need to emit an additional bit of data at the end of the stream. For example, a zlib compression stream will store an amount of internal state used to optimally compress the output. When the stream ends, however, that additional data needs to be flushed so that the compressed data will be complete.

Custom Transform implementations may implement the transform._flush() method. This will be called when there is no more written data to be consumed, but before the 'end' event is emitted signaling the end of the Readable stream.

Within the transform._flush() implementation, the readable.push() method may be called zero or more times, as appropriate. The callback function must be called when the flush operation is complete.

The transform._flush() method is prefixed with an underscore because it is internal to the class that defines it, and should never be called directly by user programs.

transform._transform(chunk, encoding, callback)

  • chunk <Buffer> | <string> | <any> The chunk to be transformed. Will always be a buffer unless the decodeStrings option was set to false or the stream is operating in object mode.
  • encoding <string> If the chunk is a string, then this is the encoding type. If chunk is a buffer, then this is the special value - 'buffer', ignore it in this case.
  • callback <Function> A callback function (optionally with an error argument and data) to be called after the supplied chunk has been processed.

Note: This function MUST NOT be called by application code directly. It should be implemented by child classes, and called only by the internal Readable class methods only.

All Transform stream implementations must provide a _transform() method to accept input and produce output. The transform._transform() implementation handles the bytes being written, computes an output, then passes that output off to the readable portion using the readable.push() method.

The transform.push() method may be called zero or more times to generate output from a single input chunk, depending on how much is to be output as a result of the chunk.

It is possible that no output is generated from any given chunk of input data.

The callback function must be called only when the current chunk is completely consumed. The first argument passed to the callback must be an Error object if an error occurred while processing the input or null otherwise. If a second argument is passed to the callback, it will be forwarded on to the readable.push() method. In other words the following are equivalent:

transform.prototype._transform = function(data, encoding, callback) {
  this.push(data);
  callback();
};

transform.prototype._transform = function(data, encoding, callback) {
  callback(null, data);
};

The transform._transform() method is prefixed with an underscore because it is internal to the class that defines it, and should never be called directly by user programs.

Class: stream.PassThrough

The stream.PassThrough class is a trivial implementation of a Transform stream that simply passes the input bytes across to the output. Its purpose is primarily for examples and testing, but there are some use cases where stream.PassThrough is useful as a building block for novel sorts of streams.

Additional Notes

Compatibility with Older Node.js Versions

In versions of Node.js prior to v0.10, the Readable stream interface was simpler, but also less powerful and less useful.

  • Rather than waiting for calls the stream.read() method, 'data' events would begin emitting immediately. Applications that would need to perform some amount of work to decide how to handle data were required to store read data into buffers so the data would not be lost.
  • The stream.pause() method was advisory, rather than guaranteed. This meant that it was still necessary to be prepared to receive 'data' events even when the stream was in a paused state.

In Node.js v0.10, the Readable class was added. For backwards compatibility with older Node.js programs, Readable streams switch into "flowing mode" when a 'data' event handler is added, or when the stream.resume() method is called. The effect is that, even when not using the new stream.read() method and 'readable' event, it is no longer necessary to worry about losing 'data' chunks.

While most applications will continue to function normally, this introduces an edge case in the following conditions:

  • No 'data' event listener is added.
  • The stream.resume() method is never called.
  • The stream is not piped to any writable destination.

For example, consider the following code:

// WARNING!  BROKEN!
net.createServer((socket) => {

  // we add an 'end' method, but never consume the data
  socket.on('end', () => {
    // It will never get here.
    socket.end('The message was received but was not processed.\n');
  });

}).listen(1337);

In versions of Node.js prior to v0.10, the incoming message data would be simply discarded. However, in Node.js v0.10 and beyond, the socket remains paused forever.

The workaround in this situation is to call the stream.resume() method to begin the flow of data:

// Workaround
net.createServer((socket) => {

  socket.on('end', () => {
    socket.end('The message was received but was not processed.\n');
  });

  // start the flow of data, discarding it.
  socket.resume();

}).listen(1337);

In addition to new Readable streams switching into flowing mode, pre-v0.10 style streams can be wrapped in a Readable class using the readable.wrap() method.

readable.read(0)

There are some cases where it is necessary to trigger a refresh of the underlying readable stream mechanisms, without actually consuming any data. In such cases, it is possible to call readable.read(0), which will always return null.

If the internal read buffer is below the highWaterMark, and the stream is not currently reading, then calling stream.read(0) will trigger a low-level stream._read() call.

While most applications will almost never need to do this, there are situations within Node.js where this is done, particularly in the Readable stream class internals.

readable.push('')

Use of readable.push('') is not recommended.

Pushing a zero-byte string, Buffer or Uint8Array to a stream that is not in object mode has an interesting side effect. Because it is a call to readable.push(), the call will end the reading process. However, because the argument is an empty string, no data is added to the readable buffer so there is nothing for a user to consume.

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