A deferred in Manifold is similar to a Clojure promise:

> (require '[manifold.deferred :as d])

> (def d (d/deferred))

> (d/success! d :foo)

> @d

However, similar to Clojure’s futures, deferreds in Manifold can also represent errors. Crucially, they also allow for callbacks to be registered, rather than simply blocking on dereferencing.

> (def d (d/deferred))

> (d/error! d (Exception. "boom"))

> @d
Exception: boom
> (def d (d/deferred))

> (d/on-realized d
    (fn [x] (println "success!" x))
    (fn [x] (println "error!" x)))
<< ... >>

> (d/success! d :foo)
success! :foo

composing with deferreds

Callbacks are a useful building block, but they’re a painful way to create asynchronous workflows. In practice, no one should ever use on-realized.

Instead, they should use manifold.deferred/chain, which chains together callbacks, left to right:

> (def d (d/deferred))

> (d/chain d inc inc inc #(println "x + 3 =" %))
<< ... >>

> (d/success! d 0)
x + 3 = 3

chain returns a deferred representing the return value of the right-most callback. If any of the functions returns a deferred or a value that can be coerced into a deferred, the chain will be paused until the deferred yields a value.

Values that can be coerced into a deferred include Clojure futures, Java futures, and Clojure promises.

> (def d (d/deferred))

> (d/chain d
    #(future (inc %))
    #(println "the future returned" %))
<< ... >>

> (d/success! d 0)
the future returned 1

If any stage in chain throws an exception or returns a deferred that yields an error, all subsequent stages are skipped, and the deferred returned by chain yields that same error. To handle these cases, you can use manifold.deferred/catch:

> (def d (d/deferred))

> (-> d
    (d/chain dec #(/ 1 %))
    (d/catch Exception #(println "whoops, that didn't work:" %)))
<< ... >>

> (d/success! d 1)
whoops, that didn't work: #error {:cause Divide by zero :via [{:type java.lang.ArithmeticException ...

Using the -> threading operator, chain and catch can be easily and arbitrarily composed.

To combine multiple deferrable values into a single deferred that yields all their results, we can use manifold.deferred/zip:

> @(d/zip (future 1) (future 2) (future 3))
(1 2 3)

Finally, we can use manifold.deferred/timeout! to register a timeout on the deferred which will yield either a specified timeout value or a TimeoutException if the deferred is not realized within n milliseconds.

> @(d/timeout!
     (d/future (Thread/sleep 1000) :foo)

Note that if a timeout is placed on a deferred returned by chain, the timeout elapsing will prevent any further stages from being executed.

future vs manifold.deferred/future

Clojure’s futures can be treated as deferreds, as can Clojure’s promises. However, since both of these abstractions use a blocking dereference, in order for Manifold to treat it as an asynchronous deferred value it must allocate a thread.

Wherever possible, use manifold.deferred/deferred instead of promise, and manifold.deferred/future instead of future. They will behave identically to their Clojure counterparts (deliver can be used on a Manifold deferred, for instance), but allow for callbacks to be registered, so no additional threads are required.


Let’s say that we have two services which provide us numbers, and want to get their sum. By using zip and chain together, this is relatively straightforward:

(defn deferred-sum []
  (let [a (call-service-a)
        b (call-service-b)]
    (chain (zip a b)
      (fn [[a b]]
        (+ a b)))))

However, this isn’t a very direct expression of what we’re doing. For more complex relationships between deferred values, our code will become even more difficult to understand. In these cases, it’s often best to use let-flow.

(defn deferred-sum []
  (let-flow [a (call-service-a)
             b (call-service-b)]
    (+ a b)))

In let-flow, we can treat deferred values as if they’re realized. This is only true of values declared within or closed over by let-flow, however. So we can do this:

(let [a (future 1)]
  (let-flow [b (future (+ a 1))
             c (+ b 1)]
    (+ c 1)))

but not this:

(let-flow [a (future 1)
           b (let [c (future 1)]
                (+ a c))]
  (+ b 1))

In this example, c is declared within a normal let binding, and as such we can’t treat it as if it were realized.

It can be helpful to think of let-flow as similar to Prismatic’s Graph library, except that the dependencies between values are inferred from the code, rather than explicitly specified. Comparisons to core.async’s goroutines are less accurate, since let-flow allows for concurrent execution of independent paths within the bindings, whereas operations within a goroutine are inherently sequential.


Manifold also provides a loop macro, which allows for asynchronous loops to be defined. Consider, which allows a function to be invoked with each new message from a stream. We can implement similar behavior like so:

  '[manifold.deferred :as d]
  '[ :as s])

(defn my-consume [f stream]
  (d/loop []
    (d/chain (s/take! stream ::drained)

      ;; if we got a message, run it through `f`
      (fn [msg]
        (if (identical? ::drained msg)
          (f msg)))

      ;; wait for the result from `f` to be realized, and
      ;; recur, unless the stream is already drained
      (fn [result]
        (when-not (identical? ::drained result)

Here we define a loop which takes messages one at a time from stream, and passes them into f. If f returns an unrealized value, the loop will pause until it’s realized. To recur, we make sure the value returned from the final stage is (manifold.deferred/recur & args), which will cause the loop to begin again from the top.

While Manifold doesn’t provide anything as general purpose as core.async’s go macro, the combination of loop and let-flow can allow for the specification of highly intricate asynchronous workflows.

custom execution models

Both deferreds and streams allow for custom execution models to be specified. To learn more, go here.