Module futures_signals::tutorial[][src]


This tutorial is long, but it’s intended to explain everything you need to know in order to use Signals.

It is highly recommended to read through all of it.

Before I can fully explain Signals, first I have to explain Mutable:

use futures_signals::signal::Mutable;

let my_state = Mutable::new(5);

The above example creates a new Mutable with an initial value of 5.

Mutable is very similar to RwLock:

  • It implements Send and Sync, so it can be sent and used between multiple threads.
  • You can retrieve the current value.
  • You can change the current value.

Let’s see it in action:

// Acquires a mutable lock on my_state
let mut lock = my_state.lock_mut();

assert_eq!(*lock, 5);

// Changes the current value of my_state to 10
*lock = 10;

assert_eq!(*lock, 10);

However, if that was all Mutable could do, it wouldn’t be very useful, because RwLock already exists!

The major difference between Mutable and RwLock is that it is possible to be efficiently notified whenever the Mutable changes:

use futures_signals::signal::SignalExt;
use futures::future::ready;

let future = my_state.signal().for_each(|value| {
    // This code is run for the current value of my_state, and also every time my_state changes
    println!("{}", value);

This is how the for_each method works:

  1. The for_each method returns a new Future.

  2. When that Future is spawned it will immediately call the |value| { ... } closure with the current value of my_state (which in this case is 10).

  3. Then whenever my_state changes (such as with my_state.set(...)) it will call the closure again with the new value.

Just like Future and Stream, when you create a Signal it does not actually do anything until it is spawned.

In order to spawn a Signal you first use the for_each method (as shown above) to convert it into a Future, and then you spawn that Future.

There are many ways of spawning a Future:

And many more! Since for_each returns a normal Future, anything that implements Spawn should work.

That also means that you can use all of the FutureExt methods on it as well.

If you need more control, you can use to_stream instead:

let stream = my_state.signal().to_stream();

This returns a Stream of values (starting with the current value of my_state, and then followed by the changes to my_state).

You can then use all of the StreamExt methods on it, just like with any other Stream.

You might be wondering why you have to call the signal method: why can’t you just use the Mutable directly?

There’s three reasons:

  1. Because SignalExt methods like for_each consume their input, that would mean that after calling for_each on a Mutable you would no longer be able to change the Mutable, which defeats the whole point of using Mutable in the first place!

  2. It is possible to call signal multiple times:

    let signal1 = my_state.signal();
    let signal2 = my_state.signal();

    When the Mutable changes, all of its Signals are notified.

    This turns out to be very useful in practice: it’s common to put your program’s state inside of a global Mutable (or multiple Mutables) and then share it in various places throughout your program.

  3. You cannot be notified when a Mutable changes, but you can get/set its current value.

    On the other hand, you can be notified when a Signal changes, but you cannot get/set the current value of the Signal.

    This split is necessary both for correctness and performance. Therefore, because of this split, it is necessary to call the signal method to “convert” a Mutable into a Signal.

It is important to understand that for_each, to_stream, and all other Signal methods are lossy: they might skip changes.

That is because they only care about the most recent value. So if the value changes multiple times in a short period of time it will only detect the most recent change.

Here is an example:


In this case it will only detect the 3 change. The 2 change is completely ignored, like as if it never happened.

This is an intentional design choice: it is necessary for correctness and performance.

So whenever you are using Signal, you must not rely upon it being updated for intermediate values.

That might sound like a problem, but it’s actually not a problem at all: it is guaranteed that it will be updated with the most recent value, so it’s only intermediate values which aren’t guaranteed.

This is similar to RwLock, which does not give you access to past values (only the current value), and the same is true with Mutable and Signal.

If you really do need all intermediate values (not just the most recent), then using a Stream (such as futures::channel::mpsc::unbounded) would be a great choice. In that case you will pay a small performance penalty, because it has to hold the values in a queue.

Now that I’ve fully explained Mutable, I can finally explain Signal.

A Signal is an efficient zero-cost value which changes over time, and you can be efficiently notified when it changes.

Just like Future and Stream, all Signals are compiled into a very efficient state machine. Most of the time they are fully stack allocated (no heap allocation). And in the rare cases that they heap allocate they only do it once, when the Signal is created, not while the Signal is running.

Just like FutureExt and StreamExt, the SignalExt trait has many useful methods, and most of them return a Signal so they can be chained:

let mapped = my_state.signal()
    .map(|value| value + 5)
    .map_future(|value| do_some_async_calculation(value))

Let’s say that the current value of my_state is 10.

When mapped is spawned it will call the |value| value + 5 closure with the current value of my_value (the closure returns 10 + 5, which is 15).

Then it calls do_some_async_calculation(15). When that asynchronous function returns, dedupe checks if the return value is different from the previous value (using ==), and if so then mapped notifies with the new value.

It automatically repeats this process whenever my_state changes, ensuring that mapped is always kept in sync with my_state.

In addition to Mutable and Signal, there is also MutableVec and SignalVec.

As its name suggests, MutableVec<A> is very similar to Mutable<Vec<A>>, except it’s dramatically more efficient: rather than being notified with the new Vec, instead you are notified with the difference between the old Vec and the new Vec.

Here is an example:

let my_vec: MutableVec<u32> = MutableVec::new();

The above creates a new empty MutableVec.

You can then use lock_mut, which returns a lock. As its name implies, while you are holding the lock you have exclusive access to the MutableVec.

The lock contains many of the Vec methods:

let mut lock = my_vec.lock_mut();
lock.insert(0, 2);
// And a lot more!

It also has a Deref implementation for &[T], so you can use all of the slice methods on it:

let _ = lock[0];
let _ = lock.len();
let _ = lock.last();
let _ = lock.iter();
// And a lot more!

Lastly, you can use the MutableVec::signal_vec method to convert it into a SignalVec, and then you can use the for_each method to be efficiently notified when it changes:

use futures_signals::signal_vec::{SignalVecExt, VecDiff};
use futures::future::ready;

let future = my_vec.signal_vec().for_each(|change| {
    match change {
        VecDiff::Replace { values } => {
            // ...
        VecDiff::InsertAt { index, value } => {
            // ...
        VecDiff::UpdateAt { index, value } => {
            // ...
        VecDiff::RemoveAt { index } => {
            // ...
        VecDiff::Move { old_index, new_index } => {
            // ...
        VecDiff::Push { value } => {
            // ...
        VecDiff::Pop {} => {
            // ...
        VecDiff::Clear {} => {
            // ...


Just like Signal::for_each, the SignalVec::for_each method returns a Future.

When that Future is spawned:

  1. If the SignalVec already has values, it immediately calls the closure with VecDiff::Replace, which contains the current values for the SignalVec.

  2. If the SignalVec doesn’t have any values, it doesn’t call the closure.

  3. Whenever the SignalVec changes, it calls the closure with the VecDiff for the change.

Unlike Signal::for_each, the SignalVec::for_each method calls the closure with a VecDiff, which contains the difference between the new Vec and the old Vec.

As an example, if you call my_vec.push(5), then the closure will be called with VecDiff::Push { value: 5 }

And if you call my_vec.insert(3, 10), then the closure will be called with VecDiff::InsertAt { index: 3, value: 10 }

This allows you to very efficiently update based only on that specific change.

For example, if you are automatically saving the MutableVec to a database whenever it changes, you don’t need to save the entire MutableVec when it changes, you only need to save the individual changes. This means that it will often be constant time, no matter how big the MutableVec is.

Unlike Signal, it is guaranteed that the SignalVec will never skip a change. In addition, the changes will always be in the correct order.

This is because it is notifying with the difference between the old Vec and the new Vec, so it is very important that it is in the correct order, and that it doesn’t skip anything!

That does mean that MutableVec needs to maintain a queue of changes, so this has a minor performance cost.

But because it’s so efficient to update based upon the difference between the old and new Vec, it’s still often faster to use MutableVec<A> rather than Mutable<Vec<A>>, even with the extra performance overhead.

In addition, even though MutableVec needs to maintain a queue, SignalVec does not, so it’s quite efficient.

Even though it does not skip changes, if you call a MutableVec method which doesn’t actually make any changes, then it will not notify at all:

my_vec.lock_mut().retain(|_| { true });

The MutableVec::retain method is the same as Vec::retain, it calls the closure with each value in the MutableVec, and if the closure returns false it then removes that value from the MutableVec.

But in the above example, it never returns false, so it never removes anything, so it doesn’t notify.

Also, even though it’s guaranteed to send a notification for each change, the notification might be different than what you expect.

For example, when calling the retain method, it will send out a notification for each change, so if retain removes 5 values it will send out 5 notifications.

But, contrary to what you might expect, the notifications are in the reverse order: it sends notifications for the right-most values first, and notifications for the left-most values last. In addition, it sends a mixture of VecDiff::Pop and VecDiff::RemoveAt.

Another example is that my_vec.remove(index) might notify with either VecDiff::RemoveAt or VecDiff::Pop depending on whether index is the last index or not.

The reason this is done is for performance, and you should not rely upon it: the behavior of exactly which notifications are sent is an implementation detail.

The only thing you can rely upon is that if you apply the notifications in the same order they are received, it will exactly recreate the SignalVec:

let mut copied_vec = vec![];

let future = my_vec.signal_vec().for_each(move |change| {
    match change {
        VecDiff::Replace { values } => {
            copied_vec = values;
        VecDiff::InsertAt { index, value } => {
            copied_vec.insert(index, value);
        VecDiff::UpdateAt { index, value } => {
            copied_vec[index] = value;
        VecDiff::RemoveAt { index } => {
        VecDiff::Move { old_index, new_index } => {
            let value = copied_vec.remove(old_index);
            copied_vec.insert(new_index, value);
        VecDiff::Push { value } => {
        VecDiff::Pop {} => {
        VecDiff::Clear {} => {


In the above example, copied_vec is guaranteed to always have exactly the same values as my_vec, in the same order as my_vec.

But even though the end result is guaranteed to be the same, the order of the individual changes is an unspecified implementation detail.

Just like SignalExt, SignalVecExt has a lot of useful methods, and most of them return a SignalVec so they can be chained:

let filter_mapped = my_vec.signal_vec()
    .filter(|value| *value < 5)
    .map(|value| value + 10);

They are generally efficient (e.g. map is constant time, no matter how big the SignalVec is, and filter is linear time).

And that’s the end of the tutorial! We didn’t cover every method, but we covered enough for you to get started.

You can look at the documentation for information on every method (there’s a lot of useful stuff in there!).