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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 Arc + RwLock:

  • It implements Send and Sync, so it can be sent and used between multiple threads.
  • It implements Clone, which will create a new reference to the same Mutable (just like Arc).
  • 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;

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);
    async {}

This is how the for_each method works:

  1. It returns a Future.

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

  3. Then whenever my_state changes it will call the closure again with the new value.

This can be used for all sorts of things, such as automatically updating your GUI or database whenever the Signal changes.

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 to spawn a Future:

And many more! Because for_each returns a normal Future, anything that can spawn a Future can also spawn a Signal.

That also means 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 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 are actually three different methods, which you can use depending on your needs:

  1. signal() is the most convenient but it requires the value to be Copy.

  2. signal_cloned() requires the value to be Clone.

  3. signal_ref(|x| { ... }) gives the closure a & reference to the value, so the value doesn’t need to be Copy or Clone, but instead the value is determined by the closure.

    This is the most flexible and also the fastest, but it is the longest and most cumbersome to use.

In addition, it is possible to call the signal methods multiple times (and mix-and-match them):

let signal1 = my_state.signal();
let signal2 = my_state.signal();
let signal3 = my_state.signal_cloned();
let signal4 = my_state.signal_ref(|x| *x + 10);

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.

Lastly, there is a big difference between Mutable and Signal: a Signal can only be notified when its value changes. However, a Mutable can do a lot more than that, because it can retrieve the current value, and it can also set the value.


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, Signals are inlined and 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. This means the performance is excellent, even with millions of Signals running simultaneously.

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 output = 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 output 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) which returns a Future. When that Future finishes, dedupe checks if the return value is different from the previous value (using ==), and if so then output notifies with the new value.

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

It is also possible to use map_ref which is similar to map except it allows you to use multiple input Signals:

use futures_signals::map_ref;

let output = map_ref! {
    let foo = foo.signal(),
    let bar = bar.signal(),
    let qux = qux.signal() =>
    *foo + *bar + *qux

In this case map_ref is depending on three Signals: foo, bar, and qux.

Whenever any of those Signals changes, it will rerun the *foo + *bar + *qux code.

This means that output will always be equal to the sum of foo, bar, and qux.

Signals are lossy

It is important to understand that for_each, to_stream, and all other SignalExt 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 a Signal, you must not rely on it being updated for intermediate values.

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

This is similar to RwLock, which also does not give you access to past values (only the current value). So as long as your program only cares about the most recent value, then Signals will work perfectly.

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.

And of course you can freely mix Futures, Streams, and Signals in your program, using each one where it is appropriate.


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

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:

use futures_signals::signal_vec::MutableVec;

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 mutable 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!

The insertion methods require Copy, but there are also _cloned variants which require Clone instead:

lock.insert_cloned(0, 2);
// etc.

This is needed because when you insert a new value, it has to send a copy to all of the SignalVecs which are listening to changes.

The lock also has a Deref implementation for &[T], so you can use all of the immutable 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 signal_vec() or signal_vec_cloned() methods 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};

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 {} => {
            // ...

    async {}

Just like SignalExt::for_each, the SignalVecExt::for_each method returns a Future.

When that Future is spawned:

  1. If the SignalVec already has values, it 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 SignalExt::for_each, the SignalVecExt::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 lock.push(5), then the closure will be called with VecDiff::Push { value: 5 }

And if you call lock.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 O(1) time, no matter how big the MutableVec is.


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

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

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

SignalVec is lossless

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.

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 for each value in the MutableVec, and if the closure returns false it 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 remove might notify with either VecDiff::RemoveAt or VecDiff::Pop depending on whether it removed the last value or not.

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

However, there is one thing you can rely on: 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 {} => {

    async {}

In the above example, copied_vec is guaranteed to 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 how MutableVec is a Signal version of Vec, there is also MutableBTreeMap which is a Signal version of BTreeMap:

use futures_signals::signal_map::MutableBTreeMap;

let map = MutableBTreeMap::new();

let mut lock = map.lock_mut();
lock.insert("foo", 5);
lock.insert("bar", 10);

Similar to MutableVec, it notifies with a MapDiff, and of course it supports SignalMap and SignalMapExt for efficient transformations and notifications:

use futures_signals::signal_map::{SignalMapExt, MapDiff};

let output = map.signal_map().for_each(|change| {
    match change {
        MapDiff::Replace { entries } => {
            // ...
        MapDiff::Insert { key, value } => {
            // ...
        MapDiff::Update { key, value } => {
            // ...
        MapDiff::Remove { key } => {
            // ...
        MapDiff::Clear {} => {
            // ...

    async {}


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!).