Making Then a Little More Useful

Edit 04.06.2011: This feature is now a part of jQuery 1.6 (commit bb99899c) and called .always.

The introduction of Deferreds into jQuery in 1.5 is quite a handy feature. Particularly, being able to make an ajax request and assign callbacks onto the returned jqXHR.

However, at least for me, .then doesn't work the way my brain thinks it should (Thanks to Ben Alman bringing this up). When you get a promise back from the deferred, it has three methods: done, fail, and then

done and fail do exactly what you'd think: attach functions to be called if the deferred is resolved or rejected.

then is currently a shortcut method for the two, as well as supports the ability to return another deferred or promise to extend the resolution of the original added in jQuery 1.8.

    url: 'someUrl'
}).then( doneFn, failFn );

The word then, for me, is much more conclusive. It isn‘t a shortcut, it’s an ultimatum. Thus, I expect .then to work like:

    url: 'someUrl'
}).then( willGetCalledNoMatterWhat );

So, if you would rather trade in your shortcut for power, be explicit and have control, or just be part of the cool club - here‘s how to add the functionality yourself. I’ve been persuaded by Rebecca and Colin to not alter the functionality of an existing, documented method, but rather, add the additional functionally. Their point was simple: by changing the functionality of how something existing and documented operates to work contrary the way it should, anyone stepping into code that had modified then would have a hell of a time figuring out why it wasn't working to spec.

// Wrap in an IIFE and preserve $ incase of $.noConflict();
(function( $ ) {

  // Cache a copy of $.Deferred as it is
  // right now so it can be called later
  var _Deferred = $.Deferred;

  // Overwrite $.Deferred with a new function
  // that takes the same argument
  $.Deferred = function( func ) {

    // Call the original $.Deferred method (the
    // cached copy ) using .apply to assign
    // the same context and send the 'func'
    // argument
    var d = _Deferred.apply( this, func ),
         // copy the created .promise method
         // to duck-punch further down
          _promise = d.promise;

    // add our new 'then' type function, 'always'
    d.always = function( fn ) {
        return d.then( fn, fn );
    // duck-punch the created promise method
    // to use the newly created .always method
    d.promise = function( obj ) {
        var promise = _promise.call( this, obj );
        promise.always = d.always;
        return promise;

    // return the our modified deferred from
    // _Deferred, but with our new .always
    return d;
})( jQuery );

The Result

    url: 'someUrl'
}).always( function() {
   /* i get called no matter WHAT */

How it works

This duck-punches the existing $.Deferred function with a wrapper function. $.Deferred creates a new deferred object and makes the .then, .done, and .fail methods on the fly. By saving a copy of the old function, we can let it go about its usual business and add the .always function to both the deferred and its promise method.

Demo at jsfiddle.net

Smaller Version

(function($){var o=$.Deferred;$.Deferred=function(a){var d=o.apply(this,a),p=d.promise;d.always=function(f){return d.then(f,f);};d.promise=function(j){var n=p.call(this,j);n.always=d.always;return n;};return d;}})(jQuery);