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5
Combining Operators Written by Shai Mishali

Now that the transforming and filtering operator categories are in your tool belt, you have a substantial amount of knowledge. You’ve learned how operators work, how they manipulate the upstream and how to use them to construct logical publisher chains from your data.

In this chapter, you’ll learn about one of the more complex, yet useful, categories of operators: Combining operators. This set of operators lets you combine events emitted by different publishers and create meaningful combinations of data in your Combine code.

Why is combining useful? Think about a form with multiple inputs from the user — a username, a password and a checkbox. You’ll need to combine this data to compose a single publisher with all of the information you need.

As you learn more about how each operator functions and how to select the right one for your needs, your code will become more coherent.

Getting started

You can find the starter playground for this chapter in the projects/Starter.playground folder. Throughout this chapter, you’ll add code to your playground and run it to see how various operators create different combinations of publishers and their events.

Prepending

You’ll start slowly here with a group of operators that are all about prepending values at the beginning of your publisher. In other words, you’ll use them to add values that emit before any values from your original publisher.

prepend(Output…)

This variation of prepend takes a variadic list of values using the variadic ... syntax. This means it can take any number of values, as long as they’re of the same Output type as the original publisher.

example(of: "prepend(Output...)") {
  // 1
  let publisher = [3, 4].publisher
  
  // 2
  publisher
    .prepend(1, 2)
    .sink(receiveValue: { print($0) })
    .store(in: &subscriptions)
}
——— Example of: prepend(Output...) ———
1
2
3
4
.prepend(1, 2)
.prepend(-1, 0)
——— Example of: prepend(Output...) ———
-1
0
1
2
3
4

prepend(Sequence)

This variation of prepend is similar to the previous one, with the difference that it takes any Sequence-conforming object as an input. For example, it could take an Array or a Set.

example(of: "prepend(Sequence)") {
  // 1
  let publisher = [5, 6, 7].publisher
  
  // 2
  publisher
    .prepend([3, 4])
    .prepend(Set(1...2))
    .sink(receiveValue: { print($0) })
    .store(in: &subscriptions)
}
——— Example of: prepend(Sequence) ———
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
.prepend(Set(1...2))
.prepend(stride(from: 6, to: 11, by: 2))
——— Example of: prepend(Sequence) ———
6
8
10
1
2
3
4
5
6
7

prepend(Publisher)

The two previous operators prepended lists of values to an existing publisher. But what if you have two different publishers and you want to glue their values together? You can use prepend(Publisher) to add values emitted by a second publisher before the original publisher’s values.

example(of: "prepend(Publisher)") {
  // 1
  let publisher1 = [3, 4].publisher
  let publisher2 = [1, 2].publisher
  
  // 2
  publisher1
    .prepend(publisher2)
    .sink(receiveValue: { print($0) })
    .store(in: &subscriptions)
}
——— Example of: prepend(Publisher) ———
1
2
3
4
example(of: "prepend(Publisher) #2") {
  // 1
  let publisher1 = [3, 4].publisher
  let publisher2 = PassthroughSubject<Int, Never>()
  
  // 2
  publisher1
    .prepend(publisher2)
    .sink(receiveValue: { print($0) })
    .store(in: &subscriptions)

  // 3
  publisher2.send(1)
  publisher2.send(2)
}
——— Example of: prepend(Publisher) #2 ———
1
2
publisher2.send(2)
publisher2.send(completion: .finished)
——— Example of: prepend(Publisher) #2 ———
1
2
3
4

Appending

This next set of operators deals with concatenating events emitted by publishers with other values. But in this case, you’ll deal with appending instead of prepending, using append(Output...), append(Sequence) and append(Publisher). These operators work similarly to their prepend counterparts.

append(Output…)

append(Output...) works similarly to its prepend counterpart: It also takes a variadic list of type Output but then appends its items after the original publisher has completed with a .finished event.

example(of: "append(Output...)") {
  // 1
  let publisher = [1].publisher

  // 2
  publisher
    .append(2, 3)
    .append(4) 
    .sink(receiveValue: { print($0) })
    .store(in: &subscriptions)
}
——— Example of: append(Output...) ———
1
2
3
4
example(of: "append(Output...) #2") {
  // 1
  let publisher = PassthroughSubject<Int, Never>()

  publisher
    .append(3, 4)
    .append(5)
    .sink(receiveValue: { print($0) })
    .store(in: &subscriptions)
  
  // 2
  publisher.send(1)
  publisher.send(2)
}
——— Example of: append(Output...) #2 ———
1
2
publisher.send(completion: .finished)
——— Example of: append(Output...) #2 ———
1
2
3
4
5

append(Sequence)

This variation of append takes any Sequence-conforming object and appends its values after all values from the original publisher have emitted.

example(of: "append(Sequence)") {
  // 1
  let publisher = [1, 2, 3].publisher
    
  publisher
    .append([4, 5]) // 2
    .append(Set([6, 7])) // 3
    .append(stride(from: 8, to: 11, by: 2)) // 4
    .sink(receiveValue: { print($0) })
    .store(in: &subscriptions)
}
——— Example of: append(Sequence) ———
1
2
3
4
5
7
6
8
10

append(Publisher)

The last member of the append operators group is the variation that takes a Publisher and appends any values emitted by it to the end of the original publisher.

example(of: "append(Publisher)") {
  // 1
  let publisher1 = [1, 2].publisher
  let publisher2 = [3, 4].publisher
  
  // 2
  publisher1
    .append(publisher2)
    .sink(receiveValue: { print($0) })
    .store(in: &subscriptions)
}
——— Example of: append(Publisher) ———
1
2
3
4

Advanced combining

At this point, you know everything about appending and prepending values, sequences and even entire publishers.

switchToLatest

Since this section includes some of the more complex combining operators in Combine, why not start with the most complex one of the bunch?!

example(of: "switchToLatest") {
  // 1
  let publisher1 = PassthroughSubject<Int, Never>()
  let publisher2 = PassthroughSubject<Int, Never>()
  let publisher3 = PassthroughSubject<Int, Never>()

  // 2
  let publishers = PassthroughSubject<PassthroughSubject<Int, Never>, Never>()

  // 3
  publishers
    .switchToLatest()
    .sink(receiveCompletion: { _ in print("Completed!") },
          receiveValue: { print($0) })
    .store(in: &subscriptions)

  // 4
  publishers.send(publisher1)
  publisher1.send(1)
  publisher1.send(2)

  // 5
  publishers.send(publisher2)
  publisher1.send(3)
  publisher2.send(4)
  publisher2.send(5)

  // 6
  publishers.send(publisher3)
  publisher2.send(6)
  publisher3.send(7)
  publisher3.send(8)
  publisher3.send(9)

  // 7
  publisher3.send(completion: .finished)
  publishers.send(completion: .finished)
}
——— Example of: switchToLatest ———
1
2
4
5
7
8
9
Completed!
example(of: "switchToLatest - Network Request") {
  let url = URL(string: "https://source.unsplash.com/random")!
  
  // 1
  func getImage() -> AnyPublisher<UIImage?, Never> {
      URLSession.shared
                .dataTaskPublisher(for: url)
                .map { data, _ in UIImage(data: data) }
                .print("image")
                .replaceError(with: nil)
                .eraseToAnyPublisher()
  }

  // 2
  let taps = PassthroughSubject<Void, Never>()

  taps
    .map { _ in getImage() } // 3
    .switchToLatest() // 4
    .sink(receiveValue: { _ in })
    .store(in: &subscriptions)

  // 5
  taps.send()

  DispatchQueue.main.asyncAfter(deadline: .now() + 3) {
    taps.send()
  }
  DispatchQueue.main.asyncAfter(deadline: .now() + 3.1) {
    taps.send()
  }
}
——— Example of: switchToLatest - Network Request ———
image: receive subscription: (DataTaskPublisher)
image: request unlimited
image: receive value: (Optional(<UIImage:0x600000364120 anonymous {1080, 720}>))
image: receive finished
image: receive subscription: (DataTaskPublisher)
image: request unlimited
image: receive cancel
image: receive subscription: (DataTaskPublisher)
image: request unlimited
image: receive value: (Optional(<UIImage:0x600000378d80 anonymous {1080, 1620}>))
image: receive finished

merge(with:)

Before you reach the end of this chapter, you’ll wrap up with three operators that focus on combining the emissions of different publishers. You’ll start with merge(with:).

example(of: "merge(with:)") {
  // 1
  let publisher1 = PassthroughSubject<Int, Never>()
  let publisher2 = PassthroughSubject<Int, Never>()

  // 2
  publisher1
    .merge(with: publisher2)
    .sink(receiveCompletion: { _ in print("Completed") },
          receiveValue: { print($0) })
    .store(in: &subscriptions)

  // 3
  publisher1.send(1)
  publisher1.send(2)

  publisher2.send(3)

  publisher1.send(4)

  publisher2.send(5)

  // 4
  publisher1.send(completion: .finished)
  publisher2.send(completion: .finished)
}
——— Example of: merge(with:) ———
1
2
3
4
5
Completed

combineLatest

combineLatest is another operator that lets you combine different publishers. It also lets you combine publishers of different value types, which can be extremely useful. However, instead of interleaving the emissions of all publishers, it emits a tuple with the latest values of all publishers whenever any of them emit a value.

example(of: "combineLatest") {
  // 1
  let publisher1 = PassthroughSubject<Int, Never>()
  let publisher2 = PassthroughSubject<String, Never>()

  // 2
  publisher1
    .combineLatest(publisher2)
    .sink(receiveCompletion: { _ in print("Completed") },
          receiveValue: { print("P1: \($0), P2: \($1)") })
    .store(in: &subscriptions)

  // 3
  publisher1.send(1)
  publisher1.send(2)
  
  publisher2.send("a")
  publisher2.send("b")
  
  publisher1.send(3)
  
  publisher2.send("c")

  // 4
  publisher1.send(completion: .finished)
  publisher2.send(completion: .finished)
}
——— Example of: combineLatest ———
P1: 2, P2: a
P1: 2, P2: b
P1: 3, P2: b
P1: 3, P2: c
Completed

zip

You’ll finish with one final operator for this chapter: zip. You might recognize this one from the Swift standard library method with the same name on Sequence types.

example(of: "zip") {
  // 1
  let publisher1 = PassthroughSubject<Int, Never>()
  let publisher2 = PassthroughSubject<String, Never>()

  // 2
  publisher1
      .zip(publisher2)
      .sink(receiveCompletion: { _ in print("Completed") },
            receiveValue: { print("P1: \($0), P2: \($1)") })
      .store(in: &subscriptions)

  // 3
  publisher1.send(1)
  publisher1.send(2)
  publisher2.send("a")
  publisher2.send("b")
  publisher1.send(3)
  publisher2.send("c")
  publisher2.send("d")

  // 4
  publisher1.send(completion: .finished)
  publisher2.send(completion: .finished)  
}
——— Example of: zip ———
P1: 1, P2: a
P1: 2, P2: b
P1: 3, P2: c
Completed

Key points

In this chapter, you learned how to take different publishers and create meaningful combinations with them. More specifically, you learned that:

Where to go from here?

This has been quite a long chapter, but it includes some of the most useful and involved operators Combine has to offer. Kudos to you for making it this far!

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