Understanding setImmediate()

When you want to execute some piece of code asynchronously, but as soon as possible, one option is to use the setImmediate() function provided by Node.js:

setImmediate(() => {
  // run something

Any function passed as the setImmediate() argument is a callback that's executed in the next iteration of the event loop.

How is setImmediate() different from setTimeout(() => {}, 0) (passing a 0ms timeout), and from process.nextTick() and Promise.then()?

A function passed to process.nextTick() is going to be executed on the current iteration of the event loop, after the current operation ends. This means it will always execute before setTimeout and setImmediate.

A setTimeout() callback with a 0ms delay is very similar to setImmediate(). The execution order will depend on various factors, but they will be both run in the next iteration of the event loop.

A process.nextTick callback is added to process.nextTick queue. A Promise.then() callback is added to promises microtask queue. A setTimeout, setImmediate callback is added to macrotask queue.

Event loop executes tasks in process.nextTick queue first, and then executes promises microtask queue, and then executes macrotask queue.

Here is an example to show the order between setImmediate(), process.nextTick() and Promise.then():

const baz = () => console.log('baz');
const foo = () => console.log('foo');
const zoo = () => console.log('zoo');

const start = () => {
  new Promise((resolve, reject) => {
  }).then(resolve => {


// start foo bar zoo baz

This code will first call start(), then call foo() in process.nextTick queue. After that, it will handle promises microtask queue, which prints bar and adds zoo() in process.nextTick queue at the same time. Then it will call zoo() which has just been added. In the end, the baz() in macrotask queue is called.

The principle aforementioned holds true in CommonJS cases, but keep in mind in ES Modules, e.g. mjs files, the execution order will be different:

// start bar foo zoo baz

This is because the ES Module being loaded is wrapped as an asynchronous operation, and thus the entire script is actually already in the promises microtask queue. So when the promise is immediately resolved, its callback is appended to the microtask queue. Node.js will attempt to clear the queue until moving to any other queue, and hence you will see it outputs bar first.

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