Time Out

April 17, 2020   • javascript

Did you know that you can cancel the scheduled execution of a setTimeOut() function in JavaScript? I didn’t, either. Here’s how it works.

Everyone knows we can schedule a piece of code to execute after some interval using setTimeOut(). For example,

function greet() {

setTimeout(greet, 1000);

This tells JavaScript to execute the greet function after a second has elapsed.

What if you changed your mind after setting the execution and want to cancel this call which is going to happen after a second? This is a realistic scenario, where we might want to cancel an action based on the user’s input or an event.

We can use the clearTimeOut() function to do this. According to the documentation, the clearTimeout() function cancels a timeout previously established by calling setTimeout().

setTimeOut() returns a positive integer which identifies the timer created by the call to setTimeOut(), like this:

let timerID = setTimeout(greet, 1000);
console.log(timerID);  // prints 2 for me!

We can pass this id to the cancelTimeOut() function to tell JavaScript that we have, indeed, changed our mind and don’t want to call the greet() function after a second.

let timer = setTimeout(greet, 1000);

// life happens...

if (changedMind) {

Passing an invalid id to clearTimeOut() does nothing. It won’t throw an error or an exception.