switchMap in redux-observable


Recently in my new work, I was working more and more with RxJs. Especially in with redux bindings to RxJs called redux-observable. As I was reading epic code I noticed that in a lot of cases epics use switchMap. As I decided to learn more about so I can understand code that I’m reading or writing. This is a quick summary of what I learned.


const exampleEpic (
) =>
    .switchMap(action =>
        .map(res => action.backendRequestSuccess(res))
        .catch(error =>
          Observable.of(action.backendRequestError(error)).do(() => {

Let’s start from the top. What exactly is action$? It is a stream of your redux store actions. So all actions that you can imagine like: initializing your application, request initiators. They look like this:

const backendRequestInit = {

As my stream of actions is coming I filter out only needed action - in this case, - backendRequestInit. As I have my action I would like to do something - in this case make an asynchronous request to external API. I use here switchMap - why?

Switch map consists of two things: switch operator and map. Let’s start with the last one. Map works the same as normal map in javascript - creates a new array from existing one. As I’m working here on the streams I map my incoming stream to the new one - the one that is making a request.

Switch operator is here because I have here 2 steams. The first one from the filtered action, the second one from map. I flatten them through switch . This operator is dropping my Observable.from(backendService.makeRequest()) when the new (the same) action of actions.backendRequestInit comes. What does it mean?

Imagine that user dispatches action backendRequestInit for example by clicking the button. My epics are in the middle of processing the request - as it may take a long time. But the user clicks the button again! In this case, using switchMap I can cancel previous observable and make the request again. This is useful to prevent for example memory leaks.

The last operator that I’m using in this epic in catch to catch errors emitted by observables in my switchMap.


In this short blog post, I wanted to explain to you how switchMap operator works - please write to me if something wasn’t clear.