1.2.1 • Public • Published


A tiny event emitter-based finite state machine

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Grab a lightweight event emitter implementation, add some logic to track states and Voilà! A tiny finite state machine implementation at little less than 550 bytes minfied and gzipped. pastafarian is implemented as a UMD module, so it should run in most javascript setups.


  • probably the smallest FSM on the block in javascript-land
  • simple but powerful API
  • no external dependencies
  • synchronous state transitions only (async transitions are actually waiting states... but have a look at henderson for an almost identical approach with promises)
  • well below 100 LOC, small enough to read and understand immediately


var state = new StateMachine({
  initial : 'start',
  states  : {
    start : ['end', 'start'],
    end   : ['start']
state.on('*', function(prev, next) {
  console.log('State changed from ' + prev + ' to ' + next);
  .on('before:start', function(prev, param) {
    console.log('Reset with param === "foo": ' + param === 'foo');
  .on('after:start', function(next) {
    console.log('Going to ' + next);
  .on('end', function(prev, param) {
    console.log('Now at end, 2 + 2 = ' + param);
state.go('end', 2 + 2);
state.reset = state.go.bind(state, 'start');


Right click to save or use the URLs in your script tags

or use

$ npm install pastafarian
$ bower install pastafarian

If you're using pastafarian in a browser environment, the constructor is attached to the StateMachine global.


The StateMachine global or the pastafarian module is a constructor for a finite-state machine. The constructor expects a single configuration object:

field type functionality
initial string the starting state of the state machine
states object keys are state names, values are arrays of valid states to transition to <state name> : ['<state>', '...']
error function optional, function that handles errors in state transition callbacks or illegal state transitions

A simple state machine that describes a traffic light might be defined as

var StateMachine = require('pastafarian');
var trafficLight = new StateMachine({
  initial : 'red',
  states  : {
    green  : ['yellow'],
    yellow : ['green', 'red'],
    red    : ['red'],
  error : console.error.bind(console, 'Error: ')

... which will create a state machine like this diagram:


State machine API

A state machine var fsm = new StateMachine(config) will have


fsm.bind(eventName, callback or [callbacks]) ⇒ fsm

Attaches a single callback or an array of [callbacks] to be called whenever eventName is triggered by a state transition. See the Event callback API for all possible events for a single transition.

fsm.unbind(eventName, callback) ⇒ fsm

De-registers callback so it will not be triggered for eventName. Previously registered callbacks must be named values for this to have an effect, if a callback was defined as an anonymous function this method will silently fail.

fsm.on(eventName, callback or [callbacks]) ⇒ fsm

Synonym for fsm.bind.

fsm.go(state /* ...args */) ⇒ fsm

Transitions the state machine to state and causes any registered callbacks for this transition (including before:, after: and wildcard callbacks) to be triggered. All parameters after state are passed on to each callback along with the states involved in the transition, see the Event callback API for the exact signatures.

All methods as well as the constructor return the state machine itself, and are therefore chainable.


fsm.transitions : object

An object where the keys are state names, and the values of each key is an array of the states that can be transitioned to from this state, as defined by config.states.

fsm.current : string

Tracks the current state, the starting value is config.initial. The value changes during state transitions, see Event callback API.

fsm.error : function

The if defined, the function from config.error, see Error handling.

If you need to change the functionality or state without going through transitions, these fields can be edited as required. See the section on extending below for some ideas.

Event callback API

Callbacks triggered on state transitions can be registered with fsm.on or fsm.bind:

fsm.on(eventName, function() {
  // do something

Every call to fsm.go will trigger all callbacks registered for the states involved in the transition according to the following semantics:

Assuming that

  • fsm is in state PREVIOUS_STATE, and
  • fsm can transition from PREVIOUS_STATE to NEXT_STATE,
  • a call fsm.go(NEXT_STATE, /* ...args */)
  • will trigger all callbacks registered for event with
event signature fsm.current
after:PREVIOUS_STATE function(next /* ...args */) {} PREVIOUS_STATE
before:NEXT_STATE function(previous /* ...args */) {} PREVIOUS_STATE
NEXT_STATE function(previous /* ...args */) {} NEXT_STATE
* function(previous, next /* ...args */) {} NEXT_STATE
  • in all callback signatures, next is NEXT_STATE and previous is PREVIOUS_STATE
  • before:NEXT_STATE and NEXT_STATE differ only in that fsm.current has changed when the callback is being executed
  • the wildcard callback (*) is triggered on every successful transition, but not if a transition between states is not possible

Also note that

  • all arguments to fsm.go after the first are always passed to the callbacks, according to the above signatures
  • any number of callbacks can be registered for any event
  • callbacks will be triggered in the order registered
  • fsm.on and fsm.bind will accept any valid object key as the first parameter and will perform no checks to ensure a matching state is defined, so watch out for typos
  • fsm.error significantly affects how pastafarian works in the case of thrown exceptions in callbacks, see Differences in functionality if fsm.error is defined or not

So, given a basic state machine:

var state = new StateMachine({
  initial : 'start',
  states  : {
    start : ['end', 'start'],
    end   : ['start']

... the following callbacks may be triggered as the state changes

state.on('*',            function() { });
state.on('before:start', function() { });
state.on('start',        function() { });
state.on('after:start',  function() { });
state.on('before:end',   function() { });
state.on('end',          function() { });
state.on('after:end',    function() { });

Error handling

If defined, the fsm.error function will be called in two separate cases:

  1. when trying to perform an invalid state transition
  2. when a callback defined for a transition throws an error

The signature of this function is

function errorHandler(error, prev, next /* ...params */) {
  if ( === 'IllegalTransitionException') {
    // prev is fsm.current
    // next is the transition attempted, eg. fsm.go(next, ...)
    // params are any other parameters to fsm.go, eg. fsm.go(next, param1, param2 ...)
  } else {
    // error is whatever was thrown in the transition callback that caused the error
    // prev, next and other arguments will be undefined

If the error handler function is not defined, any calls to fsm.go may throw errors or exceptions for the above reasons and can be caught similarly using try/catch blocks.

Differences in functionality if fsm.error is defined or not

The existance of fsm.error has a significant impact on functionality:

  • if fsm.error is not defined, an uncaught exception in a callback will stop execution and subsequent callbacks will not be triggered, potentially leaving your application in an undefined state if you are relying on the side-effects of a certain callback being applied. fsm.current may also still be in the previous state, depending on which events the callbacks were registered to
  • if fsm.error is defined, an uncaught exception in a callback will trigger the error handler and stop further execution of the code inside that callback, but all other callbacks will be triggered and the state transition will be completed, which may also cause cause problems with unfinished side-effects

pastafarian defines a custom exception which is generated when the transitions array of the current state doesn't contain the state passed to fsm.go:

  • name: IllegalTransitionException
  • message: Transition from <current> to <next> is not allowed
  • prev : <current>
  • attempt : <next>

The exception is generated inside the library, but in modern environments it should contain a stacktrace that allows you to track which line caused the exception.


pastafarian omits most safety checks and a larger API in favor of size, but can be extended in different ways to support different usage patterns and semantics.

If you find yourself often needing to check the current state or valid transitions, these helpers might provide a nicer interface:

// is parameter state a valid transition from the current state?
fsm.can = function(state) {
  return fsm.transitions[fsm.current].indexOf(state) > -1;
// is parameter state an invalid transition from the current state?
fsm.cannot = function(state) {
  return fsm.transitions[fsm.current].indexOf(state) === -1;
// shorthand to check if parameter state is the current one = function(state) {
  return fsm.current === state;
// return a list of the valid states to enter from the current state
fsm.allowed = function() {
  return fsm.transitions[fsm.current];

A "fire once" callback can be implemented with

fsm.once = function(evt, fn) {
  fsm.on(evt, function onceCb() {
    fsm.unbind(evt, onceCb);
  return fsm;

If you need to add or remove states after the state machine has been initialized, something like the following might serve:

fsm.add = function(state, from, to) {
  fsm.transitions[state] = to;
  from.forEach(function(elem) {
fsm.remove = function(obsolete) {
  delete fsm.transitions[obsolete];
  for (var state in fsm.transitions) {
    if (fsm.transitions.hasOwnProperty(state)) {
      var index = fsm.transitions[state].indexOf(obsolete);
      if (index > -1)
        fsm.transitions[state].splice(index, 1);
  // probably should also set or check fsm.current to see we're still in a valid state

Transitions between states can be removed in a similar fashion.

If you wish to apply some common sanity checks before state transitions, one way to add these would be by patching the .go method:

fsm.origo = fsm.go;
fsm.go = function() {
  // put state validation, parameter checks, anything you might need here
  return fsm.origo.apply(this,;


Too basic? Not quite what you were looking for? Some other alternatives for state machines in javascript are

Searching on bower or npm will probably also find some other takes on the subject.


The event emitter pattern that pastafarian uses at its core is based on microevent.js.


pastafarian is ISC licensed.


A basic development workflow is defined using npm run scripts. Get started with

$ git clone
$ npm install
$ npm run develop

Bugfixes and improvements are welcome, however, please open an Issue to discuss any larger changes beforehand, and consider if functionality can be implemented with a simple monkey-patching extension script. Useful extensions are more than welcome!

Possible future
  • a transition that throws an error can be canceled, ie. intelligent rollback?

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