Object-Oriented Programming in Scala - Programming Scala (2014)

Programming Scala (2014)

Chapter 8. Object-Oriented Programming in Scala

Scala is a functional programming language, but it is also an object-oriented programming language like Java, Python, Ruby, Smalltalk, and others. I’ve waited until now to explore Scala’s “OO side” for two reasons.

First, I wanted to emphasize that functional programming has become an essential skill set for modern problems, a skill set that may be new to you. When you start with Scala, it’s easy to use it as a “better Java,” a better object-oriented language, and neglect the power of its functional side.

Second, a common architectural approach that Scala promotes is to use FP for programming in the small and OOP for programming in the large. Using FP for implementing algorithms, manipulating data, and managing state in a principled way is our best way to minimize bugs, the amount of code we write, and the risk of schedule delays. On the other hand, Scala’s OO model provides tools for designing composable, reusable modules, which are essential for larger applications. Hence, Scala gives us the best of both worlds.

I’ve assumed you already understand the basics of object-oriented programming, such as Java’s implementation. If you need a refresher, see Robert C. Martin’s Agile Software Development: Principles, Patterns, and Practices or Bertrand Meyer’s comprehensive introduction, Object-Oriented Software Construction (both by Prentice Hall). If you aren’t familiar with design patterns, see Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software, by Erich Gamma, Richard Helm, Ralph Johnson, and John Vlissides, known as the “Gang of Four” (Addison-Wesley).

In this chapter, we’ll quickly review what we’ve already seen and fill in other details concerning Scala’s terminology for OOP, including the mechanics of declaring classes and deriving one class from another, the notion of value classes, and how constructors work for Scala classes. The next chapter will dive into traits and then we’ll spend a few chapters filling in additional details on Scala’s object model and standard library.

Class and Object Basics

Classes are declared with the keyword class, while singleton objects are declared with the object keyword. For this reason, I use the term instance to refer to objects in general terms, even though instance and object are usually synonymous in most OO languages.

To prevent creation of derived classes from a class, prefix the declaration with the final keyword.

Use abstract to prevent instantiation of the class, such as when it contains or inherits member declarations (fields, methods, or types) without providing concrete definitions for them. Even when no members are undefined, abstract can still be used to prevent instantiation.

An instance can refer to itself using the this keyword. Although it’s common to see this used in Java code, it’s actually somewhat rare in Scala code. One reason is that constructor boilerplate is absent in Scala. Consider the following Java code:

// src/main/java/progscala2/basicoop/JPerson.java

package progscala2.basicoop;

publicclassJPerson {

private String name;

privateint age;

public JPerson(String name, int age) {

this.name = name;

this.age = age;


publicvoid setName(String name) { this.name = name; }

public String getName() { returnthis.name; }

publicvoid setAge(int age) { this.age = age; }

publicint getAge() { returnthis.age; }


Now compare it with the following equivalent Scala declaration, in which all the boilerplate disappears:

classPerson(var name:String, var age:Int)

Prefixing a constructor argument with a var makes it a mutable field of the class, also call an instance variable or attribute in different OO languages. Prefixing a constructor argument with a val makes it an immutable field. Using the case keyword infers the val keyword and also adds additional methods, as we’ve seen:

caseclassImmutablePerson(name:String, age:Int)

Note that the state of an instance is the union of all the values currently represented by the instance’s fields.

The term method refers to a function that is tied to an instance. In other words, its argument list has an “implied” this argument. Method definitions start with the def keyword. Scala will “lift” an applicable method into a function when a function argument is needed for another method or function.

Like most statically typed languages, Scala allows overloaded methods. Two or more methods can have the same name as long as their full signatures are unique. The signature includes the enclosing type name, method name, and the list of argument types (the names don’t matter). In the JVM, different return types alone are not sufficient to distinguish methods.

However, recall from Working Around Erasure that the JVM prevents some methods from being truly distinct, because of type erasure of the type parameters for higher-kinded types, i.e., types with type parameters, like List[A]. Consider the following example:

scala> objectC{

| defm(seq:Seq[Int]):Unit=println(s"Seq[Int]: $seq")

| defm(seq:Seq[String]):Unit=println(s"Seq[String]: $seq")

| }


method m:(seq:Seq[String])Unit and

method m:(seq:Seq[Int])Unit at line 8

have same typeaftererasure: (seq:Seq)Unit

def m(seq:Seq[String]):Unit = println(s"Seq[String]: $seq")


The type parameters Int and String are erased in the byte code.

Unlike Java, member types can be declared using the type keyword. These types provide a complementary mechanism to type parameterization, as we saw in Abstract Types Versus Parameterized Types. They are often used as aliases for more complex types, to aid readability. Are type members and parameterized types redundant mechanisms? No, but we’ll have to wait until Comparing Abstract Types and Parameterized Types to explore that question.

The term member refers to a field, method, or type in a generic way. Unlike in Java, a field and method can have the same name, but only if the method has an argument list:

scala> traitFoo{

| valx:Int

| defx:Int

| }


conflicting symbols both originated in file '<console>'

def x:Int


scala> traitFoo{

| valx:Int

| defx(i:Int):Int

| }

defined traitFoo

Type names must be unique.

Scala does not have static members, like Java. Instead, an object is used to hold members that span instances, such as constants.

If an object and a class have the same name and are defined in the same file, they are called companions.

Recall from Chapter 1, that when an object and a class have the same name and they are defined in the same file, they are companions. For case classes, the compiler automatically generates a companion object for you.

Reference Versus Value Types

Java syntax models how the JVM implements data. First, there is a set of special primitives: short, int, long, float, double, boolean, char, byte, and the keyword void. They are stored on the stack or CPU registers for better performance.

All other types are called reference types, because all instances of them are allocated on the heap and variables that refer to these instances actually refer to the corresponding heap locations. There are no “structural” types whose instances can live on the stack, as in C and C++, although this capability is being considered for a future version of Java. Hence the name reference type is used to distinguish these instances from primitive values. Instances of these types are created with the new keyword.

Scala has to obey the JVM’s rules, of course, but Scala refines the clear distinction between primitives and reference types.

All reference types are subtypes of AnyRef. AnyRef is a subtype of Any, the root of the Scala type hierarchy. All value types are subtypes of AnyVal, which is also a subtype of Any. These are the only two subtypes of Any. Note that Java’s root type, Object, is actually closest to AnyRef, not Any.

Instances of reference types are still created using the new keyword. Like other methods with no arguments, we can drop the parentheses when using a constructor that takes no arguments (called a default constructor in some languages).

Scala follows Java conventions for literal values of the number types and Strings. For example, val name = "Programming Scala" is equivalent to val name = new String("Programming Scala"). However, Scala also adds a literal syntax for tuples, (1,2,3), which is equivalent to new Tuple3(1,2,3). We’ve also seen how language features make it easy to implement custom literal syntax conventions without compiler support, such as 1 :: 2 :: 3 :: Nil for Lists and Map("one" ->, "two" -> 2) for Maps.

It’s common for instances of reference types to be created using objects with apply methods, which function as factories. (These methods must use new internally or an available literal syntax.) Because companion objects with such apply methods are generated automatically for case classes, instances of case classes are usually created this way.

The types Short, Int, Long, Float, Double, Boolean, Char, Byte, and Unit are called value types. They correspond to the JVM primitives short, int, long, float, double, boolean, char, byte, and the void keyword, respectively. All value types are subtypes of AnyVal in Scala’s object model. AnyVal is the second of the two subtypes of Any.

“Instances” of value types are not created on the heap. Instead, the JVM primitive values are used instead and they are stored in registers or on the stack. Instances are always created using literal values, e.g., 1, 3.14, true. The literal value for Unit is (), but we rarely use that value explicitly.

In fact, there are no public constructors for these types, so an expression like val i = new Int(1) won’t compile.


Unit really behaves like a 0-tuple, a tuple with zero elements, written as (). The name “Unit” comes from the mathematics of multiplication, where any value that is multiplied by the unit value returns the original value. This is 1 for numbers, of course. Similarly for addition, 0 is the unit value. We’ll revisit this concept in Algebraic Data Types.

Hence, Scala minimizes the use of “boxed” reference types, giving us the best of both worlds, the performance of primitives without boxing with object semantics in source code.

This uniformity of syntax allows us to declare parameterized collections of value types, like List[Int]. In contrast, Java requires the boxed types to be used, like List<Integer>. This complicates library code. It’s common in Java Big Data libraries to have a long list of custom collection types specialized for each of the primitive types, or perhaps just long and double. You’ll see a class dedicated to vectors of longs, a class dedicated to vectors of doubles, and so forth. The “footprint” of the library is larger and the implementation can’t exploit code reuse as well. (There are still issues with boxing and collections that we’ll explore in Specialization for Value Types.)

Value Classes

As we’ve seen, it’s common for Scala to introduce wrapper types to implement type classes, also called extension methods (see Type Class Pattern). Unfortunately, wrappers around value types effectively turn them into reference types, defeating the performance optimization of using primitives.

Scala 2.10 introduced a solution, called value classes, and a tandem feature called universal traits. These types impose limits on what can be declared, but in exchange, they don’t result in heap allocations for the wrappers:

// src/main/scala/progscala2/basicoop/ValueClassDollar.sc

classDollar(val value:Float) extendsAnyVal {

overridedef toString = "$%.2f".format(value)


val benjamin =newDollar(100)

// Result: benjamin: Dollar = $100.00

To be a valid value class, the following rules must be followed:

1. The value class has one and only one public val argument (as of Scala 2.11, the argument can also be nonpublic).

2. The type of the argument must not be a value class itself.

3. If the value class is parameterized, the @specialized annotation can’t be used.

4. The value class doesn’t define secondary constructors.

5. The value class defines only methods, but no other vals and no vars.

6. However, the value class can’t override equals and hashCode.

7. The value class defines no nested traits, classes, or objects.

8. The value class cannot be subclassed.

9. The value class can only inherit from universal traits.

10.The value class must be a top-level type or a member of an object that can be referenced.[17]

That’s a long list, but the compiler provides good error messages when we break the rules.

At compile time the type is the outer type, Dollar in this example. The runtime type is the wrapped type, e.g., Float.

Usually the argument is one of the AnyVal types, but it doesn’t have to be. If we wrap a reference type, we still benefit from not allocating the wrapper on the heap, as in the following implicit wrapper for Strings that are phone numbers:

// src/main/scala/progscala2/basicoop/ValueClassPhoneNumber.sc

classUSPhoneNumber(val s:String) extendsAnyVal {

overridedef toString = {

val digs = digits(s)

val areaCode = digs.substring(0,3)

val exchange = digs.substring(3,6)

val subnumber = digs.substring(6,10) // "subscriber number"

s"($areaCode) $exchange-$subnumber"


privatedef digits(str:String):String = str.replaceAll("""\D""", "")


val number =newUSPhoneNumber("987-654-3210")

// Result: number: USPhoneNumber = (987) 654-3210

A value class can be a case class, but the many extra methods and the companion object generated are less likely to be used and hence more likely to waste space in the output class file.

A universal trait has the following properties:

1. It derives from Any (but not from other universal traits).

2. It defines only methods.

3. It does no initialization of its own.

Here a refined version of USPhoneNumber that mixes in two universal traits:

// src/main/scala/progscala2/basicoop/ValueClassUniversalTraits.sc

traitDigitizerextendsAny {

def digits(s:String):String = s.replaceAll("""\D""", "") // 1


traitFormatterextendsAny { // 2

def format(areaCode:String, exchange:String, subnumber:String):String =

s"($areaCode) $exchange-$subnumber"


classUSPhoneNumber(val s:String) extendsAnyVal

withDigitizerwithFormatter {

overridedef toString = {

val digs = digits(s)

val areaCode = digs.substring(0,3)

val exchange = digs.substring(3,6)

val subnumber = digs.substring(6,10)

format(areaCode, exchange, subnumber) // 3



val number =newUSPhoneNumber("987-654-3210")

// Result: number: USPhoneNumber = (987) 654-3210


Digitizer is a trait that contains the digits method we originally had in USPhoneNumber.


Formatter formats the phone number the way we want it.


Use Formatter.format.

Formatter actually solves a design problem. We might like to specify a second argument to USPhoneNumber for a format string or some other mechanism for configuring the actual format produced by toString, because there are many popular format conventions. However, we’re only allowed to pass one argument to USPhoneNumber, but we can mix in universal traits to do the configuration we want!

However, universal traits do sometimes trigger instantiation (i.e., heap allocation of an instance) by Scala, due to limitations of the JVM. Here’s a summary of the circumstances requiring instantiation:

1. When a value class instance is passed to a function expecting a universal trait implemented by the instance. However, if a function expects an instance of the value class itself, instantiation isn’t required.

2. A value class instance is assigned to an Array.

3. The type of a value class is used as a type parameter.

For example, when the following method is called with a USPhoneNumber, an instance of it will have to be allocated:

def toDigits(d:Digitizer, str:String) = d.digits(str)


val digs = toDigits(newUSPhoneNumber("987-654-3210"), "123-Hello!-456")

// Result: digs: String = 123456

Also, when the following parameterized method is passed a USPhoneNumber, an instance of USPhoneNumber will have to be allocated:

def print[T](t:T) = println(t.toString)


// Result: (987) 654-3210

To summarize, value classes provide a low-overhead technique for defining extension methods (type classes) and for defining types with meaningful domain names (like Dollar) that exploit the type safety of the underlying value.


The term value type refers to the Short, Int, Long, Float, Double, Boolean, Char, Byte, and Unit types Scala has had for a long time. The term value class refers to the new construct for defining custom classes that derive from AnyVal.

For more information on the implementation details of value classes, see SIP-15: Value Classes. SIP stands for Scala Improvement Process, the community mechanism for proposing new language and library features.

Parent Types

Derivation of child or derived types from a parent or base type is a core principle of most object-oriented languages. It’s a mechanism for reuse, encapsulation, and polymorphic behavior (behavior that varies depending on the instance’s actual type in a type hierarchy).

Like Java, Scala supports single inheritance, not multiple inheritance. A child (or derived) class can have one and only one parent (or base) class. The sole exception is the root of the Scala class hierarchy, Any, which has no parent.

We’ve already seen several examples of parent and child classes. Here are snippets of one of the first we saw, in Abstract Types Versus Parameterized Types, which demonstrates the use of type members. Here are the most important details again:

abstractclassBulkReader {


val source:In

def read:String // Read source and return a String


classStringBulkReader(val source:String) extendsBulkReader {

typeIn = String

def read:String = source


classFileBulkReader(val source:java.io.File) extendsBulkReader {

typeIn = java.io.File

def read:String = {...}


As in Java, the keyword extends indicates the parent class, in this case BulkReader. In Scala, extends is also used when a class inherits a trait as its parent (even when it mixes in other traits using the with keyword). Also, extends is used when one trait is the child of another trait or class. Yes, traits can inherit classes.

If we don’t extend a parent class, the default parent is AnyRef.

Constructors in Scala

Scala distinguishes between a primary constructor and zero or more auxiliary constructors, also called secondary constructors. In Scala, the primary constructor is the entire body of the class. Any parameters that the constructor requires are listed after the class name. StringBulkReaderand FileBulkReader are examples.

Let’s revisit some simple case classes, Address and Person, that we saw in Chapter 5 and consider enhancements using secondary constructors:

// src/main/scala/progscala2/basicoop/PersonAuxConstructors.scala


caseclassAddress(street:String, city:String, state:String, zip:String) {

defthis(zip:String) = // 1

this("[unknown]", Address.zipToCity(zip), Address.zipToState(zip), zip)


objectAddress {

def zipToCity(zip:String) = "Anytown" // 2

def zipToState(zip:String) = "CA"



name:String, age:Option[Int], address:Option[Address]) { // 3

defthis(name:String) =this(name, None, None) // 4

defthis(name:String, age:Int) =this(name, Some(age), None)

defthis(name:String, age:Int, address:Address) =

this(name, Some(age), Some(address))

defthis(name:String, address:Address) =this(name, None, Some(address))



A secondary constructor that takes just a zip code argument. It calls helper methods to infer the city and state, but it can’t infer the street.


Helper functions that look up the city and state from the zip code (or at least they pretend to do that).


Make the person’s age and address optional.


Provide convenient auxiliary constructors that let the user specify some or all of the values.

Note that an auxiliary constructor is named this and it must call the primary constructor or another auxiliary constructor as its first expression. The compiler also requires that the constructor called is one that appears earlier in the source code. So, we must order secondary constructors carefully in our code.

By forcing all construction to go through the primary constructor (eventually), code duplication is minimized and initialization logic for new instances is always uniformly applied.

The auxiliary constructor for Address is a good example of a method that does something nontrivial, rather than just provide convenient alternative invocations, like Person’s auxiliary constructors.

This file is compiled by sbt, so we can use the types in the following script:

// src/main/scala/progscala2/basicoop/PersonAuxConstructors.sc

importprogscala2.basicoop.{Address, Person}

val a1 =newAddress("1 Scala Lane", "Anytown", "CA", "98765")

// Result: Address(1 Scala Lane,Anytown,CA,98765)

val a2 =newAddress("98765")

// Result: Address([unknown],Anytown,CA,98765)

newPerson("Buck Trends1")

// Result: Person(Buck Trends1,None,None)

newPerson("Buck Trends2", Some(20), Some(a1))

// Result: Person(Buck Trends2,Some(20),

// Some(Address(1 Scala Lane,Anytown,CA,98765)))

newPerson("Buck Trends3", 20, a2)

// Result: Person(Buck Trends3,Some(20),

// Some(Address([unknown],Anytown,CA,98765)))

newPerson("Buck Trends4", 20)

// Result: Person(Buck Trends4,Some(20),None)

This code works well enough, but actually there are a few issues with it. First, Person now has a lot of boilerplate for the auxiliary constructors. We already know that we can define method arguments with default values and the user can name the arguments when calling the methods.

Let’s reconsider Person. First, let’s add default values for age and address and assume that it’s not “burdensome” for the user to specify Some(…) values:

// src/main/scala/progscala2/basicoop/PersonAuxConstructors2.sc


val a1 =newAddress("1 Scala Lane", "Anytown", "CA", "98765")

val a2 =newAddress("98765")



age:Option[Int] =None,

address:Option[Address] =None)

newPerson2("Buck Trends1")

// Result: Person2 = Person2(Buck Trends1,None,None)

newPerson2("Buck Trends2", Some(20), Some(a1))

// Result: Person2(Buck Trends2,Some(20),

// Some(Address(1 Scala Lane,Anytown,CA,98765)))

newPerson2("Buck Trends3", Some(20))

// Result: Person2(Buck Trends3,Some(20),None)

newPerson2("Buck Trends4", address =Some(a2))

// Result: Person2(Buck Trends4,None,

// Some(Address([unknown],Anytown,CA,98765)))

The user of Person writes a little more code, but the reduced maintenance burden on the library developer is an important benefit. Trade-offs…

Let’s decide we really prefer to maximize the user-friendly options. The second issue with our implementation is that the user has to create instances with new. Perhaps you noticed that the examples used new to construct instances.

Try removing the new keywords and see what happens. Unless you’re invoking the primary constructor, you get a compiler error.


The compiler does not automatically generate apply methods for secondary constructors in case classes.

However, if we overload Person.apply in the companion object, we can have our convenient “constructors” and avoid the requirement to use new. Here is our final implementation of Person, called Person3:

// src/main/scala/progscala2/basicoop/PersonAuxConstructors3.scala





age:Option[Int] =None,

address:Option[Address] =None)

objectPerson3 {

// Because we are overloading a normal method (as opposed to constructors),

// we must specify the return type annotation, Person3 in this case.

def apply(name:String):Person3 = newPerson3(name)

def apply(name:String, age:Int):Person3 = newPerson3(name, Some(age))

def apply(name:String, age:Int, address:Address):Person3 =

newPerson3(name, Some(age), Some(address))

def apply(name:String, address:Address):Person3 =

newPerson3(name, address =Some(address))


Note that overloaded methods like apply that aren’t constructors must have an explicit return type annotation.

Finally, here is a script that uses the final types:

// src/main/scala/progscala2/basicoop/PersonAuxConstructors3.sc



val a1 =newAddress("1 Scala Lane", "Anytown", "CA", "98765")

val a2 =newAddress("98765")

Person3("Buck Trends1") // Primary

// Result: Person3(Buck Trends1,None,None)

Person3("Buck Trends2", Some(20), Some(a1)) // Primary

// Result: Person3(Buck Trends2,Some(20),

// Some(Address(1 Scala Lane,Anytown,CA,98765)))

Person3("Buck Trends3", 20, a1)

// Result: Person3(Buck Trends3,Some(20),

// Some(Address(1 Scala Lane,Anytown,CA,98765)))

Person3("Buck Trends4", Some(20)) // Primary

// Result: Person3(Buck Trends4,Some(20),None)

Person3("Buck Trends5", 20)

// Result: Person3(Buck Trends5,Some(20),None)

Person3("Buck Trends6", address =Some(a2)) // Primary

// Result: Person3(Buck Trends6,None,

// Some(Address([unknown],Anytown,CA,98765)))

Person3("Buck Trends7", address = a2)

// Result: Person3(Buck Trends7,None,

// Some(Address([unknown],Anytown,CA,98765)))

All examples with the Primary comment call the primary apply method generated automatically as part of the case class. The other examples without the comment call one of the other apply methods.

In fact, it’s not all that common to define auxiliary constructors in Scala code, because alternative techniques generally work better for minimizing boilerplate while still providing users with flexible construction options. Instead, make judicious use of Scala’s support for named and optional parameters, and use overloaded apply “factory” methods in objects.

Fields in Classes

We started the chapter with a reminder that the primary constructor arguments become instance fields if they are prefixed with the val or var keyword. For case classes, val is assumed. This convention greatly reduces source-code boilerplate, but how does it translate to byte code?

Actually, Scala just does implicitly what Java code does explicitly. There is a private field created internal to the class and the equivalent of “getter” and “setter” accessor methods are generated. Consider this simple Scala class:

className(var value:String)

Conceptually, it is equivalent to this code:

className(s:String) {

privatevar_value:String = s // 1

def value:String = _value // 2

def value_=(newValue:String):Unit = _value= newValue // 3



Invisible field, declared mutable in this case.


The “getter” or reader method.


The “setter” or writer method.

Note the convention used for the value_= method name. When the compiler sees a method named like this, it will allow client code to drop the _, effectively enabling infix notation as if we were setting a bare field in the object:

scala> valname=newName("Buck")

name:Name = Name@2aed6fc8

scala> name.value

res0:String = Buck

scala> name.value_=("Bubba")

name.value:String = Bubba

scala> name.value

res1:String = Bubba

scala> name.value="Hank"

name.value:String = Hank

scala> name.value

res2:String = Hank

If we declare a field immutable with the val keyword, the writer method is not synthesized, only the reader method.

You can follow these conventions yourself, if you want to implement custom logic inside reader and writer methods.

We can pass constructor arguments to noncase classes that aren’t intended to become fields. Just omit both the val and var keywords. For example, we might pass an argument needed to construct an instance, but we want to discard it afterwards.

Note that the value is still in the scope of the class body. As we saw in earlier examples of implicit conversion classes, they referred to the argument used to construct the instances, but most of them did not declare the argument to be a field of the instance. For example, recall our Pipelineexample from Phantom Types:

objectPipeline {

implicitclasstoPiped[V](value:V) {

def |>[R] (f :V => R) = f(value)



While toPiped refers to value in the |> method, value is not a field. Whether or not the constructor arguments are declared as fields with val or var, the arguments are visible in the entire class body. Hence they can be used by members of the type, such as methods. Compare with constructors as defined in Java and most other OO languages. Because the constructors themselves are methods, the arguments passed to them are not visible outside those methods. Hence, the arguments must be “saved” as fields, either public or hidden.

Why not just always make these arguments fields? A field is visible to clients of the type (that is, unless it’s declared private or protected, as we’ll discuss in Chapter 13). Unless these arguments are really part of the logical state exposed to users, they shouldn’t be fields. Instead, they are effectively private to the class body.

The Uniform Access Principle

You might wonder why Scala doesn’t follow the convention of the JavaBeans Specification that reader and writer methods for a field value are named getValue and setValue, respectively. Instead, Scala chooses to follow the Uniform Access Principle.

As we saw in our Name example, it appears that clients can read and write the “bare” value field without going through accessor methods, but in fact they are calling methods. On the other hand, we could just declare a field in the class body with the default public visibility and then access it as a bare field:

className2(s:String) {

var value:String = s


Now value is public and the accessor methods are gone.

Let’s try it:

scala> valname2=newName2("Buck")

name2:Name2 = Name2@303becf6

scala> name2.value

res0:String = Buck

scala> name2.value_=("Bubba")

name2.value:String = Bubba

scala> name2.value

res1:String = Bubba

Note that user “experience” is identical. The user’s code is agnostic about the implementation, so we are free to change the implementation from bare field access to accessor methods when necessary; for example, if we want to add some sort of validation on writes or lazily construct a result on reads, for efficiency. Conversely, we can replace accessor methods with public visibility of the field, to eliminate the overhead of a method call (though the JVM will probably eliminate that overhead anyway).

Therefore, the Uniform Access Principle has an important benefit in that it minimizes how much client code has to know about the internal implementation of a class. We can change that implementation without forcing client code changes, although a recompilation is required.

Scala implements this principle without sacrificing the benefits of access protections or the occasional need to perform additional logic besides just reading or writing a value.


Scala doesn’t use Java-style getter and setter methods. Instead, it supports the Uniform Access Principle, where the syntax for reading and writing a “bare” field looks the same as the syntax for calling methods to read and write it, indirectly.

However, sometimes we need JavaBeans-style accessor methods for interoperability with Java libraries. We can annotate classes with the scala.reflect.BeanProperty or the BooleanBeanProperty annotation. See JavaBean Properties for more details.

Unary Methods

We saw how the compiler lets us define an assignment method foo_= for field foo, then use it with the convenient syntax myinstance.foo = value. There’s one other kind of operator we haven’t seen how to implement, unary operators.

An example is negation. If we implement a complex number class, how would we support the negation of some instance c, i.e., -c? Here’s how:

// src/main/scala/progscala2/basicoop/Complex.sc

caseclassComplex(real:Double, imag:Double) {

def unary_- :Complex = Complex(-real, imag) // 1

def -(other:Complex) =Complex(real - other.real, imag - other.imag)


val c1 =Complex(1.1, 2.2)

val c2 = -c1 // Complex(-1.1, 2.2)

val c3 = c1.unary_- // Complex(-1.1, 2.2)

val c4 = c1 - Complex(0.5, 1.0) // Complex(0.6, 1.2)


The method name is unary_X, where X is the operator character we want to use, - in this case. Note the space between the - and the :. This is necessary to tell the compiler that the method name ends with - and not :! For comparison, we also implement the usual minus operator.

Once we’ve defined a unary operator, we can place it before the instance, as we did when defining c2. We can also call it like any other method, as we did for c3.

Validating Input

What if we want to validate the input arguments to ensure that the resulting instances have a valid state? Predef defines a useful set of overloaded methods called require that are useful for this purpose. Consider this class that encapsulates US zip codes. Two forms are allowed, a five-digit number and a “zip+4” form that adds an additional four digits. This form is usually written “12345-6789”. Also, not all numbers correspond to real zip codes:

// src/main/scala/progscala2/basicoop/Zipcode.scala


caseclassZipCode(zip:Int, extension:Option[Int] =None) {

require(valid(zip, extension), // 1

s"Invalid Zip+4 specified: $toString")

protecteddef valid(z:Int, e:Option[Int]):Boolean = {

if (0 < z && z <= 99999) e match {

caseNone => validUSPS(z, 0)

caseSome(e) => 0 < e && e <= 9999 && validUSPS(z, e)




/** Is it a real US Postal Service zip code? */

protecteddef validUSPS(i:Int, e:Int):Boolean = true // 2

overridedef toString = // 3

if (extension != None) s"$zip-${extension.get}" else zip.toString


objectZipCode {

def apply (zip:Int, extension:Int):ZipCode =

newZipCode(zip, Some(extension))



Use the require method to validate input.


A real implementation would check a USPS-sanctioned database to verify that the zip code actually exists.


Override toString to return the format people expect for zip codes, with proper handling of the optional four-digit extension.

Here is a script that uses it:

// src/main/scala/progscala2/basicoop/Zipcode.sc



// Result: ZipCode = 12345

ZipCode(12345, Some(6789))

// Result: ZipCode = 12345-6789

ZipCode(12345, 6789)

// Result: ZipCode = 12345-6789

try {

ZipCode(0, 6789) // Invalid Zip+4 specified: 0-6789

} catch {

case e:java.lang.IllegalArgumentException => e


try {

ZipCode(12345, 0) // Invalid Zip+4 specified: 12345-0

} catch {

case e:java.lang.IllegalArgumentException => e


One very good reason for defining domain-specific types like ZipCode is the ability to do validation of values once, during construction, so that users of ZipCode instances know that no further validation is required.

There are also ensuring and assume methods in Predef for similar purposes. We’ll explore more uses for require and these two assertion methods in Better Design with Design by Contract.

Although we discussed validation in the context of construction, we can call these assertion methods inside any methods. However, an exception is the class bodies of value classes. The assertion checks can’t be used there, otherwise a heap allocation would be required. However, ZipCodecan’t be a value class anyway, because it takes a second constructor argument.

Calling Parent Class Constructors (and Good Object-Oriented Design)

The primary constructor in a derived class must invoke one of the parent class constructors, either the primary constructor or an auxiliary constructor. In the following example, Employee is a subclass of Person:

// src/main/scala/progscala2/basicoop/EmployeeSubclass.sc


caseclassPerson( // This was Person2 previously, now renamed.


age:Option[Int] =None,

address:Option[Address] =None)

classEmployee( // 1


age:Option[Int] =None,

address:Option[Address] =None,

val title:String = "[unknown]", // 2

val manager:Option[Employee] =None) extendsPerson(name, age, address) {

overridedef toString = // 3

s"Employee($name, $age, $address, $title, $manager)"


val a1 =newAddress("1 Scala Lane", "Anytown", "CA", "98765")

val a2 =newAddress("98765")

val ceo =newEmployee("Joe CEO", title = "CEO")

// Result: Employee(Joe CEO, None, None, CEO, None)

newEmployee("Buck Trends1")

// Result: Employee(Buck Trends1, None, None, [unknown], None)

newEmployee("Buck Trends2", Some(20), Some(a1))

// Result: Employee(Buck Trends2, Some(20),

// Some(Address(1 Scala Lane,Anytown,CA,98765)), [unknown], None)

newEmployee("Buck Trends3", Some(20), Some(a1), "Zombie Dev")

// Result: Employee(Buck Trends3, Some(20),

// Some(Address(1 Scala Lane,Anytown,CA,98765)), Zombie Dev, None)

newEmployee("Buck Trends4", Some(20), Some(a1), "Zombie Dev", Some(ceo))

// Result: Employee(Buck Trends4, Some(20),

// Some(Address(1 Scala Lane,Anytown,CA,98765)), Zombie Dev,

// Some(Employee(Joe CEO, None, None, CEO, None)))


Employee is declared a regular class, not a case class. We’ll explain why in the next section.


The new fields, title and manager, require the val keyword because Employee isn’t a case class. The other arguments are already fields, from Person. Note that we also call Person’s primary constructor.


Override toString. Otherwise, Person.toString would be used.

In Java, we would define constructor methods and call super in them to invoke the parent class initialization logic. In Scala, we implicitly invoke the parent class constructor through the ChildClass(…) extends ParentClass(…) syntax.


Although super can be used to invoke overridden methods, as in Java, it cannot be used to invoke a superclass constructor.

Good Object-Oriented Design: A Digression

This code smells. The declaration of Employee mixes val keywords or no keywords in the argument list. But deeper problems lurk behind the source code.

We can derive a noncase class from a case class or the other way around, but we can’t derive one case class from another. This is because the autogenerated implementations of toString, equals, and hashCode do not work properly for subclasses, meaning they ignore the possibility that an instance could actually be a derived type of the case class type.

This is actually by design; it reflects the problematic aspects of subclassing. For example, should an Employee instance and a Person instance be considered equal if both have the same name, age, and address? A more flexible interpretation of object equality would say yes, while a more restrictive version would say no. In fact, the mathematical definition of equality requires commutative somePerson == someEmployee should return the same result as someEmployee == somePerson. The more flexible interpretation would break associativity, because you would never expect an Employee instance to think it’s equal to a Person instance that is not an Employee.

Actually, the problem of equals is even worse here, because Employee doesn’t override the definitions of equals and hashCode. We’re effectively treating all Employee instances as Person instances.

That’s dangerous for small types like this. It’s inevitable that someone will create a collection of employees, where they will try to sort the employees or use an employee as a key in a hash map. Because Person.equals and Person.hashCode will get used, respectively, anomalous behavior will occur when we have two people named John Smith, one of whom is the CEO while the other works in the mail room. The occasional confusion between the two will happen just often enough to be serious, but not often enough to be easily repeatable for finding and fixing the bug!

The real problem is that we are subclassing state. That is, we are using inheritance to add additional state contributions, title and manager in this case. In contrast, subclassing behavior with the same state fields is easier to implement robustly. It avoids the problems with equals andhashCode just described, for example.

Of course, these problems with inheritance have been known for a long time. Today, good object-oriented design favors composition over inheritance, where we compose units of functionality rather than build class hierarchies.

As we’ll see in the next chapter, traits make composition far easier to use than Java interfaces, at least before Java 8. Hence, the examples in the book that aren’t “toys” won’t use inheritance that adds state. Such inheritance hierarchies are also very rare in production-quality Scala libraries, fortunately.

Hence, the Scala team could have made a choice to implement subclass-friendly versions of equals, hashCode, and toString, but that would have added extra complexity to support a bad design choice. Case classes provide convenient, simple domain types, with pattern matching and decomposition of instances of these types. Supporting inheritance hierarchies is not their purpose.

When inheritance is used, the following rules are recommended:

1. An abstract base class or trait is subclassed one level by concrete classes, including case classes.

2. Concrete classes are never subclassed, except for two cases:

a. Classes that mix in other behaviors defined in traits (see Chapter 9). Ideally, those behaviors should be orthogonal, i.e., not overlapping.

b. Test-only versions to promote automated unit testing.

3. When subclassing seems like the right approach, consider partitioning behaviors into traits and mix in those traits instead.

4. Never split logical state across parent-child type boundaries.

By “logical” state in the last bullet, I mean we might have some private, implementation-specific state that doesn’t affect the externally visible, logical behavior of equality, hashing, etc. For example, our library might include special subtypes of our collections that add private fields to implement caching or logging behaviors (when a mixin trait for such features is not a good option).

So, what about Employee? If subclassing Person to create Employee is bad, what should we do instead? The answer really depends on the context of use. If we’re implementing a Human Resources application, do we need a separate concept of Person or can Employee just be the base type, declared as a case class? Do we even need any types for this at all? If we’re processing a result set from a database query, is it sufficient to use tuples or other containers to hold the fields returned from the query? Can we dispense with the “ceremony” of declaring a type altogether?

Let’s just suppose we really need separate concepts of Person and Employee. Here’s one way I would do it:

// src/main/scala/progscala2/basicoop/PersonEmployeeTraits.scala

packageprogscala2.basicoop2 // 1

caseclassAddress(street:String, city:String, state:String, zip:String)

objectAddress {

def apply(zip:String) = // 2


"[unknown]", Address.zipToCity(zip), Address.zipToState(zip), zip)

def zipToCity(zip:String) = "Anytown"

def zipToState(zip:String) = "CA"


traitPersonState { // 3

val name:String

val age:Option[Int]

val address:Option[Address]

// Some common methods declared/defined here?


caseclassPerson( // 4


age:Option[Int] =None,

address:Option[Address] =None) extendsPersonState

traitEmployeeState { // 5

val title:String

val manager:Option[Employee]


caseclassEmployee( // 6


age:Option[Int] =None, // 7

address:Option[Address] =None,

title:String = "[unknown]",

manager:Option[Employee] =None)



Use a different package because earlier versions of some of these types are in package oop.


Previously, Address had an auxiliary constructor. Now we use a second factory method.


Define a trait for the state we want a person to have. You could pick a naming convention you like better than PersonState.


When we just have Person instances, use this case class, which implements PersonState.


Use the same technique for Employee, although it’s less useful to declare a separate trait and case class for Employee. Still, consistency has its merits. The drawback is the extra “ceremony” we’ve introduced with separate traits and case classes.


The Employee case class.


Note that we have to define the default values twice for the fields shared between Person and Employee. That’s a slight disadvantage (unless we actually need that flexibility).

Note that Employee is no longer a subclass of Person, but it is a subclass of PersonState, because it mixes in that trait. Also, EmployeeState is not a subclass of PersonState. Figure 8-1 is a class diagram to illustrate the relationships:

A class diagram for PersonState, Person, EmployeeState, and Employee.

Figure 8-1. Class diagram for PersonState, Person, EmployeeState, and Employee

Note that both Person and Employee mix in traits, but Employee doesn’t subclass another concrete class.

Let’s try creating some objects:

// src/main/scala/progscala2/basicoop/PersonEmployeeTraits.sc

importprogscala2.basicoop.{ Address, Person, Employee }

val ceoAddress =Address("1 Scala Lane", "Anytown", "CA", "98765")

// Result: ceoAddress: oop2.Address = Address(1 Scala Lane,Anytown,CA,98765)

val buckAddress =Address("98765")

// Result: buckAddress: oop2.Address = Address([unknown],Anytown,CA,98765)

val ceo =Employee(

name = "Joe CEO", title = "CEO", age =Some(50),

address =Some(ceoAddress), manager =None)

// Result: ceo: oop2.Employee = Employee(Joe CEO,Some(50),

// Some(Address(1 Scala Lane,Anytown,CA,98765)),CEO,None)

val ceoSpouse =Person("Jane Smith", address =Some(ceoAddress))

// Result: ceoSpouse: oop2.Person = Person(Jane Smith,None,

// Some(Address(1 Scala Lane,Anytown,CA,98765)))

val buck =Employee(

name = "Buck Trends", title = "Zombie Dev", age =Some(20),

address =Some(buckAddress), manager =Some(ceo))

// Result: buck: oop2.Employee = Employee(Buck Trends,Some(20),

// Some(Address([unknown],Anytown,CA,98765)),Zombie Dev,

// Some(Employee(Joe CEO,Some(50),

// Some(Address(1 Scala Lane,Anytown,CA,98765)),CEO,None)))

val buckSpouse =Person("Ann Collins", address =Some(buckAddress))

// Result: buckSpouse: oop2.Person = Person(Ann Collins,None,

// Some(Address([unknown],Anytown,CA,98765)))

You’ll notice I used named arguments for several declarations. When a constructor or other method takes a lot of arguments, I like using named arguments to make it clear what each argument means. It also helps avoid bugs when several arguments have the same type and it would be easy to switch values. Of course, you should try to avoid these risks by keeping the number of arguments small and making their types unique.

Now that I’ve whetted your appetite for traits, the next chapter explores them in depth. But first, we have one final topic to cover.

Nested Types

Scala lets us nest type declarations and definitions. For example, it’s common to define type-specific exceptions and other useful types in an object. Here is a sketch of a possible database layer:

// src/main/scala/progscala2/basicoop/NestedTypes.scala

objectDatabase { // 1

caseclassResultSet(/*...*/) // 2

caseclassConnection(/*...*/) // 3

caseclassDatabaseException(message:String, cause:Throwable) extends

RuntimeException(message, cause)

sealedtraitStatus // 4


caseclass Connected(connection:Connection) extendsStatus

caseclass QuerySucceeded(results:ResultSet) extendsStatus

caseclass QueryFailed(e:DatabaseException) extendsStatus


classDatabase {


def connect(server:String):Status = ??? // 5

def disconnect():Status = ???

def query(/*...*/):Status = ???



A simplified interface to databases.


Encapsulate query result sets. We elided the details that we don’t care about for this sketch.


Encapsulate connection pools and other information.


Use a sealed hierarchy for the status; all allowed values are defined here. Use case objects when instances don’t actually carry any additional state information. These objects behave like “flags” indicating a state.


The ??? is an actual method defined in Predef. It simply throws an exception. It is used to mark methods as unimplemented. It is a relatively recent introduction to the library.


Consider using case object when a case class doesn’t have any fields representing additional state information.

The ??? method is very handy for providing a placeholder implementation of a method when code is under development. The code compiles, but you can’t call the method!

There is one “hole” I’ve found with case objects. Consider this session:

scala> caseobjectFoo

defined objectFoo

scala> Foo.hashCode

res0:Int = 70822

scala> "Foo".hashCode

res1:Int = 70822

Apparently, the generated hashCode for the case object simply hashes the object’s name. The object’s package is ignored as are any fields in the object. This means that case objects are risky in contexts where a strong hashCode implementation is needed.


Avoid using case objects in contexts where a strong hashCode is required, such as keys for hash-based maps and sets.

Recap and What’s Next

We filled in the details for the basics of Scala’s object model, including constructors, inheritance, and nesting of types. We also digressed at times on the subject of good object-oriented design, in Scala or any language.

We also set the stage for diving into traits, Scala’s enhancement to Java interfaces, which provide a powerful tool for composing behaviors from constituent parts, without resorting to inheritance and its drawbacks. In the next chapter we’ll complete our understanding of traits and how to use them to solve various design problems.

[17] Because of Scala’s richer type system, not all types can be referenced in normal variable and method declarations like in Java. (However, all the examples we’ve seen so far work fine.) In Chapter 14, we’ll explore new kinds of types and learn the rules for what it means to say that a type can or can’t be referenced.