Mastering the Scala REPL: A Comprehensive Guide to Interactive Programming in Scala


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The Scala REPL (Read-Eval-Print Loop) is a powerful interactive shell for writing and running Scala code snippets. It provides a quick and convenient way to explore Scala, test code, and debug applications. This blog post will introduce you to the Scala REPL, demonstrate its features, and provide tips and tricks for getting the most out of this valuable development tool.

Table of Contents:

  1. What is the Scala REPL?

  2. Launching the Scala REPL

  3. Basic Usage of the Scala REPL

  4. REPL Commands and Shortcuts

  5. Loading and Saving Code in the REPL

  6. Using External Libraries in the REPL

  7. Advanced REPL Features

  8. Conclusion

What is the Scala REPL?

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The Scala REPL (Read-Eval-Print Loop) is an interactive command-line tool that allows you to enter Scala expressions, evaluate them, and see the results immediately. It's an invaluable resource for learning the language, experimenting with code, and debugging applications.

Launching the Scala REPL

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To start the Scala REPL, open a terminal or command prompt and type scala , then press Enter. You should see a prompt like the following:

$ scala 
Welcome to Scala 2.13.8 (OpenJDK 64-Bit Server VM, Java 11.0.11). 
Type in expressions for evaluation. Or try :help. 


Basic Usage of the Scala REPL

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At the Scala REPL prompt, you can type any valid Scala expression and press Enter to evaluate it. The REPL will print the result of the expression and its type. Here's a simple example:

scala> 2 + 3 
val res0: Int = 5 

You can also define variables, functions, and classes:

scala> val x = 10 
val x: Int = 10 

scala> def square(x: Int) = x * x 
def square(x: Int): Int 

scala> square(x) 
val res1: Int = 100 

REPL Commands and Shortcuts

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The Scala REPL supports several commands and shortcuts to make your experience more efficient and enjoyable:

  • :help : Displays a list of available commands.
  • :type <expression> : Shows the type of an expression without evaluating it.
  • :paste : Enters paste mode, allowing you to paste and evaluate multiline code snippets.
  • :load <filename> : Loads and evaluates a Scala file.
  • :save <filename> : Saves your REPL session to a file.
  • :reset : Resets the REPL state, discarding all previous definitions.
  • :quit or :exit : Exits the REPL.

Loading and Saving Code in the REPL

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The Scala REPL allows you to load existing Scala files, as well as save your REPL session to a file for future reference or sharing. To load a file, use the :load command followed by the file path:

scala> :load /path/to/your/file.scala 

To save your current REPL session to a file, use the :save command:

scala> :save /path/to/save/your/session.scala 

Using External Libraries in the REPL

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You can use external libraries in the Scala REPL by adding them to the classpath when starting the REPL. For example, to use the popular JSON library, "json4s", first download the JAR file or use a dependency manager like sbt, Maven, or Gradle to fetch the library. Then, launch the REPL with the library in the classpath:

$ scala -classpath /path/to/json4s_2.13-x.y.z.jar 

Replace /path/to/json4s_2.13-x.y.z.jar with the actual path to the downloaded JAR file. Once the REPL is running with the external library in the classpath, you can import and use the library in your code:

scala> import org.json4s._ 
import org.json4s._ 

scala> import org.json4s.native.JsonMethods._ 
import org.json4s.native.JsonMethods._ 

scala> val jsonString = """{"name":"John","age":30,"city":"New York"}""" 
val jsonString: String = {"name":"John","age":30,"city":"New York"} 

scala> val json = parse(jsonString) 
val json: org.json4s.JValue = JObject(List((name,JString(John)), (age,JInt(30)), (city,JString(New York)))) 

Advanced REPL Features

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The Scala REPL also supports several advanced features, such as:

  • Tab completion: Press the Tab key to auto-complete variable names, function names, class names, and more.
  • Implicit conversions: The REPL automatically imports certain implicit conversions to improve usability.
  • Implicit definitions: You can define implicit values, functions, and classes in the REPL, just as you would in a regular Scala program.
  • Error reporting: The REPL provides detailed error messages and stack traces to help you identify and fix issues in your code.
  • Multi-line input: Press Shift+Enter to input multi-line expressions, such as function or class definitions.


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The Scala REPL is a powerful and versatile tool for learning, experimenting, and debugging Scala programs. With features like tab completion, error reporting, loading and saving code, and support for external libraries, the REPL is an essential part of any Scala developer's toolkit. By mastering the Scala REPL, you'll be well-equipped to explore the language and develop more complex and sophisticated Scala applications. Happy coding!