Scala 3 — Book

Main Methods in Scala 3

Writing one line programs Scala 3 Only

Scala 3 offers a new way to define programs that can be invoked from the command line: Adding a @main annotation to a method turns it into entry point of an executable program:

@main def hello() = println("Hello, World")

To run this program, save the line of code in a file named as e.g. Hello.scala—the filename doesn’t have to match the method name—and run it with scala:

$ scala Hello.scala
Hello, World

A @main annotated method can be written either at the top-level (as shown), or inside a statically accessible object. In either case, the name of the program is in each case the name of the method, without any object prefixes.

Learn more about the @main annotation by reading the following sections, or by watching this video:

Command line arguments

With this approach your @main method can handle command line arguments, and those arguments can have different types. For example, given this @main method that takes an Int, a String, and a varargs String* parameter:

@main def happyBirthday(age: Int, name: String, others: String*) =
  val suffix = (age % 100) match
    case 11 | 12 | 13 => "th"
    case _ => (age % 10) match
      case 1 => "st"
      case 2 => "nd"
      case 3 => "rd"
      case _ => "th"

  val sb = StringBuilder(s"Happy $age$suffix birthday, $name")
  for other <- others do sb.append(" and ").append(other)

When you compile that code, it creates a main program named happyBirthday that’s called like this:

$ scala happyBirthday 23 Lisa Peter
Happy 23rd Birthday, Lisa and Peter!

As shown, the @main method can have an arbitrary number of parameters. For each parameter type there must be a given instance of the scala.util.CommandLineParser.FromString type class that converts an argument String to the required parameter type. Also as shown, a main method’s parameter list can end in a repeated parameter like String* that takes all remaining arguments given on the command line.

The program implemented from an @main method checks that there are enough arguments on the command line to fill in all parameters, and that the argument strings can be converted to the required types. If a check fails, the program is terminated with an error message:

$ scala happyBirthday 22
Illegal command line after first argument: more arguments expected

$ scala happyBirthday sixty Fred
Illegal command line: java.lang.NumberFormatException: For input string: "sixty"

User-defined types as parameters

As mentioned up above, the compiler looks for a given instance of the scala.util.CommandLineParser.FromString typeclass for the type of the argument. For example, let’s say you have a custom Color type that you want to use as a parameter. You would do this like you see below:

enum Color:
  case Red, Green, Blue

given CommandLineParser.FromString[Color] with
  def fromString(value: String): Color = Color.valueOf(value)

@main def run(color: Color): Unit =
  println(s"The color is ${color.toString}")

This works the same for your own user types in your program as well as types you might be using from another library.

The details

The Scala compiler generates a program from an @main method f as follows:

  • It creates a class named f in the package where the @main method was found.
  • The class has a static method main with the usual signature of a Java main method: it takes an Array[String] as argument and returns Unit.
  • The generated main method calls method f with arguments converted using methods in the scala.util.CommandLineParser.FromString object.

For instance, the happyBirthday method above generates additional code equivalent to the following class:

final class happyBirthday {
  import scala.util.{CommandLineParser as CLP}
  <static> def main(args: Array[String]): Unit =
          CLP.parseArgument[Int](args, 0),
          CLP.parseArgument[String](args, 1),
          CLP.parseRemainingArguments[String](args, 2)*)
    catch {
      case error: CLP.ParseError => CLP.showError(error)

Note: In this generated code, the <static> modifier expresses that the main method is generated as a static method of class happyBirthday. This feature is not available for user programs in Scala. Regular “static” members are generated in Scala using objects instead.

Backwards Compatibility with Scala 2

@main methods are the recommended way to generate programs that can be invoked from the command line in Scala 3. They replace the previous approach in Scala 2, which was to create an object that extends the App class:

The previous functionality of App, which relied on the “magic” DelayedInit trait, is no longer available. App still exists in limited form for now, but it doesn’t support command line arguments and will be deprecated in the future.

If programs need to cross-build between Scala 2 and Scala 3, it’s recommended to use an object with an explicit main method and a single Array[String] argument instead:

object happyBirthday {
  private def happyBirthday(age: Int, name: String, others: String*) = {
    ... // same as before
  def main(args: Array[String]): Unit =
    happyBirthday(args(0).toInt, args(1), args.drop(2).toIndexedSeq:_*)

note that here we use :_* to pass a vararg argument, which remains in Scala 3 for backwards compatibility.

If you place that code in a file named happyBirthday.scala, you can then compile it with scalac and run it with scala, as shown previously:

$ scalac happyBirthday.scala

$ scala happyBirthday 23 Lisa Peter
Happy 23rd Birthday, Lisa and Peter!

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