Scala class examples (constructors, case classes, parameters)

This post contains a collection of examples of Scala classes and class properties. I created most of these in the process of writing the Scala Cookbook.

Unlike the Cookbook, I don’t describe them much here, I just show the examples, mostly as a reference for myself (and anyone else that can benefit from them).

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Basic Scala class examples

# a basic class
class Person(var name: String, var age: Int)

# use the class
val al = new Person("Al", 42)                        // "Al"
al.age                         // 42

A bit more real-world:

// define the class
class Person(val firstName: String, val lastName: String) {
  println("the constructor begins")
  val fullName = firstName + " " + lastName

  val HOME = System.getProperty("user.home");

  // define some methods
  def foo { println("foo") }
  def printFullName {
    // access the fullName field, which is created above
  println("still in the constructor")


// demonstrate the class in the repl
scala> val p = new Person("Alvin", "Alexander")
the constructor begins
Alvin Alexander
still in the constructor
p: Person = Person@68f507d2
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The visibility of class parameters

A look at the visibility of class parameters:

// 'name' is a var
class Person(var name: String)
val p = new Person("Alvin Alexander")                                  // String = Alvin Alexander = "Fred Flintstone"              // String = Fred Flintstone

// 'name' is a val
class Person(val name: String)
val p = new Person("Alvin Alexander")                                  // String = Alvin Alexander = "Fred Flintstone"              // error: reassignment to val

// 'name' is neither var or val
class Person(name: String)
val p = new Person("Alvin Alexander")                                  // error: value name is not a member of Person

// 'name' is 'private var'
class Person(private var name: String) { def printName {println(name)}  }

val p = new Person("Alvin Alexander")       // error: variable name in class Person cannot be accessed in Person
p.printName  // Alvin Alexander

What var, val, and default mean when applied to class parameters:

Declaration    Getter?    Setter?
-----------    -------    -------
var            yes        yes
val            yes        no
default        no         no
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Auxiliary constructors

Define auxiliary constructors using this as the name for each auxiliary constructor. Make sure you call a previously defined constructor:

class Pizza {

  var crustSize = 12
  var crustType = "Thin"
  def this(crustSize: Int) {
    this.crustSize = crustSize

  def this(crustSize: Int, crustType: String) {
    this.crustType = crustType

  override def toString = {
    "A %s inch pizza with %s crust.".format(crustSize, crustType)


That class defines three constructors, which can be called like this:

object AuxiliaryConstructors extends App {
  println(new Pizza)
  println(new Pizza(14))
  println(new Pizza(16, "Thick"))

Running this object results in the following output:

A 12 inch pizza with Thin crust.
A 14 inch pizza with Thin crust.
A 16 inch pizza with Thick crust.
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Private constructor

A simple way to enforce the Singleton pattern in Scala is to make the primary constructor private, then put a getInstance method in the companion object of the class:

class Brain private {
  override def toString = "This is the brain."

object Brain {
  val brain = new Brain
  def getInstance: Brain = {
object SingletonTest extends App {

  // this won't work
  // val brain = new Brain
  // this works
  val brain = Brain.getInstance
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Default values for constructor parameters

You can provide default values for constructor parameters:

class Socket (var timeout: Int = 10000)

// create instance without a param, get the default value
val s = new Socket
s.timeout            // Int = 10000

// specify your own timeout value
val s = new Socket(5000)
s.timeout            // Int = 5000
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When to use an abstract class

Why use an “abstract class”? It can have constructor parameters, but a trait cannot.

Traits don’t allow constructor parameters:

// this won't compile
trait Animal(name: String)

// so use an abstract class
abstract class Animal(name: String)

In the following example the methods save, update, and delete are defined in the abstract class BaseController, and the method connect is undefined, and therefore abstract:

abstract class BaseController(db: Database) {
  def save { }
  def update { db.update }
  def delete { db.delete }
  def connect                             // abstract since it has no implementation
  def getStatus: String                   // an abstract method that returns a String
  def setServerName(serverName: String)   // an abstract method that takes a parameter
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JavaBean classes

To create JavaBean classes, use the @BeanProperty annotation on your fields, also making sure to declare the fields as the type var. The @BeanProperty annotation can be used in a constructor:

import scala.reflect.BeanProperty

class Person(@BeanProperty var firstName: String, 
             @BeanProperty var lastName: String, 
             @BeanProperty var age: Int) {
  // more code here ...

It can also be used on fields in a class:

import scala.reflect.BeanProperty

class EmailAccount {
  @BeanProperty var accountName: String = null
  @BeanProperty var username: String = null
  @BeanProperty var password: String = null
  @BeanProperty var mailbox: String = null
  @BeanProperty var imapServerUrl: String = null
  @BeanProperty var minutesBetweenChecks: Int = 0
  @BeanProperty var protocol: String = null
  @BeanProperty var usersOfInterest = new java.util.ArrayList[String]()
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Scala case classes

You can generate a lot of useful boilerplate code with a case class:

case class Person(var name: String, var age: Int)

With the special case class incantation, Scala generates a great deal of code for you:

  • toString, equals, and hashCode methods.
  • The constructor parameters you specify become properties with getters and setters.
  • You no longer have to use ’new’ to create an instance of your class.
  • You can use convenient extractors in match/case statements.

To see the code that Scala generates for you, first compile a simple class, then disassemble it with javap. First, put this code in a file named Person.scala:

case class Person(var name: String, var age: Int)

Then compile the file:

$ scalac Person.scala

This creates two class files, Person.class and Person$.class. Disassemble Person.class to see its signature:

$  javap Person
Compiled from "Person.scala"
public class Person extends java.lang.Object implements scala.ScalaObject,scala.Product,scala.Serializable{
  public static final scala.Function1 tupled();
  public static final scala.Function1 curry();
  public static final scala.Function1 curried();
  public scala.collection.Iterator productIterator();
  public scala.collection.Iterator productElements();
  public java.lang.String name();
  public void name_$eq(java.lang.String);
  public int age();
  public void age_$eq(int);
  public Person copy(java.lang.String, int);
  public int copy$default$2();
  public java.lang.String copy$default$1();
  public int hashCode();
  public java.lang.String toString();
  public boolean equals(java.lang.Object);
  public java.lang.String productPrefix();
  public int productArity();
  public java.lang.Object productElement(int);
  public boolean canEqual(java.lang.Object);
  public Person(java.lang.String, int);

Also disassemble Person$.class to see its signature:

$  javap Person$
Compiled from "Person.scala"
public final class Person$ extends scala.runtime.AbstractFunction2 implements scala.ScalaObject,scala.Serializable{
  public static final Person$ MODULE$;
  public static {};
  public final java.lang.String toString();
  public scala.Option unapply(Person);
  public Person apply(java.lang.String, int);
  public java.lang.Object readResolve();
  public java.lang.Object apply(java.lang.Object, java.lang.Object);
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The protected keyword

The protected keyword:

  • the protected keyword in scala has a different meaning than in java
  • protected means current class and subclasses can access member
  • unlike java, other classes in package can’t access member


package foo {
  class Foo {
    // (1) make 'getFoo' protected.
    protected def getFoo = "foo"
  class FooSub extends Foo {
    def doFoo = {
      // (2) we can access getFoo because we're a subclass of Foo
      val x = getFoo
  class Bar {
    def doBar = {
      val f = new Foo
      // (3) this line won't compile because getFoo is protected

package baz {
  import foo.Foo
  class Baz {
    def doBaz = {
      val f = new Foo
      // (4) this won't work either
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In summary, I hope these Scala class examples have been helpful. I’ll keep adding more to these examples as time goes on.

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