Enriching Scala With Implicits

Imagine you are an ETL developer using Spring Cloud Data Flow. Nothing is really available for distributed systems and streaming ETL that is as powerful as this tool. Alteryx and Pentaho are at least a year away from pushing out anything as capable. While Pentaho might work, there are just too many holes to fill.

However, you could do with a more compact code language than Java when programming for Spring. A powerful solution is to combine the Spring ecosystem with Scala, using implicits to eliminate redundant code.

This article focuses on using the enrichment pattern in Scala code through the IterableLike library and the concept of the implicit.



Time is Money


Implicits allow code that is in scope to be utilized when variables are not defined. Only one implicit of a type may be defined within a class:

implicit val myImplicitString : String = "hello there"

def printHello(str : String)={
   println(str)//should print "hello there"

This class creates an implicit string and utilizes it in the method printHello. Having two implicit strings confuses the compiler and causes it to crash.

Implicits create the possibility of using the enrichment pattern as described in the next to last section by attaching an implicit definition to a library when a non-existing function is called.

Remap An Object

Our enrichment example contains a method that removes an item from an IterableLike object only when a specific condition holds:

class IterableScalaFuncs[A,Repr](xs : IterableLike[A,Repr]){

      * Remove an object by a single property value.
      * @param f              The thunk to use
      * @param cbf            The CanBuildFrom to get a builder which should not be touched
      * @tparam That          The result type
      * @return That which should just be of type A
    def removeObjectMatching[That](f : A => Boolean)(implicit cbf : CanBuildFrom[Repr,A,That]):That={
        val builder = cbf(xs.repr)
        val it = xs.iterator

            val o = it.next()
                builder += o


IterableLikeScalaFuncs contains a removeObjectMatching method that takes the result as a type parameter, the thunk to match with in the parameter list, and implicitly connects the existing CanBuildFrom from IterableLike in the net parameter list. It then creates a builder of our type and proceeds to populate it with objects not matching the thunk before returning a new collection with the appropriate items removed.

Enrichment Pattern

The enrichment pattern in Scala embellishes libraries by appending code to them as opposed to creating a wrapper class which must be instantiated. This requires implicitly attaching method definitions to existing libraries but allows Scala to be easily used from the console and in classes.

The class in the previous section can be attached to all IterableLike collections implicitly:

  * The enrichment for Iterables wrapping IterablLike with IterableScalaFuncs
  * @param xs       Our IterableLike object
  * @tparam A       The type of the Iterable
  * @tparam Repr    Traversable Repr
implicit def enrichIterable[A, Repr](xs: IterableLike[A, Repr]) = new IterableScalaFuncs(xs)

The method enrichIterable attaches to the target collections and is used as follows:

import ScalaFuncImplicits._
val list : List[(Int,Int)] = List[(Int,Int)]((1,2),(2,3)).removeObjectMatching(_.1 == 1) //should product List((2,3))


This article reviewed the power of Scala Implicits to reduce redundant code without accounting for every type. The enrichment pattern can be used to easily integrate methods with existing libraries.

Code is available at Github


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