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Protocol Buffer Compiler for Scala

Generated Code

This page describes the code generated by ScalaPB and how to use it.

Default Package Structure

The generator will create a Scala file for each top-level message and enum in your proto file. Using multiple files results in a better incremental compilation performance.

The Scala package of the generated files will be determined as follows:

  • If the java_package option is defined, then the Scala package will be java_package.base_name where base_name is the name of the proto file without the .proto extension.
  • If the java_package is undefined, but the file specifies a package name via the package keyword then the Scala package will be package.base_name.
  • If neither java_package nor package are specified, the Scala package will be just base_name.

From version 0.4.2, there is a way to customize the package name by using file-level options.


Each message corresponds to a final case class and a companion object. Optional fields are wrapped in an Option[], repeated fields are given as Seq[], and required fields (which you should not use, see “Required is forever” in the Language Guide are normal members.

For example, if your protocol buffer looks like this:

message Person {
    optional string name = 1;
    optional int32 age = 2;

    // Address is a message defined somewhere else.
    repeated Address addresses = 3;

…then the compiler will generate code that looks like this:

final case class Person(
    name: Option[String] = None,
    age: Option[Int] = None,
    addresses: Seq[Address] = Nil) extends GeneratedMessage {

    def toByteArray: Array[Byte] = { ... }

    // more stuff...

object Person extends GeneratedMessageCompanion[Person] {
    def parseFrom(bytes: Array[Byte]): Person = { ... }

    // more stuff...

The case class contains various methods for serialization, and the companion object contains method for parsing. See the source code for GeneratedMessage and GeneratedMessageCompanion to see what methods are available

Building New Messages

Create a new instance of a message by calling the constructor (as you normally would for a case class):

val p1 = Person()

val p2 = Person(name = Some("John"))

When constructing messages, it is advised to use named arguments Person(name = x, age = y) to ensure your code does not rely on the order of the fields in the protocol buffer definition.

Updating Messages

Messages are immutables: once you created a message instance it can not be changed. Messages are thread-safe: you can access the same message instance from multiple threads.

When you want to modify a message, simply create a new one based on the original. You can use the copy() method Scala provides for all case classes, however ScalaPB provides additional methods to make it even easier.

The first method is using a withX() method, where X is a name of a field. For example

val p = Person().withName("John").withAge(29)

Note that when using the withX() method on an optional field, you do not need to provide the Some().

Another way to update a message is using the update() method:

val p = Person().update( := "John",
  _.age := 29

The update() method takes “mutations” (like the assignments above), and applies them on the object. Using the update() method, as we will see below, usually results in a more concise code, especially when your fields are message types.

Optional Fields

Optional fields are wrapped inside an Option. The compiler will generate a getX() method that will return the option’s value if it is set, or a default value for the field if it is unset (that is, if it is None)

There are two ways to update an optional field using the update() method:

val p = Person().update(
  // Pass the value directly: := "John",

  // Use the optionalX prefix and pass an Option:
  _.optionalAge := Some(37)  // ...or None

The first way sets the field with a value, the second way lets you pass an Option[] so it is possible to set the field to None.

For each optional field X, the compiler also generates a clearX() method that returns a new instance of the message which is identical to the original one except that the field is assigned the value None.

Required Fields

Required fields have no default value in the generated constructor, so you must specify them when you instantiate a new message. Differences from optional fields:

  • The value of the field is not wrapped inside an Option.
  • There is no getX method (you can always use .x)
  • There is no clearX method (since that will result in an invalid message)
  • There is no _.optionalX lens for the update() method.

Repeated Fields

Repeated fields are provided as a Seq[T]. The compiler will generate the following methods:

  • addFoo(f1, [f2, f3, ...]: Foo): returns a copy with the given elements added to the original list.
  • addAllFoo(fs: Seq[Foo]): returns a copy with the given sequence of elements added to the original list.
  • withX(otherList): replace the sequence with another.
  • clearX: replace with the sequence with an empty one.

Using update() is especially fun with repeated fields:

val p = Person().update(
  // Override the addresses
  _.addressses := newListOfAddress,

  // Add one address:
  _.addressses :+= address1,

  // Add a list of addresses:
  _.addresses :++= Seq(address1, address2)

  // Modify an address in the list by index!
  _.addressses(1).street := "Townsend St."

  // Modify all addresses:
  _.addresses.foreach( := "San Francisco")

  // Apply a transformation to all addresses (this is
  // just for showing off, it is not specific for
  // repeatables - it happens in the nested mutations)

Oneof Fields

Oneofs are great when you model a message that has multiple disjoint cases. An example use case would be:

// Represent a payment by credit card
message CreditCardPayment {
    optional string last4 = 1;
    optional int32 expiration_month = 2;
    optional int32 expiration_year = 3;

// Represent a payment by credit card
message BankTransferPayment {
    optional string routing_number = 1;
    optional string account_number = 2;

// Represents an order placed by a customer:
message Order {
    optional int amount = 1;
    optional string customer_id = 2;

    // How did we get paid? At most one option must be set.
    oneof payment_type {
        CreditCardPayment credit_card = 3;
        BankTransferPayment bank = 4;

The compiler will generate code that looks like this:

final case class CreditCardPayment { ... }
final case class BankTransfer { ... }

case class Order(..., paymentType: Payment.PaymentType) {
    // Set the payment type to a specific case:
    def withCreditCard(v: CreditCardPayment): Order
    def withBank(v: BankTransferPayment): Order

    // Sets the entire payment type to a new value:
    def withPaymentType(v: PaymentType): Order

    // Sets the PaymentType to Empty
    def clearPaymentType: Order

object Order {
    sealed trait PaymentType {
        def isEmpty: Boolean
        def isDefined: Boolean
        def isCreditCard: Boolean
        def isBank: Boolean
        def creditCard: Option[CreditCardPayment]
        def bank: Option[BankTransferPayment]

    case object Empty extends PaymentType

    case class CreditCard(v: CreditCardPayment) extends PaymentType

    case class Bank(v: CreditCardPayment) extends PaymentType

This enables writing coding like this:

val o1 = Order()
  .withCreditCard(CreditCardPayment(last4 = Some("4848")))

// which is equivalent to:
val o2 = Order().update(
  _.creditCard.last4 := "4848")

// This changes the payment type to a bank, so the credit card data is
// not reachable any more through o3.
val o3 = o1.update( := "333")

if (o3.paymentType.isBank) {
  // Do something useful.

// Pattern matching:
import Order.PaymentType
o3.paymentType match {
    case PaymentType.CreditCard(cc) =>  // handle cc
    case PaymentType.Bank(b) =>  // handle b
    case PaymentType.Empty =>  // handle exceptional case...

// The one of values are available as Option too:
val maybeRoutingNumber: Option[String] = {
    b => b.routingNumber


Enumerations are implemented using sealed traits that extend GeneratedEnum. This approach, rather than using Scala’s standard Enumeration type, allows getting a warning from the Scala compiler when a pattern match is incomplete.

For a definition like:

enum Weather {
    SUNNY = 1;
    RAIN = 3;

message Forecast {
    optional Weather weather = 1;

The compiler will generate:

sealed trait Weather extends GeneratedEnum {
    def isSunny: Boolean
    def isPartlyCloudy: Boolean
    def isRain: Boolean

object Weather extends GeneratedEnumCompanion[Weather] {
    case object Sunny extends Weather {
        val value = 1
        val name = "SUNNY"

    // Similarly for the other enum values...
    case object PartlyCloudy extends Weather { ... }
    case object Rain extends Weather { ... }

    // In ScalaPB >= 0.5.x, this captures unknown value that are received
    // from the wire format.  Earlier versions throw a MatchError when
    // this happens.
    case class Unrecognized(value: Int) extends Weather { ... }

    // And a list of all possible values:
    lazy val values = Seq(Sunny, PartlyCloudy, Rain)

case class Forecast(weather: Option[Weather]) { ... }

And we can write:

val f = Forecard().update( := Weather.PartlyCloud)

assert( == Some(Weather.PartlyCloudy)

if (f.getWeather.isRain) {
    // take an umbrella

// Pattern matching:
f.getWeather match {
    case Weather.Rain =>
    case Weather.Sunny =>
    case _ =>

ASCII Representation

Each message case-class has toString method that returns a string representation of the message in an ASCII format. The ASCII format can be parsed back by the fromAscii() method available on the companion object.

That format is not officially documented, but at least the standard Python, Java and C++ implementations of protobuf attempt to generate (and be able to parse) compatible ASCII representations. ScalaPB’s toString() and fromAscii follow the Java implementation.

The format looks lie this:

int_field: 17
string_field: "foo"
repeated_string_field: "foo"
repeated_string_field: "bar"
message_field {
  field1: "value1"
  color_enum: BLUE

This format can be useful for debugging or for transient data processing, but beware of persisting these ASCII representations: unknown fields throw an exception, and unlike the binary format, the ASCII format is senstitive to renames.

Java Conversions

If you are dealing with legacy Java protocol buffer code, while still wanting to write new code using ScalaPB, it can be useful to generate converters to/from the Java protocol buffers. To do this, set PB.targets in Compile like this in your build.sbt:

PB.targets in Compile := Seq( -> (sourceManaged in Compile).value,
  scalapb.gen(javaConversions=true) -> (sourceManaged in Compile).value

This will result in the following changes:

  • The companion object for each message will have fromJavaProto and toJavaProto methods.
  • The companion object for enums will have fromJavaValue and toJavaValue methods.