The Scoop On Scala Programming

Whether you see it or not, Big Data is all around us. Google processes some 3.5 billion search queries per day while Facebook has around 500 million users, many of whom produce data regularly for the social media giant. This widespread growth of Big Data has prompted many IT organizations to seek new programming solutions, one of which being Scala.

Scala stands for “Scalable Language,” which is a key characteristic of this language. Unlike many other programming languages, Scala grows to meet the needs of the programmer. It can be used to create basic expressions, but it can also be used to navigate the otherwise complex systems of Big Data. Scala's unmatched versatility in this the sense has attracted everyone from first-time programmers to Intel and Twitter. But what exactly is Scala?

Scala: the Basics

Originally created by Martin Odersky at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Scala is a general-purpose, object-oriented programming language in which every value is and every operation is a method-call. It combines both object-oriented and functional programming to create a truly remarkable, concise and powerful language.

Because it was written to run in Java Virtual Machine (JVM), many people assume that it's no different Java. While Scala certainly shares some similarities with its Java counterpart (we'll get to that later), Scala was designed with the goal of being a better language. According to Wikipedia, Scala's design was inspired by the criticism of Java's shortcomings.

Scala is a pure object-oriented programming language that supports advanced components through the use of classes and traits. It supports many of the design patterns used in Java and other programming languages, such as singletons with object definitions. Scala also allows users to add new operations to classes, regardless of whether they originate from Scala or Java.

You might be wondering what Scala is used for. Well, it can be used for a wide range of different projects and applications. In fact, it's often referred to as the “ideal” for language to write map/reduce programs of all sizes.

Scala vs Java: What's the Difference?

One of the perks of Scala is that it runs seamlessly with Java code. Java and Scala classes can be used interchangeably without fear of compatibility problems. Programmers can even refer to a Java class in Scala code or vise-versa. Scala is able to run on all JVMs, as well as Google's Android mobile operating system.

Some of the primary differences between Java and Scala include the following:

  • Values are capitalized.

  • Generic types are created as List[String], whereas Java's are created at List<String>

  • Parameter and return types follow.

  • Does not require the use of semicolons to end statements.

  • Methods are preceded by def.

  • Generic types are created using brackets.

  • Uses the singleton class unit.

  • Array references are created like function calls.

  • Uses the import foo._.

  • Local and class variables are proceeded by val for immutable variables or var for mutable variables.

  • While allowed in Scala programming, the return operator is unnecessary as a function.

Of course, these are just a few of the differences between Java and Scala. As you become more proficient in this language, you'll probably discover other nuances. For instance, instead of constructor parameters, Scala uses class parameters. These are placed within the class itself, much like the parameters of Java are placed to a function.

It's also worth noting that Scala has many functional programming features, such as currying, type interface, immutability, lazy evolution and pattern matching.

How to Test Scala:

There are several different ways to test your Scala code, including:

  • ScalaTest – allows for multiple testing styles; supports integration with Java testing frameworks.

  • ScalaCheck – testing library similar to QuickCheck.

  • specs2 – library for writing executable specifications of software.

  • ScalaMock – offers support for testing high-order functions.

  • JUnit – testing framework written in Java.

  • TestNG – testing framework written in Java.

But Aren't Dynamic Languages Better?

Programming languages typically fall under the category of either dynamic or static, with Scala being the latter. Some programmers may argue that dynamic languages are more powerful and versatile, but the truth is that each type has its own strengths and weaknesses. Scala's statically typed language helps to identify and fix problems, making it an excellent choice for developers. The problem with dynamic languages is that it increases the risk of bugs and errors, as developers must run through a variety of scenarios; this, leading to defective code. Thankfully, this isn't a problem with Scala since it's statically-typed.


Aside from all of the benefits listed above, another reason to use Scala is the simple fact that it's “future-proof.” It takes full advantage of concurrent and synchronous processing, multiple core parallel utilization and cloud-based processing distribution. Technical jargon aside, Scala scales to meet your needs.

Scala has been used for all types of projects, both big and small. Among the most notable uses of this programming language is for Apache Spark. So whether you're testing the waters of computer programming, or if you are working on a massive project, you can't go wrong with Scala.

The Scala compiler and libraries are distributed under the BSD license. You can download all of the necessary files by visiting the official Scala website at The software distribution package can be installed on any platform using Java runtime 1.6 or later. For Scala 2.2, it requires Java 8.

To recap, Scala is a general-purpose, object-oriented programming language with a strong static type system. It runs on JVM while offering many of the same benefits as Java. In addition, though, it features operator overloading, optional parameters, named parameters, raw strings, and more. Hopefully, this will give you a better understanding of Scala and how it's used.

Thanks for reading and feel free to let us know your thoughts in the comments below regarding Scala.