Main Methods

Scala 3 offers a new way to define programs that can be invoked from the command line: A @main annotation on a method turns this method into an executable program. Example:

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

This would generate a main program happyBirthday that could be called like this

> scala happyBirthday 23 Lisa Peter
Happy 23rd birthday, Lisa and Peter

A @main annotated method can be written either at the top-level or in a statically accessible object. The name of the program is in each case the name of the method, without any object prefixes. The @main method can have an arbitrary number of parameters. For each parameter type there must be an instance of the scala.util.CommandLineParser.FromString type class that is used to convert an argument string to the required parameter type. The parameter list of a main method can end in a repeated parameter that then takes all remaining arguments given on the command line.

The program implemented from a @main method checks that there are enough arguments on the command line to fill in all parameters, and that argument strings are convertible 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"

The Scala compiler generates a program from a @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. 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 object.

For instance, the happyBirthDay method above would generate 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))
         case error: CLP.ParseError => CLP.showError(error)

Note: The <static> modifier above expresses that the main method is generated as a static method of class happyBirthDay. It is not available for user programs in Scala. Regular "static" members are generated in Scala using objects instead.

@main methods are the recommended scheme to generate programs that can be invoked from the command line in Scala 3. They replace the previous scheme to write program as objects with a special App parent class. In Scala 2, happyBirthday could be written also like this:

object happyBirthday extends App:
   // needs by-hand parsing of arguments vector

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 does not support command line arguments and will be deprecated in the future. If programs need to cross-build between Scala 2 and Scala 3, it is recommended to use an explicit main method with an Array[String] argument instead.