Bootstrap Scala Project

Meng Lin, in 29 January 2019
Good start is half of the success, while knowing how to start is even more important. In this article, I will introduce you to a few different ways to bootstrap a Scala project to get you started easily.


Unsurprisingly, Gradle is pretty much the golden standard for building JVM-based languages, including Scala. Once installed, what you need to run is gradle init. Then you can choose from a range of types of projects to generate, scala-library is one of them.

Wait, sounds a bit too convenient?

Yes, it is literally this convenient, and the code compiles and tests pretty damn fast as well, in comparision to other mechanisms I am going to talk about. The catch is: it is not the default approach if you go around asking people that uses Scala. As a consequence, you are limited to create simple Scala library project only.

So what now?


sbt, it’s what you get if you google for Scala build tool. While sbt stands for “Simple Build Tool”, but it is not that simple, ironically. There’s even a book about sbt (that’s how simple it is).

Despite not the simplest build tool in the world, it actually does what it’s designed to do: building Scala projects, and you should really invest in learning it because it’s THE tool for building Scala projects natively, and more, which I won’t elaborate here.

Going back to bootstraping, run sbt new <template> to create a templated Scala project. A list of supported templates can be found here.


Similar to sbt, activator, which is short for typesafe-activator, is created by Lightbend, which was founded by Big Martin. The reason for the confusing naming is because Big Martin’s company used to be called “Typesafe”, which got renamed to “Lightbend” around 2016.

activator is a wrapper around sbt, and also offers a rich set of Lightbend and third party Scala project templates to bootstrap a project, such as “akka”, “finatra”, “play”, “spark” and etc, just to name a few.

You can install it conveniently via brew install typesafe-activator. And it’s pretty simple to use as well, run activator and you will be prompted hints on the usage.


It is worth bearing in mind that activator will bootstrap the project based on however it’s templated, and some will even be using gradle instead of sbt. Despite the complication, I do think it’s a good tool to have in the toolbox, and can be used to access a wide range of templates, but definitely use sbt for the actual building of Scala project if you want a better experience.