1. Scope delegation (.value lookup)

Scope delegation (.value lookup) 

This page describes scope delegation. It assumes you’ve read and understood the previous pages, build definition and scopes.

Now that we’ve covered all the details of scoping, we can explain the .value lookup in detail. It’s ok to skip this section if this is your first time reading this page.

To summarize what we’ve learned so far:

  • A scope is a tuple of components in three axes: the subproject axis, the configuration axis, and the task axis.
  • There’s a special scope component Zero for any of the scope axes.
  • There’s a special scope component ThisBuild for the subprojects axis only.
  • Test extends Runtime, and Runtime extends Compile configuration.
  • A key placed in build.sbt is scoped to ${current subproject} / Zero / Zero by default.
  • A key can be scoped using / operator.

Now let’s suppose we have the following build definition:

lazy val foo = settingKey[Int]("")
lazy val bar = settingKey[Int]("")

lazy val projX = (project in file("x"))
  .settings(
    foo := {
      (Test / bar).value + 1
    },
    Compile / bar := 1
  )

Inside of foo’s setting body a dependency on the scoped key Test / bar is declared. However, despite Test / bar being undefined in projX, sbt is still able to resolve Test / bar to another scoped key, resulting in foo initialized as 2.

sbt has a well-defined fallback search path called scope delegation. This feature allows you to set a value once in a more general scope, allowing multiple more-specific scopes to inherit the value.

Scope delegation rules 

Here are the rules for scope delegation:

  • Rule 1: Scope axes have the following precedence: the subproject axis, the configuration axis, and then the task axis.
  • Rule 2: Given a scope, delegate scopes are searched by substituting the task axis in the following order: the given task scoping, and then Zero, which is non-task scoped version of the scope.
  • Rule 3: Given a scope, delegate scopes are searched by substituting the configuration axis in the following order: the given configuration, its parents, their parents and so on, and then Zero (same as unscoped configuration axis).
  • Rule 4: Given a scope, delegate scopes are searched by substituting the subproject axis in the following order: the given subproject, ThisBuild, and then Zero.
  • Rule 5: A delegated scoped key and its dependent settings/tasks are evaluated without carrying the original context.

We will look at each rule in the rest of this page.

Rule 1: Scope axis precedence 

  • Rule 1: Scope axes have the following precedence: the subproject axis, the configuration axis, and then the task axis.

In other words, given two scope candidates, if one has more specific value on the subproject axis, it will always win regardless of the configuration or the task scoping. Similarly, if subprojects are the same, one with more specific configuration value will always win regardless of the task scoping. We will see more rules to define more specific.

Rule 2: The task axis delegation 

  • Rule 2: Given a scope, delegate scopes are searched by substituting the task axis in the following order: the given task scoping, and then Zero, which is non-task scoped version of the scope.

Here we have a concrete rule for how sbt will generate delegate scopes given a key. Remember, we are trying to show the search path given an arbitrary (xxx / yyy).value.

Exercise A: Given the following build definition:

lazy val projA = (project in file("a"))
  .settings(
    name := {
      "foo-" + (packageBin / scalaVersion).value
    },
    scalaVersion := "2.11.11"
  )

What is the value of projA / name?

  1. "foo-2.11.11"
  2. "foo-2.12.10"
  3. something else?

The answer is "foo-2.11.11". Inside of .settings(...), scalaVersion is automatically scoped to projA / Zero / Zero, so packageBin / scalaVersion becomes projA / Zero / packageBin / scalaVersion. That particular scoped key is undefined. By using Rule 2, sbt will substitute the task axis to Zero as projA / Zero / Zero (or projA / scalaVersion). That scoped key is defined to be "2.11.11".

Rule 3: The configuration axis search path 

  • Rule 3: Given a scope, delegate scopes are searched by substituting the configuration axis in the following order: the given configuration, its parents, their parents and so on, and then Zero (same as unscoped configuration axis).

The example for that is projX that we saw earlier:

lazy val foo = settingKey[Int]("")
lazy val bar = settingKey[Int]("")

lazy val projX = (project in file("x"))
  .settings(
    foo := {
      (Test / bar).value + 1
    },
    Compile / bar := 1
  )

If we write out the full scope again, it’s projX / Test / Zero. Also recall that Test extends Runtime, and Runtime extends Compile.

Test / bar is undefined, but due to Rule 3 sbt will look for bar scoped in projX / Test / Zero, projX / Runtime / Zero, and then projX / Compile / Zero. The last one is found, which is Compile / bar.

Rule 4: The subproject axis search path 

  • Rule 4: Given a scope, delegate scopes are searched by substituting the subproject axis in the following order: the given subproject, ThisBuild, and then Zero.

Exercise B: Given the following build definition:

ThisBuild / organization := "com.example"

lazy val projB = (project in file("b"))
  .settings(
    name := "abc-" + organization.value,
    organization := "org.tempuri"
  )

What is the value of projB / name?

  1. "abc-com.example"
  2. "abc-org.tempuri"
  3. something else?

The answer is abc-org.tempuri. So based on Rule 4, the first search path is organization scoped to projB / Zero / Zero, which is defined in projB as "org.tempuri". This has higher precedence than the build-level setting ThisBuild / organization.

Scope axis precedence, again 

Exercise C: Given the following build definition:

ThisBuild / packageBin / scalaVersion := "2.12.2"

lazy val projC = (project in file("c"))
  .settings(
    name := {
      "foo-" + (packageBin / scalaVersion).value
    },
    scalaVersion := "2.11.11"
  )

What is value of projC / name?

  1. "foo-2.12.2"
  2. "foo-2.11.11"
  3. something else?

The answer is foo-2.11.11. scalaVersion scoped to projC / Zero / packageBin is undefined. Rule 2 finds projC / Zero / Zero. Rule 4 finds ThisBuild / Zero / packageBin. In this case Rule 1 dictates that more specific value on the subproject axis wins, which is projC / Zero / Zero that is defined to "2.11.11".

Exercise D: Given the following build definition:

ThisBuild / scalacOptions += "-Ywarn-unused-import"

lazy val projD = (project in file("d"))
  .settings(
    test := {
      println((Compile / console / scalacOptions).value)
    },
    console / scalacOptions -= "-Ywarn-unused-import",
    Compile / scalacOptions := scalacOptions.value // added by sbt
  )

What would you see if you ran projD/test?

  1. List()
  2. List(-Ywarn-unused-import)
  3. something else?

The answer is List(-Ywarn-unused-import). Rule 2 finds projD / Compile / Zero, Rule 3 finds projD / Zero / console, and Rule 4 finds ThisBuild / Zero / Zero. Rule 1 selects projD / Compile / Zero because it has the subproject axis projD, and the configuration axis has higher precedence over the task axis.

Next, Compile / scalacOptions refers to scalacOptions.value, we next need to find a delegate for projD / Zero / Zero. Rule 4 finds ThisBuild / Zero / Zero and thus it resolves to List(-Ywarn-unused-import).

Inspect command lists the delegates 

You might want to look up quickly what is going on. This is where inspect can be used.

sbt:projd> inspect projD / Compile / console / scalacOptions
[info] Task: scala.collection.Seq[java.lang.String]
[info] Description:
[info]  Options for the Scala compiler.
[info] Provided by:
[info]  ProjectRef(uri("file:/tmp/projd/"), "projD") / Compile / scalacOptions
[info] Defined at:
[info]  /tmp/projd/build.sbt:9
[info] Reverse dependencies:
[info]  projD / test
[info]  projD / Compile / console
[info] Delegates:
[info]  projD / Compile / console / scalacOptions
[info]  projD / Compile / scalacOptions
[info]  projD / console / scalacOptions
[info]  projD / scalacOptions
[info]  ThisBuild / Compile / console / scalacOptions
[info]  ThisBuild / Compile / scalacOptions
[info]  ThisBuild / console / scalacOptions
[info]  ThisBuild / scalacOptions
[info]  Zero / Compile / console / scalacOptions
[info]  Zero / Compile / scalacOptions
[info]  Zero / console / scalacOptions
[info]  Global / scalacOptions

Note how “Provided by” shows that projD / Compile / console / scalacOptions is provided by projD / Compile / scalacOptions. Also under “Delegates”, all of the possible delegate candidates listed in the order of precedence!

  • All the scopes with projD scoping on the subproject axis are listed first, then ThisBuild, and Zero.
  • Within a subproject, scopes with Compile scoping on the configuration axis are listed first, then falls back to Zero.
  • Finally, the task axis scoping lists the given task scoping console / and the one without.

.value lookup vs dynamic dispatch 

  • Rule 5: A delegated scoped key and its dependent settings/tasks are evaluated without carrying the original context.

Note that scope delegation feels similar to class inheritance in an object-oriented language, but there’s a difference. In an OO language like Scala if there’s a method named drawShape on a trait Shape, its subclasses can override the behavior even when drawShape is used by other methods in the Shape trait, which is called dynamic dispatch.

In sbt, however, scope delegation can delegate a scope to a more general scope, like a project-level setting to a build-level settings, but that build-level setting cannot refer to the project-level setting.

Exercise E: Given the following build definition:

lazy val root = (project in file("."))
  .settings(
    inThisBuild(List(
      organization := "com.example",
      scalaVersion := "2.12.2",
      version      := scalaVersion.value + "_0.1.0"
    )),
    name := "Hello"
  )

lazy val projE = (project in file("e"))
  .settings(
    scalaVersion := "2.11.11"
  )

What will projE / version return?

  1. "2.12.2_0.1.0"
  2. "2.11.11_0.1.0"
  3. something else?

The answer is 2.12.2_0.1.0. projE / version delegates to ThisBuild / version, which depends on ThisBuild / scalaVersion. Because of this reason, build level setting should be limited mostly to simple value assignments.

Exercise F: Given the following build definition:

ThisBuild / scalacOptions += "-D0"
scalacOptions += "-D1"

lazy val projF = (project in file("f"))
  .settings(
    compile / scalacOptions += "-D2",
    Compile / scalacOptions += "-D3",
    Compile / compile / scalacOptions += "-D4",
    test := {
      println("bippy" + (Compile / compile / scalacOptions).value.mkString)
    }
  )

What will projF / test show?

  1. "bippy-D4"
  2. "bippy-D2-D4"
  3. "bippy-D0-D3-D4"
  4. something else?

The answer is "bippy-D0-D3-D4". This is a variation of an exercise originally created by Paul Phillips.

It’s a great demonstration of all the rules because someKey += "x" expands to

someKey := {
  val old = someKey.value
  old :+ "x"
}

Retrieving the old value would cause delegation, and due to Rule 5, it will go to another scoped key. Let’s get rid of += first, and annotate the delegates for old values:

ThisBuild / scalacOptions := {
  // Global / scalacOptions <- Rule 4
  val old = (ThisBuild / scalacOptions).value
  old :+ "-D0"
}

scalacOptions := {
  // ThisBuild / scalacOptions <- Rule 4
  val old = scalacOptions.value
  old :+ "-D1"
}

lazy val projF = (project in file("f"))
  .settings(
    compile / scalacOptions := {
      // ThisBuild / scalacOptions <- Rules 2 and 4
      val old = (compile / scalacOptions).value
      old :+ "-D2"
    },
    Compile / scalacOptions := {
      // ThisBuild / scalacOptions <- Rules 3 and 4
      val old = (Compile / scalacOptions).value
      old :+ "-D3"
    },
    Compile / compile / scalacOptions := {
      // projF / Compile / scalacOptions <- Rules 1 and 2
      val old = (Compile / compile / scalacOptions).value
      old :+ "-D4"
    },
    test := {
      println("bippy" + (Compile / compile / scalacOptions).value.mkString)
    }
  )

This becomes:

ThisBuild / scalacOptions := {
  Nil :+ "-D0"
}

scalacOptions := {
  List("-D0") :+ "-D1"
}

lazy val projF = (project in file("f"))
  .settings(
    compile / scalacOptions := List("-D0") :+ "-D2",
    Compile / scalacOptions := List("-D0") :+ "-D3",
    Compile / compile / scalacOptions := List("-D0", "-D3") :+ "-D4",
    test := {
      println("bippy" + (Compile / compile / scalacOptions).value.mkString)
    }
  )