How to combine Scala pattern matching with regex

Scala’s pattern matching is arguably one of its most powerful features and is straight-forward to use when matching on patterns like x::xs vs. x vs. Nil, but you can also use it to match regular expressions. This short tutorial will show you how to use pattern matching and regex to parse a simple DSL for filtering search results.

The domain of the tutorial is a library system where users can search by author, title, or year. They can also combine filters to make the search results more narrow. We’ll start by defining some objects to work with.

case class Book(title:String, author:String, year:Int)

val books = List(
  Book("Moby Dick", "Herman Melville", 1851),
  Book("A Tale of Two Cities", "Charles Dickens", 1859),
  Book("Oliver Twist", "Charles Dickens", 1837),
  Book("The Adventures of Tom Sawyer", "Mark Twain", 1876),
  Book("The Left Hand of Darkness", "Ursula Le Guin", 1969),
  Book("Never Let Me Go", "Kazuo Ishiguro", 2005)

To filter the books, we need to supply one or more predicates. A predicate is a function that accepts a Book and returns a Boolean. Our goal is to turn something like “author=Charles Dickens” into a predicate. For starters, we need to be able to parse out user-supplied value “Charles Dickens”. Scala’s regex compiler allows for groups to be surrounded by parentheses which can then be extracted as values. The example in the documentation is val date = """(\d\d\d\d)-(\d\d)-(\d\d)""".r. You can see there are three groups defined: one each for year, month, and day. Here are the patterns we’ll allow to constrain search results:

val authorEquals = """author=([\w\s]+)""".r
val authorLike   = """author~([\w\s]+)""".r
val titleEquals  = """title=([\w\s]+)""".r
val titleLike    = """title~([\w\s]+)""".r
val yearBefore   = """year<(\d+)""".r
val yearAfter    = """year>(\d+)""".r

Remember that the goal is to return a predicate for each filter. The syntax for an anonymous predicate is (b:Book) => [boolean]. Using our example, we could create a predicate (b:Book) => == "Charles Dickens". To make the function generic, we need to be able to extract the supplied author value from the filter. Using the predefined regular expressions combined with pattern matching, we can do just that.

def parseFilter(filterString:String):Book => Boolean = filterString match {
  case authorEquals(value) => (b:Book) => == value

The filterString is passed in and pattern matched against the pre-defined regular expression authorEquals. Since we declared one group in the expression, we can name that group (value) and then use that group as a variable. Here’s the complete function that includes all of the expressions.

def parseFilter(filterString:String):Book => Boolean = filterString match {
  case authorEquals(value) => (b:Book) => == value
  case authorLike(value)   => (b:Book) =>
  case titleEquals(value)  => (b:Book) => b.title == value
  case titleLike(value)    => (b:Book) => b.title.contains(value)
  case yearBefore(value)   => (b:Book) => b.year < Integer.valueOf(value)
  case yearAfter(value)    => (b:Book) => b.year > Integer.valueOf(value)
  case _                   => (b:Book) => false

The last case catches any filter that doesn’t match a pattern and returns a predicate that does not match any book. The functional result being that an invalid filter returns no search results.

Finally, we need to be able to check a book against one or more filters. The forall method is true only if all of the filters match the given book.

def checkBook(b:Book, filterString:String) = {
  val filters = filterString.split(",").map(s => parseFilter(s))

We now have everything in place to filter the books according to our search string. Here are some examples:

books.filter(b => checkBook(b, "author=Charles Dickens"))
res0: List[Book] = List(
    Book(A Tale of Two Cities,Charles Dickens,1859),
    Book(Oliver Twist,Charles Dickens,1837))

books.filter(b => checkBook(b, "author=Charles Dickens,year>1840"))
res1: List[Book] = List(
    Book(A Tale of Two Cities,Charles Dickens,1859))

books.filter(b => checkBook(b, "title~of"))
res2: List[Book] = List(
    Book(A Tale of Two Cities,Charles Dickens,1859),
    Book(The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,Mark Twain,1876),
    Book(The Left Hand of Darkness,Ursula Le Guin,1969))

Try to add some more filters such as “starts with” or “year equals” to get practice working with regex matching.

Make Your Own Text Adventure With Python: The Book

I’m happy to announce that my popular blog post on writing your own text adventure in Python has been turned into a book!

Make Your Own Text Adventure With Python

The book is just over 100 pages long and assumes no prior knowledge of Python. It also expands on the tutorial by including some significant additional features, such as:

  • An easier and more flexible way to build your world (no text files or reflection!)
  • A game economy where the player can buy and sell items
  • The ability for players to heal during and between fights
  • Difficulty settings to make the game harder or easier

Click here to get the book!

Happy coding!

How to Add Integration Tests to a Play Framework Application Using Scala

If you are new to the Play framework and want to learn more about how Play tests are set up, or if you are new to the idea of HTTP integration testing, I encourage you to check out the tutorial I recently wrote for the Semaphore Community.

In the tutorial, I walk you through creating a simple JSON API using a library as the domain example. Then, I show you how to add tests to that API that make actual HTTP calls.

Here’s a preview of the tutorial contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Prerequisites
  3. Setting Up the Application
    1. Create a New Project
    2. Add routes
    3. Add Controllers
    4. Adding Models and a Repository
    5. Implementing the Controllers
  4. Adding Integration Tests
    1. Testing the Application Index
    2. Books Controller Tests
    3. Customer Controller Tests
  5. Conclusion

Click here to read the full tutorial!

Introducing Scalinear 0.1: A Simple Linear Algebra Library for Scala

Earlier this month I was dabbling with WebGL in Scala.js and found myself running into a wall with the matrix math. Since Scala provides no native support for matrices and many WebGL projects leverage Sylvester.js, I was stuck trying to find a comparable Scala library from which I could poach code. (Scala.js interprets Scala source code).

The best I found was Breeze, which does indeed provide a lot of good support for matrices and vectors. Unfortunately, it is a large library and does a lot more than I needed. Pulling down the necessary code was impractical. So I found myself building my own simple library to tide me over. The result was Scalinear: a simple, no-frills library for matrix and vector support in Scala.


Vectors are created simply:

scala> val v = Vector(2,4,6,8)
v: com.letstalkdata.scalinear.Vector[Int] = [2, 4, 6, 8]

They also support arithmetic in an intuitive manner:

scala> v / 2
res1: com.letstalkdata.scalinear.Vector[Int] = [1, 2, 3, 4]

scala> val u = Vector(3,3,3,3)
u: com.letstalkdata.scalinear.Vector[Int] = [3, 3, 3, 3]

scala> v + u
res2: com.letstalkdata.scalinear.Vector[Int] = [5, 7, 9, 11]


Matrices are syntactically similar to Vertices:

scala> val A = Matrix(Vector(1,2), Vector(3,4), Vector(5,6))
A: com.letstalkdata.scalinear.Matrix[Int] =
[1, 2]
[3, 4]
[5, 6]

scala> val B = Matrix(Vector(1,2,3), Vector(4,5,6))
B: com.letstalkdata.scalinear.Matrix[Int] =
[1, 2, 3]
[4, 5, 6]

scala> A * B
res0: com.letstalkdata.scalinear.Matrix[Int] =
[9, 12, 15]
[19, 26, 33]
[29, 40, 51]

By design, the library is very limited. It’s definitely not intended as a replacement for something like Breeze. Instead, it’s a simple solution when only basic linear algebra support is needed. Having said that, I’d love to know if there are missing functions that would make your life easier. Please take a look at the project and feel free to leave feedback below.

More experimenting with Scala.js

When I was younger, I remember spending way too much time with a puzzle much like this one. Mine was diamond shaped, and on the back there were triangles to create a 3D pyramid with the same shapes. It came with a solution guide, and at the time it seemed like there were thousands of solutions. In retrospect, there were probably only a few hundred.

The simplicity of the game made it seem accessible as an early programming project, and indeed it was one of the first graphical applications I tried to make. My GitHub log tells me the first commit was in July of 2012, and I can’t believe it’s only been three years since I started getting serious about programming.

I never really finished that project and have been wanting to revisit it for some time now. When I decided to learn more about HTML5 canvas graphics, it seemed like the perfect opportunity. But I kind of hate JavaScript. Whenever I find myself writing JavaScript, I feel like I’m hacking my way through the code to fix some weird UI behavior. So it seemed obvious to me combine my recent dabbling in Scala.js with my exploration of HTML5.

The result was a first draft of Hexiles.
A screen shot of the hexiles puzzle game

Play the game!
Fork the game on GitHub!