SQL Data Access in Play using Scala

Today’s modern application frameworks come with a promise of easy sql data access. There is no wonder why we have so many frameworks that make it easier to issue queries and handle transactions. SQL is the lingua franca of most applications when it comes to databases.

Play comes with the JDBC plugin. We encountered the JDBC plugin previously in order to modify our database schema.

The first step is to include the jdbc and the evolutions module.

libraryDependencies += evolutions
libraryDependencies += jdbc

Then we shall define the connection string needed. We will use a simple h2 database. The configuration is added at the application.conf.


Then we add a script that creates the users table.

# Users schema

# --- !Ups

    id bigint(20) NOT NULL AUTO_INCREMENT,
    email varchar(255) NOT NULL,
    first_name varchar(255) NOT NULL,
    last_name varchar(255) NOT NULL,
    PRIMARY KEY (id),
    UNIQUE KEY (email)

# --- !Downs


Before creating our repository class let’s check what the jdbc plugin provides us with.

We have the plain getConnection method, responsible for returning a jdbc connection. This is similar to the DataSource.getConnection from Java. Thus pay extra attention since you must close the connection.

val connection = db.getConnection()

Next method is withConnection. By using withConnection you get Play to manage the connection for you. All you have to do is pass a block of code with jdbc actions.

  def fetchUsers(): List[User] = {

    db.withConnection { conn =>

      val stmt = conn.createStatement
      var rs = stmt.executeQuery("SELECT*FROM users");
      val listBuffer = ListBuffer[User]()

      while(rs.next()) {



As you can see above, we’ve just returned back a list of our user entries.

And last but not least withTransaction. You’ve guessed right, what you receive back is a connection with autocommit set to false.

  def addUser(user:User): User = {

    db.withTransaction { conn =>
      val stmt = conn.createStatement

      val insertQuery = "INSERT INTO users ( email, first_name, last_name) VALUES( '"+user.email+"', '"+user.firstName+"','"+user.lastName+"') "
      val resultSet = stmt.getGeneratedKeys;
      if(resultSet.next()) {
        val id = resultSet.getLong(1);
        new User(Option(id),user.email,user.firstName,user.lastName)
      } else {
        throw new Exception("User not persisted properly")

In the above example a user is persisted. In case of failure we throw an exception and the transaction is rolled back.

To sum up we have just checked how to access a sql database using play. Also we have checked the extra functions that play api provides apart from the familiar jdbc api.
That’s all for now! Feel free to check the code on github.

Use JSON with Play and Scala

Once getting your hands into typing scala code using play, the first thing that comes to mind is JSON.
Without doubt JSON is one of the most basic components of web applications. Rest apis use json, your angular app has to consume json and the list goes on.

If you are lazy like me, you expect that it is sufficient to just pass back scala objects through your controller or specify a scala class as an argument to your controller. Somehow things don’t get far from that however some adjustments have to be done.

The first step is to specify the json module

libraryDependencies += json

The JSON library is pretty similar to the org.json library for java but with extra capabilities. The types we have out of the box are


However the key functionality comes from the Reads and Writes converters which can be used to marshal or unmarshal our data structures.

Suppose we have a class called User

case class User(id:Option[Long],email:String,firstName:String,lastName:String)

We want to use this class to pass data to our controllers or use it as a response, once our action has finished.

Thus we need to create a Reader and writer for the User object.

  implicit val userWrites = new Writes[User] {
    def writes(user: User) = Json.obj(
      "id" -> user.id,
      "email" -> user.email,
      "firstName" -> user.firstName,
      "lastName" -> user.lastName

  implicit val userReads: Reads[User] = (
    (__ \ "id").readNullable[Long] and
      (__ \ "email").read[String] and
      (__ \ "firstName").read[String] and
      (__ \ "lastName").read[String]
    )(User.apply _)

Most probably you’ve noticed that the id is optional. We do so in order to be able to either pass the id of the user or not.

Now let’s put them together in a controller.

package controllers

import javax.inject.Inject

import com.google.inject.Singleton
import play.api.libs.json._
import play.api.mvc.{Action, Controller}
import play.api.libs.functional.syntax._

  * Created by gkatzioura on 4/26/17.
case class User(id:Option[Long],email:String,firstName:String,lastName:String)

class UserController @Inject() extends Controller {

  def all = Action { implicit request =>
    val users = Seq(

  def greet = Action

  def add = Action { implicit request =>

    val user  = Json.fromJson[User](request.body.asJson.get).get
    val newUser = User(Option(4L),user.email,user.firstName,user.lastName)

  implicit val userWrites = new Writes[User] {
    def writes(user: User) = Json.obj(
      "id" -> user.id,
      "email" -> user.email,
      "firstName" -> user.firstName,
      "lastName" -> user.lastName

  implicit val userReads: Reads[User] = (
    (__ \ "id").readNullable[Long] and
      (__ \ "email").read[String] and
      (__ \ "firstName").read[String] and
      (__ \ "lastName").read[String]
    )(User.apply _)

And also the roots configuration

GET     /user/                   controllers.UserController.all
POST    /user/                   controllers.UserController.add

As we can see the all method returns a list of user objects in Json format while the add method is supposed to persist a user object and assign an id to it.

Let’s do a curl request and check our results

curl http://localhost:9000/user/



curl -H "Content-Type: application/json" -X POST -d '{"email":"emmanouil@egkatzioura.com","firstName":"Emmanouil","lastName":"Gkatziouras"}' http://localhost:9000/user/



So we didn’t get into any special json handling or reading instead we used only objects.
That’s it! Now your are ready for more JSON related action!

You can check the sourcecode on github.