Building Android Apps with Scala - pre-requisites February 3, 2011

This is the first in a series of blog posts about getting started with Android, Scala, IntelliJ and simple-build-tool.  Hopefully this will help people who are interested in building Android apps, but don't want to write Java get started.  Also, if you're already building Android apps, but would like a more expressive language while staying close to the metal then Scala is a great alternative to Java.  By the end of this series, you should be able to build, deploy and package your Scala Android apps both from the command line and IntelliJ. My primary development environment is Ubuntu Linux but I will provide platform specific instructions where appropriate. These instructions assume that you have Java 1.6 installed and its environment variables setup. We'll be putting everything (except for IntelliJ on Windows and OSX) into the same directory on your system.  On my development machine that directory is /home/jbrechtel/opt.  Throughout this post I'll refer to this directory as $opt. I would suggest the following locations for $opt, by platform

Linux /home/username/opt
OS X /Users/username/opt
Windows C:\Users\username\opt

Ok, let's start with..

Getting Scala

Head over to http://www.scala- and download the package for your platform.

  • Extract the Scala package to $root/scala.
  • Set the SCALA_HOME environment variable to $root/scala
  • Add $root/scala/bin to your system’s path

Now, that’s it for Scala.  You should now be able to start a command prompt on your OS and type ‘scala’ to get a handy Scala REPL for testing things out.

Getting IntelliJ IDEA

Next we’ll get our IDE.  IntelliJ IDEA has pretty good Scala support though it’s not without its flaws as we’ll see throughout this series. First, point your browser at and download IntelliJ for your platform.  As of version 10.0 the Community Edition (read: Free) of IntelliJ IDEA supports both Android and Scala development.  For great justice! Install the IntelliJ IDEA package.  For Windows and OSX, IntelliJ installs like a normal application which I presume you already know how to do. For those of you on Linux:

  • Extract the tar.gz for IntelliJ to $root/opt/idea
  • To launch IntelliJ just execute $root/opt/idea/bin/

I suggest creating a menu shortcut in Gnome, KDE, or XFCE to the script.  There are a number of IntelliJ icons in that bin folder which you can use for the menu icon.  The files are named idea_CE{16-128}.png.

Getting the Android SDK

Let’s go get the Android SDK.  Obviously we need this to build Android applications.  We’ll only be grabbing the Android 2.1 platform here, but the Android SDK manager makes the other platform versions easy to get and install. The Android SDK can be found here: Download the package for your platform from that site.

Note for Windows users:  It looks like Google has made things easier on you by providing an installer.  I’m not familiar with the installer, but it probably does everything you need it to do. However, the instructions below are written with the zip package in mind.

  • Extract the downloaded file to $root/opt/android-sdk
  • Set the ANDROID_SDK_HOME environment variable to $root/opt/android-sdk
    • See the ‘Getting Scala’ section above for instructions per platform.
  • Launch the Android SDK Manager
    • Linux: $root/opt/android-sdk/tools/android
    • OSX: $root/opt/android-sdk/tools/android
    • Windows: $root/opt/android-sdk/SDK Manager.exe

The Android SDK Manager is used to download the various Android platforms and other third party addons such as the Google Maps SDK and the Samsung Galaxy Tab SDK.  For now we're just concerned with the Android 2.1 platform. Once the SDK Manager is running follow these steps:

  • Click 'Available Packages'
  • Expand 'Android Repository'
  • Check the box that says 'Android SDK Tools, revision 7'
  • Click 'Install Selected'
  • Click 'Accept All' to accept all licenses
  • Click 'Install'

Now the SDK Manager will download the Android 2.1 platform (also known as revision 7 or API Level 7 in Android parlance).  If you receive a prompt about ADB needing to be restarted then just click ‘Yes’.  Afterwards you can close any dialogs and the SDK Manager. Once that is complete, move on to the next section.


simple-build-tool / SBT is a (as the name suggests) build tool for Scala.  It provides all the things you might expect from a modern build system such as:

  • dependency management (both managed and unmanaged dependencies are supported)
  • a DSL (in Scala) for configuring your targets and other aspects of the project
  • testing integration

simple-build-tool has a few things that I consider killer features:

  • A console/REPL with your entire project at your fingertips.
  • Triggered task execution (e.g. run tests automatically when source changes)

Download SBT by going then download the latest version in the ‘Downloads’ section on the right side of the page. SBT has really good instructions for getting started on their project site.  Check it out tool/wiki/Setup

jberkel’s android-plugin for SBT

Once you have SBT installed, you should grab the awesome android plugin for SBT.  This plugin primarily provides two things

  • A script for creating a new Android project that SBT can compile
  • Several handy SBT targets for doing things like packaging your app for the market and deploying to your device.

You can find this plugin on GitHub Go there then click on 'Downloads'. Download verion 0.5.1 (newer version should work if available).

Then you'll have the latest version of the Android project plugin locally. We'll use this in the next post to create our Sbt project with Android support.

That’s it for now!

Now, at this point you've got all of the required software installed. Let's review.

  • IntelliJ
    • If you're using OS X or Windows then IntelliJ is installed as a regular application.
    • If you're using Linux then IntelliJ is installed in $root/opt/intellij
  • Scala 2.8.1 is installed to $root/opt/scala
  • Android SDK (and the Android 2.1 platform) is installed to $root/opt /android-sdk
  • simple-build-tool is installed according to the instructions on their site
  • jberkel’s android-plugin for SBT

Next time we’ll cover creating the Android SBT project using jberkel’s fantastic android-plugin and also doing things like deploying the app to your phone and packaging it for the market. In the third post we’ll talk about setting up IntelliJ to edit the code in that project and launch your SBT targets. In the final post of this series we’ll go over how getting started unit testing in IntelliJ with ScalaTest. See you next time

blog comments powered by Disqus