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Scala List Examples

Use List to store Strings and Ints together. Access length and use the for-loop.
List. Many panes are part of a window. Some may have different colors or shapes. The window is an immutable list. Its panes cannot be removed or added.
In Scala, a list is like the window—it can never be changed. But we can modify the elements when creating a new list. With functions we process many elements at once.Initialize List
First example. Let's get started with Lists. Here we create a list of animal names. It has 3 strings in it. We use val to indicate the "names" variable is constant, a value.

Length: This property returns the number of elements in the list (its size). The "size" property is the same as length.

First, last: To access the first element, we use index zero. And for the last one, we use the list's length minus 1.

Tip: In Scala we find lists have many properties: we can use "head" for the first element or "last" for the last one—that style is clearer.

Scala program that creates String List // Create a String List with 3 elements. val names = List("cat", "bird", "fish") // Print the list. println(names) // Print element count (the list size). println(names.length) // Access the first and then last elements. val first = names(0) println(first) val last = names(names.length - 1) println(last) Output List(cat, bird, fish) 3 cat fish
Head, tail. With head we access the first element in a list. In this example this returns an Int. And tail returns a new list of all elements excluding the head (so elements 2 on).
Scala program that uses head, tail // An Int list with three elements. val ids = List(20, 80, 400) println(ids) // The head is the first element in the list. val head = ids.head println(head) // The tail is a list of all elements except the first. println(ids.tail) println(ids.tail.length) Output List(20, 80, 400) 20 List(80, 400) 2
Map function. With map, we apply a function to each element in a list. A new list is created with the results of those function calls. The lambda expression uses "_" as the argument.

Here: We call map() on a string list. We call toUpperCase() on all elements, and the resulting list has uppercased color names.

Scala program that uses List map // A list of strings. val colors = List("blue", "yellow", "green") // Use map to uppercase all strings in the list. // ... The underscore is each variable encountered. val result = println(result) Output List(BLUE, YELLOW, GREEN)
Combine lists. With "++" we combine two lists. A new list is created, and the left side comes before the elements in the right side.
Scala program that combines two lists // Create two String lists. val positions1 = List("top", "bottom") val positions2 = List("left", "right") println(positions1) println(positions2) // Combine the two lists with an operator. val positions3 = positions1 ++ positions2 println(positions3) Output List(top, bottom) List(left, right) List(top, bottom, left, right)
Slice. To use slice we must provide two indexes: the start index and an "until" index (an end-index that is not included in the slice). Slice does not use a count of elements.

Here: We provide a List of ids with indexes 0 through 4 inclusive. We take slices of this list.

Scala program that takes list slice val ids = List(20, 21, 22, 23, 24) // indexes: // 0 = 20 // 1 = 21 // 2 = 22 // 3 = 23 // 4 = 24 // Take slice from index 2 until 4 (excludes 4). val result1 = ids.slice(2, 4) println(result1) // Take slice from index 0 until 3. val result2 = ids.slice(0, 3) println(result2) Output List(22, 23) List(20, 21, 22)
SplitAt. This method divides a list into two parts. We specify the index at which we want the split to occur. A tuple (containing two lists) is returned.

Tip: We unpack our tuple immediately after calling splitAt. This syntax form makes it easy to use the two resulting lists.

Scala program that splits list, uses splitAt // This list contains four Booleans. val list = List(true, false, true, true) // Split this list at index 2 (before the third element). // ... This returns a tuple containing two lists. val (left, right) = list.splitAt(2) // Print results of splitAt. println(left) println(right) Output List(true, false) List(true, true)
Add to start. With "::" we add an element to the beginning of a list. We combine an element with an existing list. To combine two lists, another operator (with two pluses) can be used.
Scala program that adds to start val verbs1 = List("open", "search", "close", "sort") // Add a string to the list's start. val verbs2 = "mix" :: verbs1 // Print our lists. println(verbs1) println(verbs2) Output List(open, search, close, sort) List(mix, open, search, close, sort)
Foreach. This is a function on lists. With foreach we call a function (usually specified as a lambda expression) on each element. No return value is used.

Here: We have a lambda that uppercases, and then prints, each string in a list.

Scala program that uses foreach // A list of four nouns (strings). val nouns = List("computer", "box", "table", "wall") // Call a lambda function on each element with foreach. // ... Write uppercase strings to the screen. nouns.foreach(x => println(x.toUpperCase())) Output COMPUTER BOX TABLE WALL
Update error. We will get a "value update" error if we try to change an element in a list. In Scala lists are read-only. This makes copying fast, but updating impossible.
Scala program that causes value update error val names = List("cat", "bird", "dog") // A list cannot be updated. // ... This will not compile. names(0) = "fish" Output error: value update is not a member of List[String] names(0) = "fish" ^ one error found
Var versus val. In Scala we can use var and val to reference lists. Please note that lists are always immutable. But with var, we can reassign the list variable to a different object.

Var: We use the "things" variable and bind it to one List. But then we can rebind it to another, separate list.

var, val
Scala program that uses var with list // Create a variable list. var things = List(10, 11, 15) println(things) // Change the variable binding. things = List(16, 19, 200) println(things) Output List(10, 11, 15) List(16, 19, 200)
Var versus val, continued. With val, we cannot rebind to another object. A "reassignment to val" compile-time error will occur. With var, this program would compile.

Thus: A List object itself is always unchangeable. But with var we can point to different lists with one variable.

Scala program that causes val error val x = List(1.5, 2.5, 10.1) // This will not compile. // ... A val cannot be bound to a new object. x = List(2.1, 2.5) Output error: reassignment to val x = List(2.1, 2.5) ^ one error found
Tuple list. Scala types are magical: we can combine them to create more complex types. For example, we can place tuples within a list. We now have a list of pairs (two-item tuples).Tuple

Tip: For simple collections, a list of tuples is more efficient than a map—iteration to find any element is always fast.

Scala program that creates list of tuples // Create a list of pairs (tuples with two items). val pairs = List((10, "ten"), (20, "twenty"), (50, "fifty")) // Loop over our pairs. for (pair <- pairs) { println(pair._1 + "..." + pair._2) } Output 10...ten 20...twenty 50...fifty
Var reassignment, list. Here we have two local variables. We create a List based on the values of those variables. When we reassign one, its new value is not reflected in the list.

Instead: The list is frozen at creation-time. It is not changed, even when the var is reassigned. It contains values, not references.

Concept: A List, even when created based on variable data, is immutable. It is frozen in time once we create it.

Scala program that uses List, reassigns variable // Two string variables. var shape1 = "BOX" var shape2 = "SPHERE" // Create immutable list with variables in it. val shapes = List(shape1, shape2) // Change the variable. // ... The value change is not reflected in the list. shape1 = "CUBE" println(shape1) println(shape2) println(shapes) Output CUBE SPHERE List(BOX, SPHERE)
Argument. Often we pass a List as an argument to a function. Here we introduce a function that receives a List of Ints. We pass a list instance to this function and print its result.
Scala program that uses List as argument // Receives a List argument. def lengthDoubled(values: List[Int]) = values.length * 2 // Pass list to def as argument. val shades = List(10, 0, 5) val result = lengthDoubled(shades) println(result) Output 6
Loop over indexes. A for-loop can be used to loop over all indexes in a List. Then in the loop body we can access elements with the loop index.

Here: We loop over two Lists at once. We use a for-loop with the until() method to iterate over all indexes in the List.

Scala program that loops over List with indexes val list1 = List(10, 20, 30) val list2 = List(11, 21, 31) // Loop over all indexes in first list. // ... Use until to stay in range of valid indexes. for (i <- 0.until(list1.length)) { // Access elements from both lists. val element1 = list1(i) val element2 = list2(i) println(element1 + "/" + element2) } Output 10/11 20/21 30/31
Map def. With the map function we can apply a method to each element in a list. A new list with the specified transformation is returned.Def

Here: We call toUpperCase() on each string in a List. The resulting list is the same but has uppercase strings.

Scala program that uses map on list // List of continent names. val names = List("australia", "asia", "antarctica") println(names) // Use map to uppercase all strings. // ... A new list is created. val result = { x => x.toUpperCase() } println(result) Output List(australia, asia, antarctica) List(AUSTRALIA, ASIA, ANTARCTICA)
Find. This method receives a lambda expression and returns the first matching result in an option. We can use getOrElse to test the option returned by find().Option
Scala program that uses find // A List with 3 items. val languages = List("python", "scala", "java") // Find an element that starts with this letter. val result = languages.find { x => x.charAt(0) == 's' } println(result.getOrElse("No s")) // No items are found starting with this letter. val result2 = languages.find(_.charAt(0) == 'z') println(result2.getOrElse("No z")) Output scala No z
IndexOf. This method is used to locate an element within a List. And with indexOfSlice, we can try to find an entire series of elements within a List.indexOf
List versus Vector. In my testing, a Vector is slower than a List for small element counts. The Vector is an immutable collection similar to a list.Vector
Remove duplicates. With the distinct function on the List type we can eliminate duplicate elements from a list. Other approaches, like using toSet, are also possible.Duplicates
Research. In Scala a List is immutable. It must be copied each time we want to modify something. This makes some operations (like appending) slower.

But: Immutability has many advantages. To copy a list, can just reuse an existing list, as it will never change.

And: There are known security benefits to immutable objects. Threads (which become increasingly important in our world) also benefit.

Quote: By default, collection classes such as List and Map are immutable.... The implementation of these classes and their guarantees of immutability mean that the new instance can re-use existing nodes, which, especially in the case of creating copies, is very efficient.

Immutable object: Wikipedia
A summary. Lists often contain the most important parts of programs. Elements, like trees in a forest, are countable. In functional designs we can change and test lists.
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