Graffiti Rules: playing with JSON [Snow]

A few months ago we talked about Spray, a toolkit that allowed us to build REST APIs in an easy way with a pretty complete DSL.

One of the components belonging to this toolkit is spray-json. This module allows us to serialize and deserialize our objects to/from a JSON format. Today we’ll see how to work with it quickly and easily.

How to create serializers to different classes? Well, there are two options depending on how the class we want to serialize is defined.

Easy option: when we have a case class

Well, that’s a piece of cake. The only thing we need to use is the jsonFormatN() method where N represents the number of arguments of the case class apply method. Let’s see it with an example:

case class Character(name: String, family: String, isDead: Boolean)

object MyJsonProtocol extends DefaultJsonProtocol {

 implicit val characterFormat = jsonFormat3(Character.apply)


As you can see, in order to create a serializer for the Character case class, we create an implicit value with the help of jsonFormat3 (as it has 3 attributes). Such an implicit object will be defined inside a trait which will extend from DefaultJsonProtocol. In this trait, the serializers for Scala basic types (Int, String, Boolean…) are defined… Easy peasy.


Less easy option: when we don’t have a case class or we want to serialize a case class in a different way.

In such a case, we’ll need to implement how the serialization and deserialization of the given type should be. To do so, we may need to create an implicit object extending from RootJsonFormat[T] where T is the type we want to serialize. Such a trait contains two methods that need to be implemented. On the one hand, there is the write method, which converts a typeT in a Json, and on the other a method read, performing the reverse process. We’ll now see an example with the same type as before:

class Character(val name: String, val family: String, val isDead: Boolean)

object MyJsonProtocol extends DefaultJsonProtocol {

  implicit object CharacterJsonFormat extends RootJsonFormat[Character] {

    def write(c: Character) =
      JsArray(JsString(, JsString(, JsBoolean(c.isDead))

    def read(value: JsValue) = value match {
      case JsArray(Vector(JsString(name), JsString(family), JsBoolean(isDead))) =>
        new Character(name, family, isDead.toBoolean)
      case _ => throw new DeserializationException("Character expected")

As can be observed, it is a bit more tedious but not too complicated.

And how do we use it? We just have to import the object where we have defined the implicits and call the methods toJson or convertTo[T].

import MyJsonProtocol._

val json = Character("Jon Snow", "Stark", ???).toJson //....You know nothing!!!!
// Returns {"name": "Jon Snow", "family": "Stark", "isDead": ???}
val jonSnow = json.convertTo[Character]


Besides, if we use Spray’s REST API, the transformation will be done in a transparent way and it won’t be necessary to call  toJson or convertTo explicitely. But we’ll leave that to other post. Next week we’ll be talking about this library so we’d better see something of it before 🙂

See you all!



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