When you are preparing to embark on a software development project, one of the biggest decisions you’ll have to make is on what programming language to use. And it’s not an easy choice because there are probably dozens of languages that would be a reasonable fit for your requirements.
One of the most intense debates in this regard has been on which one between Scala and Java is better. Both Java and Scala proponents make strong arguments on why their choice is the best. To make an objective and logical choice, it helps to look at the key aspects of each of the two languages and how they differ from one another.
Here’s a look at the most defining differences.
1. Quality and Size of Code
If you go with Java, you should be ready to write more lines of code for even the most mundane tasks. Scala has the advantage here because you can accomplish the same task with significantly less code. The ability to fit more code per page makes Scala code easier to read, follow and reuse.
2. Code Complexity
Scala allows you to write commands with less text than Java. But verbose text has its advantages—it’s often closer to written English. Scala code is therefore shorter but more complex in its structure. Because of this, Java is more popular with beginner programmers since they need to see the logic of each line of code.
3. Functional Programming
Java is a fairly established language having been introduced in 1995. It followed the conventional logic of object oriented languages of the time which didn’t have functional programming ability. In later years though, Java was fitted with functional programming capabilities which means one can now use Java 8 to create functional programs.
Scala is a more recent language (introduced in 2003 but gained a significant following much later) and therefore had functional programming capacity from the get go including monads, immutability and concurrency. If your goal is to build functional programs, Scala is perhaps your best bet.
4. Compilation Time
Scala’s source code compiles slower than Java’s. Java has a javac compiler that speeds up the conversion of source code into executable bytecode. While Scala has a compiler, it doesn’t create executable code as quickly as the Java one does.
5. IDE Support
Java has several integrated development environments (IDEs) that can come in handy during the programming process. Major industry players such as Eclipse and NetBeans have IDEs in the Java system. Some of the same IDEs can work in Scala but usually not with the same high level of performance.
6. Scala and Java Structures
Scala borrows much of its syntax from Java. However, Scala has structures that aren’t present in Java. For example, Scala supports case classes and automatic type inference, something that Java does not.
The structured nature of Scala allows developers to transform it into a domain centric language. That means programmers can modify the look and feel of their own Scala environment to conform to the unique requirements of their projects.
7. Concurrency Model Issue
If you are using Java 8, be prepared to adopt a traditional thread-centered concurrency approach. This will divide your compiled program into several tasks that run simultaneously when the application is executed. Scala has actor concurrency which makes it more modern and efficient compared to Java.
The actor model ensures developers can intricately define the objects in the program with definitions broken down by behavior. The Scala system therefore simplifies the control process and thread communication.
8. Speed and Error Rate
Both Java and Scala run on the Java Virtual Machine. Scala code is however significantly faster. That’s mainly because Scala supports tail call recursion, a bytecode optimization technique. This makes Scala programs run faster and with less errors.
Java may run slower but certain circumstances may require that you use it. In that case you can take advantage of monitoring tools to ensure you are getting as much speed as you can (for example, you could use https://www.appoptics.com/monitor/java-performance).
9. Available Frameworks and Tools
Java is much older than Scala which means developers have access to a broader range of frameworks, tools and editors. That said, Scala’s popularity has seen the number of frameworks and tools that can be used by it, grow at a rapid rate. In addition, since Scala is a Java Virtual Machine language, it can use some Java development libraries.
Overall, the programming language that’s best for you will depend on your skill level as well as the type of program you want to create. If you are a beginner programmer, Java will probably be your best bet. If you have significant experience as a developer, Scala would be most ideal.