Documentation

§Dependency Injection

Dependency injection is a widely used design pattern that helps to separate your components’ behaviour from dependency resolution. Components declare their dependencies, usually as constructor parameters, and a dependency injection framework helps you wire together those components so you you don’t have to do so manually.

Out of the box, Play provides dependency injection support based on JSR 330. The default JSR 330 implementation that comes with Play is Guice, but other JSR 330 implementations can be plugged in. The Guice wiki is a great resource for learning more about the features of Guice and DI design patterns in general.

§Motivation

Dependency injection achieves several goals:
1. It allows you to easily bind different implementations for the same component. This is useful especially for testing, where you can manually instantiate components using mock dependencies or inject an alternate implementation.
2. It allows you to avoid global static state. While static factories can achieve the first goal, you have to be careful to make sure your state is set up properly. In particular Play’s (now deprecated) static APIs require a running application, which makes testing less flexible. And having more than one instance available at a time makes it possible to run tests in parallel.

The Guice wiki has some good examples explaining this in more detail.

§How it works

Play provides a number of built-in components and declares them in modules such as its BuiltinModule. These bindings describe everything that’s needed to create an instance of Application, including, by default, a router generated by the routes compiler that has your controllers injected into the constructor. These bindings can then be translated to work in Guice and other runtime DI frameworks.

The Play team maintains the Guice module, which provides a GuiceApplicationLoader. That does the binding conversion for Guice, creates the Guice injector with those bindings, and requests an Application instance from the injector.

There are also third-party loaders that do this for other frameworks, including Spring.

We explain how to customize the default bindings and application loader in more detail below.

§Declaring dependencies

If you have a component, such as a controller, and it requires some other components as dependencies, then this can be declared using the @Inject annotation. The @Inject annotation can be used on fields or on constructors. For example, to use field injection:

import javax.inject.*;
import play.libs.ws.*;

public class MyComponent {
    @Inject WSClient ws;

    // ...
}

Note that those are instance fields. It generally doesn’t make sense to inject a static field, since it would break encapsulation.

To use constructor injection:

import javax.inject.*;
import play.libs.ws.*;

public class MyComponent {
    private final WSClient ws;

    @Inject
    public MyComponent(WSClient ws) {
        this.ws = ws;
    }

    // ...
}

Field injection is shorter, but we recommend using constructor injection in your application. It is the most testable, since in a unit test you need to pass all the constructor arguments to create an instance of your class, and the compiler makes sure the dependencies are all there. It is also easy to understand what is going on, since there is no “magic” setting of fields going on. The DI framework is just automating the same constructor call you could write manually.

Guice also has several other types of injections which may be useful in some cases. If you are migrating an application that uses statics, you may find its static injection support useful.

Guice is able to automatically instantiate any class with an @Inject on its constructor without having to explicitly bind it. This feature is called just in time bindings is described in more detail in the Guice documentation. If you need to do something more sophisticated you can declare a custom binding as described below.

§Dependency injecting controllers

There are two ways to make Play use dependency injected controllers.

§Injected routes generator

By default (since 2.5.0), Play generates a router class that declares your controllers as dependencies in the constructor. This allows your controllers to be injected into the router.

To enable the injected routes generator specifically, add the following to your build settings in build.sbt:

routesGenerator := InjectedRoutesGenerator

When using the injected routes generator, prefixing the action with an @ symbol takes on a special meaning, it means instead of the controller being injected directly, a Provider of the controller will be injected. This allows, for example, prototype controllers, as well as an option for breaking cyclic dependencies.

§Static routes generator

You can configure Play to use the legacy (pre 2.5.0) static routes generator, that assumes that all actions are static methods. To configure the project, add the following to build.sbt:

routesGenerator := StaticRoutesGenerator

We recommend always using the injected routes generator. The static routes generator exists primarily as a tool to aid migration so that existing projects don’t have to make all their controllers non static at once.

If using the static routes generator, you can indicate that an action has an injected controller by prefixing the action with @, like so:

GET        /some/path        @controllers.Application.index()

§Component lifecycle

The dependency injection system manages the lifecycle of injected components, creating them as needed and injecting them into other components. Here’s how component lifecycle works:

§Singletons

Sometimes you may have a component that holds some state, such as a cache, or a connection to an external resource, or a component might be expensive to create. In these cases it may be important that there is only one instance of that component. This can be achieved using the @Singleton annotation:

import javax.inject.*;

@Singleton
public class CurrentSharePrice {
    private volatile int price;

    public void set(int p) {
        price = p;
    }

    public int get() {
        return price;
    }
}

§Stopping/cleaning up

Some components may need to be cleaned up when Play shuts down, for example, to stop thread pools. Play provides an ApplicationLifecycle component that can be used to register hooks to stop your component when Play shuts down:

import javax.inject.*;
import play.inject.ApplicationLifecycle;

import java.util.concurrent.Callable;
import java.util.concurrent.CompletableFuture;

@Singleton
public class MessageQueueConnection {
    private final MessageQueue connection;

    @Inject
    public MessageQueueConnection(ApplicationLifecycle lifecycle) {
        connection = MessageQueue.connect();

        lifecycle.addStopHook(() -> {
            connection.stop();
            return CompletableFuture.completedFuture(null);
        });
    }

    // ...
}

The ApplicationLifecycle will stop all components in reverse order from when they were created. This means any components that you depend on can still safely be used in your components stop hook, since because you depend on them, they must have been created before your component was, and therefore won’t be stopped until after your component is stopped.

Note: It’s very important to ensure that all components that register a stop hook are singletons. Any non singleton components that register stop hooks could potentially be a source of memory leaks, since a new stop hook will be registered each time the component is created.

§Providing custom bindings

It is considered good practice to define an interface for a component, and have other classes depend on that interface, rather than the implementation of the component. By doing that, you can inject different implementations, for example you inject a mock implementation when testing your application.

In this case, the DI system needs to know which implementation should be bound to that interface. The way we recommend that you declare this depends on whether you are writing a Play application as an end user of Play, or if you are writing library that other Play applications will consume.

§Play applications

We recommend that Play applications use whatever mechanism is provided by the DI framework that the application is using. Although Play does provide a binding API, this API is somewhat limited, and will not allow you to take full advantage of the power of the framework you’re using.

Since Play provides support for Guice out of the box, the examples below show how to provide bindings for Guice.

§Binding annotations

The simplest way to bind an implementation to an interface is to use the Guice @ImplementedBy annotation. For example:

import com.google.inject.ImplementedBy;

@ImplementedBy(EnglishHello.class)
public interface Hello {

    String sayHello(String name);
}
public class EnglishHello implements Hello {

    public String sayHello(String name) {
        return "Hello " + name;
    }
}

§Programmatic bindings

In some more complex situations, you may want to provide more complex bindings, such as when you have multiple implementations of the one trait, which are qualified by @Named annotations. In these cases, you can implement a custom Guice Module:

import com.google.inject.AbstractModule;
import com.google.inject.name.Names;

public class Module extends AbstractModule {
    protected void configure() {

        bind(Hello.class)
                .annotatedWith(Names.named("en"))
                .to(EnglishHello.class);

        bind(Hello.class)
                .annotatedWith(Names.named("de"))
                .to(GermanHello.class);
    }
}

If you call this module Module and place it in the root package, it will automatically be registered with Play. Alternatively, if you want to give it a different name or put it in a different package, you can register it with Play by appending its fully qualified class name to the play.modules.enabled list in application.conf:

play.modules.enabled += "modules.HelloModule"

You can also disable the automatic registration of a module named Module in the root package by adding it to the disabled modules:

play.modules.disabled += "Module"

§Configurable bindings

Sometimes you might want to read the Play Configuration or use a ClassLoader when you configure Guice bindings. You can get access to these objects by adding them to your module’s constructor.

In the example below, the Hello binding for each language is read from a configuration file. This allows new Hello bindings to be added by adding new settings in your application.conf file.

import com.google.inject.AbstractModule;
import com.google.inject.ConfigurationException;
import com.google.inject.name.Names;
import play.Configuration;
import play.Environment;

public class Module extends AbstractModule {

    private final Environment environment;
    private final Configuration configuration;

    public Module(
          Environment environment,
          Configuration configuration) {
        this.environment = environment;
        this.configuration = configuration;
    }

    protected void configure() {
        // Expect configuration like:
        // hello.en = "myapp.EnglishHello"
        // hello.de = "myapp.GermanHello"
        Configuration helloConf = configuration.getConfig("hello");
        // Iterate through all the languages and bind the
        // class associated with that language. Use Play's
        // ClassLoader to load the classes.
        for (String l: helloConf.subKeys()) {
            try {
                String bindingClassName = helloConf.getString(l);
                Class<? extends Hello> bindingClass =
                  environment.classLoader().loadClass(bindingClassName)
                  .asSubclass(Hello.class);
                bind(Hello.class)
                        .annotatedWith(Names.named(l))
                        .to(bindingClass);
            } catch (ClassNotFoundException e) {
                throw new RuntimeException(e);
            }
        }
    }
}

Note: In most cases, if you need to access Configuration when you create a component, you should inject the Configuration object into the component itself or into the component’s Provider. Then you can read the Configuration when you create the component. You usually don’t need to read Configuration when you create the bindings for the component.

§Eager bindings

In the code above, new EnglishHello and GermanHello objects will be created each time they are used. If you only want to create these objects once, perhaps because they’re expensive to create, then you should use the @Singleton annotation as described above. If you want to create them once and also create them eagerly when the application starts up, rather than lazily when they are needed, then you can use Guice’s eager singleton binding.

import com.google.inject.AbstractModule;
import com.google.inject.name.Names;

public class Module extends AbstractModule {
    protected void configure() {

        bind(Hello.class)
                .annotatedWith(Names.named("en"))
                .to(EnglishHello.class)
                .asEagerSingleton();

        bind(Hello.class)
                .annotatedWith(Names.named("de"))
                .to(GermanHello.class)
                .asEagerSingleton();
    }
}

§Play libraries

If you’re implementing a library for Play, then you probably want it to be DI framework agnostic, so that your library will work out of the box regardless of which DI framework is being used in an application. For this reason, Play provides a lightweight binding API for providing bindings in a DI framework agnostic way.

To provide bindings, implement a Module to return a sequence of the bindings that you want to provide. The Module trait also provides a DSL for building bindings:

import play.api.*;
import play.api.inject.*;
import scala.collection.Seq;

public class HelloModule extends Module {
    @Override
    public Seq<Binding<?>> bindings(Environment environment, Configuration configuration) {
        return seq(
            bind(Hello.class).qualifiedWith("en").to(EnglishHello.class),
            bind(Hello.class).qualifiedWith("de").to(GermanHello.class)
        );
    }
}

This module can be registered with Play automatically by appending it to the play.modules.enabled list in reference.conf:

play.modules.enabled += "com.example.HelloModule"

In order to maximise cross framework compatibility, keep in mind the following things:

§Excluding modules

If there is a module that you don’t want to be loaded, you can exclude it by appending it to the play.modules.disabled property in application.conf:

play.modules.disabled += "play.api.db.evolutions.EvolutionsModule"

§Managing circular dependencies

Circular dependencies happen when one of your components depends on another component that depends on the original component (either directly or indirectly). For example:

public class Foo {
  @Inject public Foo(Bar bar) {
    //...
  }
}
public class Bar {
  @Inject public Bar(Baz baz) {
    // ...
  }
}
public class Baz {
  @Inject public Baz(Foo foo) {
    // ...
  }
}

In this case, Foo depends on Bar, which depends on Baz, which depends on Foo. So you won’t be able to instantate any of these classes. You can work around this problem by using a Provider:

public class Foo {
  @Inject public Foo(Bar bar) {
    // ...
  }
}
public class Bar {
  @Inject public Bar(Baz baz) {
    // ...
  }
}
public class Baz {
  @Inject public Baz(Provider<Foo> fooProvider) {
    // ...
  }
}

Note that if you’re using constructor injection it will be much more clear when you have a circular dependency, since it will be impossible to instantiate the component manually.

Generally, circular dependencies can be resolved by breaking up your components in a more atomic way, or finding a more specific component to depend on. A common problem is a dependency on Application. When your component depends on Application it’s saying that it needs a complete application to do its job; typically that’s not the case. Your dependencies should be on more specific components (e.g. Environment) that have the specific functionality you need. As a last resort you can work around the problem by injecting a Provider<Application>.

§Advanced: Extending the GuiceApplicationLoader

Play’s runtime dependency injection is bootstrapped by the GuiceApplicationLoader class. This class loads all the modules, feeds the modules into Guice, then uses Guice to create the application. If you want to control how Guice initializes the application then you can extend the GuiceApplicationLoader class.

There are several methods you can override, but you’ll usually want to override the builder method. This method reads the ApplicationLoader.Context and creates a GuiceApplicationBuilder. Below you can see the standard implementation for builder, which you can change in any way you like. You can find out how to use the GuiceApplicationBuilder in the section about testing with Guice.

import play.Application;
import play.ApplicationLoader;
import play.Configuration;
import play.inject.guice.GuiceApplicationBuilder;
import play.inject.guice.GuiceApplicationLoader;
import play.libs.Scala;

public class CustomApplicationLoader extends GuiceApplicationLoader {

    @Override
    public GuiceApplicationBuilder builder(ApplicationLoader.Context context) {
        Configuration extra = new Configuration("a = 1");
        return initialBuilder
            .in(context.environment())
            .loadConfig(extra.withFallback(context.initialConfiguration()))
            .overrides(overrides(context));
    }

}

When you override the ApplicationLoader you need to tell Play. Add the following setting to your application.conf:

play.application.loader = "modules.CustomApplicationLoader"

You’re not limited to using Guice for dependency injection. By overriding the ApplicationLoader you can take control of how the application is initialized.

Next: Application Settings


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