typelevel / twiddles   0.7.1

BSD 3-clause "New" or "Revised" License GitHub

Micro-library for building effectful protocols

Scala versions: 3.x 2.13 2.12
Scala.js versions: 1.x
Scala Native versions: 0.4


A twiddle list is a list of one or more values, potentially of differing types, that supports incremental creation and supports conversion to case classes that are "shape compatible" with the constituent types of the twiddle list.

Twiddle lists are useful in the creation of protocols (e.g., decoders, encoders, codecs), where a protocol for a complex type is built from simpler constituent protocols. This technique was first popularized by parser combinators with syntax like lparen ~ expr ~ rparen. In contrast to type driven derivation schemes, where protocols are implicitly determined by the constituent types of a data constructor, twiddle lists keep the focus on the protocol.

This library provides the ability to work with twiddle lists for arbitrary types and provides a single API that works for both Scala 3 and Scala 2. On Scala 3, twiddle lists are represented as generic tuples -- e.g., F[Int *: String *: Boolean *: EmptyTuple] or equivalently F[(Int, String, Boolean)]. On Scala 2, twiddle lists are represented as Shapeless heterogeneous lists. The org.typelevel.twiddles package provides type aliases that allow for source compatibility (*: is aliased to shapeles.:: and EmptyTuple is aliased to shapeless.HNil).

Getting Started

Artifacts are published for Scala 2.12, 2.13, and 3 and all platforms (JVM, Scala.js, and Scala Native).

libraryDependencies += "org.typelevel" %%% "twiddles-core" % "0.6.0" // check Releases for the latest version
// Enable twiddle syntax for arbitrary types
import org.typelevel.twiddles.syntax._

case class Foo(x: Int, y: String)

val a = Option(42)
// a: Option[Int] = Some(value = 42)
val b = Option("Hi")
// b: Option[String] = Some(value = "Hi")

val foo = (a *: b).to[Foo]
// foo: Option[Foo] = Some(value = Foo(x = 42, y = "Hi"))

In this example, a *: b creates an Option[Int *: String *: EmptyTuple]. We then convert that value to an Option[Foo] via .to[Foo].

The *: operation comes from the imported twiddle syntax and is similar to the Scala 3 built-in tuple cons operation, but works on applied type constructors. The expression a *: b *: c builds an F[A *: B *: C *: EmptyTuple] from an F[A], F[B], and F[C]. The *: operation requires that the type constructor F has a cats.InvariantSemigroupal instance.

The to operation also comes from the imported twiddle syntax. Calling .to[X] on an F[T] for some twiddle list T results in an F[X] provided that T is shape compatible with X. In the most common case where X is a case class, shape compatibility is defined as T having the same types in the same order as the parameters of X. The to operation requires that the type constructor F has a cats.Invariant instance.

Invariant semigroupals are much more general than (covariant) functors, which means twiddle list support works for a wide variety of data types. For instance, contravariant functors are invariant semigroupals allowing us to use twiddle list syntax to incrementally build instances:

val fooOrdering = (summon[Ordering[Int]] *: summon[Ordering[String]]).to[Foo]
// fooOrdering: Ordering[Foo] = scala.math.Ordering$$anon$1@39e8f45c

Library Usage

When designing a library that uses twiddle lists, the TwiddleSyntax trait can be mixed in to the companion object of a type constructor. This has the effect of providing twiddle syntax without requiring users of the library to import org.typelevel.twiddles.syntax._ at each call site.

import org.typelevel.twiddles.TwiddleSyntax
import cats.Applicative

trait Json
trait Decoder[A] {
  def decode(j: Json): Option[A]
object Decoder extends TwiddleSyntax[Decoder] {
  implicit val applicative: Applicative[Decoder] = new Applicative[Decoder] {
    def pure[A](a: A): Decoder[A] = _ => Some(a)
    def ap[A, B](ff: Decoder[A => B])(fa: Decoder[A]): Decoder[B] = j =>
      for {
        f <- ff.decode(j)
        a <- fa.decode(j)
      } yield f(a)

val int: Decoder[Int] = _ => ???
// int: Decoder[Int] = repl.MdocSession$MdocApp0$$Lambda$14766/0x0000000802b78ee8@47e1cada
val string: Decoder[String] = _ => ???
// string: Decoder[String] = repl.MdocSession$MdocApp0$$Lambda$14767/0x0000000802b79330@38938c5d

case class Foo(x: Int, y: String)
val fooDecoder = (int *: string).to[Foo]
// fooDecoder: Decoder[Foo] = repl.MdocSession$$anon$8$$Lambda$14770/0x0000000802b7a000@613596db

In this example, the Decoder type has an Applicative instance defined in its companion object (and Applicative extends InvariantSemigroupal), and the companion object extends TwiddleSyntax. The latter enables use of *: and to with Decoder values without adding explicit imports (that is, there's no need to import org.typelevel.twiddles.syntax._ at call sites).


The term "twiddle list" was first coined by Rob Norris in the Skunk library, where a twiddle list was defined as a left nested tuple. For example, a 4 element twiddle list consisting of an Int, String, Boolean, and Double was represented as (((Int, String), Boolean), Double).

This library uses a different encoding -- twiddle lists are encoded as tuples on Scala 3 and Shapeless heterogeneous lists on Scala 2. The previous 4 element twiddle list is represented as Int *: String *: Boolean *: Double *: EmptyTuple.

We adopt the name "twiddle list" to refer to the general technique of incremental construction of complex protocols.