Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Using Cucumber with Scala and SBT

Updated 22nd June 2012: I've now released an updated plugin (version 0.5.0). This is a significant update that switched from using the Ruby version of Cucumber (using JRuby) to the new Cucumber-jvm implementation. Please see my github repository for full details: The remainder of this post, while still serving as an overview, has now been deprecated by this new plugin version.

In this post I talked about my thoughts on doing BDD using the Cucumber framework. At the time, one of the things I was struggling with was how to get Cucumber working within an SBT environment, writing step definitions in Scala. My ultimate solution was to write my own SBT plugin. Here's the details...

Cucumber on the JVM

The Cucumber framework ( comes from the world of Ruby and is distributed as a Ruby Gem. Fortunately the author of Cucumber framework has also developed an additional library called cuke4duke ( This library allows Cucumber to be run on the JRuby platform (JRuby is an implementation of Ruby that runs on the JVM!). It includes a Ruby Gem that allows step definitions to be written in JVM languages plus library classes to support step definition development in languages such as Java, Scala, Groovy and Clojure. For my particular purpose the Scala support is what I am after.

It's relatively easy to install JRuby and then from there install the Ruby Gems for Cucumber and cuke4duke. This gives good command-line support for running Cucumber features with step definitions written and compiled using Scala and existing Scala tools.

Scala Tools Support

My current build tool of choice for Scala is the excellent SBT ( If you aren't using this for your Scala projects then I suggest you take a look. A quick search identified a possible sbt plugin for running cuke4duke (written by rubbish and available at Unfortunately this plugin hasn't been updated since June and it is running against very old versions of Cucumber and cuke4duke. My first solution was to clone this plugin and try to update it to the newest versions. Unfortunately I was unable to get it to work properly. I was also aware that this plugin was a very early version and was lacking a number of the features that I required. Time to write my own.

My Cucumber SBT Plugin

Using some of the basic concepts from rubbish's solution plus my own ideas as to how it will work I therefore put together my cucumber-sbt-plugin. This is an SBT plugin project and is implemented in Scala. Full details (and code) can be obtained from my github:

Some of the main features of the plugin include:

  • Automated dependency management of JRuby and cuke4duke
  • Automated install of all required gems into the lib_managed directory
  • Support for multiple cucumber goals offering: console, console (detailed), html and pdf output
  • Extensive configuration objections through overrides in the SBT Project file
  • Support for 'tag' and 'name' parameters being passed to each cucumber task

Project Setup

In the plugin definition file (project/plugins/Plugin.scala), add the cucumber-sbt-plugin dependency:

import sbt._

class Plugins(info: ProjectInfo) extends PluginDefinition(info) {
  val templemoreRepo = "templemore repo" at ""
  val cucumberPlugin = "templemore" % "cucumber-sbt-plugin" % "0.4.1"

In your project file (i.e. project/build/TestProject.scala), mixin the CucumberProject trait:

import sbt._
import templemore.sbt.CucumberProject

class TestProject(info: ProjectInfo) extends DefaultWebProject(info) with CucumberProject {

  // Test Dependencies
  val scalatest = "org.scalatest" % "scalatest" % "1.2" % "test"


Writing Features

Features are written in text format and are placed in .feature files inside the 'features' directory. For more info on writing features please see the Cucumber website. For example:

Feature: Cucumber
  In order to implement BDD in my Scala project
  As a developer
  I want to be able to run Cucumber from with SBT

  Scenario: Execute feature with console output
    Given A SBT project
    When I run the cucumber goal
    Then Cucumber is executed against my features and step definitions

Writing Step Definitions in Scala

Step definitions can be written in Scala, using the cuke4duke Scala DSL. More information on this api can be obtained from the the cuke4duke wiki page for scala. For example:

import cuke4duke.{EN, ScalaDsl}
import org.scalatest.matchers.ShouldMatchers

class CucumberSteps extends ScalaDsl with EN with ShouldMatchers {

  private var givenCalled = false
  private var whenCalled = false

  Given("""^A SBT project$""") {
    givenCalled = true

  When("""^I run the cucumber goal$""") {
    whenCalled = true

  Then("""^Cucumber is executed against my features and step definitions$""") {
    givenCalled should be (true)
    whenCalled should be (true)

Using The Plugin Commands

Just run one of the cucumber actions to run all of the cucumber features. Features go in a 'features' directory at the root of the project. Step definitions go in 'src/test/scala'. The following actions are supported:

  • cucumber - Runs the cucumber tool with pretty output to the console and source and snippets turned off
  • cucumber-dev - Runs the cucumber tool with pretty output to the console and source and snippets turned on
  • cucumber-html - Runs the cucumber tool and generates an output cucumber.html file in the target directory
  • cucumber-pdf - Runs the cucumber tool and generates an output cucumber.pdf file in the target directory

There are also parameterised versions of each of these tasks (see IMPORTANT NOTE below):

  • cuke
  • cuke-dev
  • cuke-html
  • cuke-pdf

Each of these task also accepts parameter arguments. E.g.:

cuke @demo,~@in-progress

would run features tagged as @demo and not those tagged as @in-progress. Also:

cuke "User admin"

would run features with a name matched to "User admin". Multiple arguments can be supplied and honour the following rules:

  • arguments starting with @ or ~ will be passed to cucumber using the --tags flag
  • arguments starting with anything else will be passed to cucumber using the --name flag

IMPORTANT NOTE: The current design of sbt prevents tasks with parameters (method tasks) being run against the parent project in a multi-module sbt project. This is why there are separate tasks with parameters. To use a parameter task you mush first select a child project. The non-parameter tasks can be run against the parent project or a selected child.

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