Generate Nix build instructions from a SBT project
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Stop Here!

See for a more recent SBT Nix project that is being actively worked on.

Generate Nix build instructions from a SBT project

Build Status


This is (currently) an experimental project to force myself (and hopefully others) to get cracking on building a set of tools for generating and consuming Nix expressions for Scala (and Java by extension, but who cares). It shouldn't be that hard (in theory).

SBT Plugin - Experimental


Firstly build and publish this project with the usual sbt publishLocal. Then add the following to your project/plugins.sbt:

addSbtPlugin("sbt2nix" % "sbt2nix" % "0.1.0-SNAPSHOT")

Run the following to generate a series of nix files for each module (see below).

$ sbt nix

Once that's done, to build everything with nix:

$ nix-build

Or specific modules:

$ nix-build -A foo

The result should be a jar in result/share/java/$name.jar. Ideally we would like to symlink the dependent jars and add an SBT resolver to enable nix-shell to bootstrap sbt.


In the top-level aggregate project (if you have one) there will be a default.nix:

{ sbt ? import ./sbt.nix {}, deps ? import ./deps.nix { inherit sbt; } }:
  foo = sbt.callPackage ./my-foo {};
  bar = sbt.callPackage ./my-bar {};

In each module there is a default.nix:

{ sbt ? import ../sbt.nix {}, deps ? import ../deps.nix { inherit sbt; } }:
bar = import ../bar { inherit sbt; };

in sbt.mkDerivation {
  pname = "my-foo";
  version = "0.1.0-SNAPSHOT";
  src = ./.;
  sources = [ ./src/main/scala ];
  modules = [ bar ];
  scalacOptions = "";
  buildDepends = [
  meta = {
    description = "my-foo";

And lastly a single deps.nix will be generated:

{ sbt }:
  commons-io_commons-io_2_4 = sbt.artifact {
    org = "commons-io";
    jarname = "commons-io";
    version = "2.4";
    sha256 = "108mw2v8ncig29kjvzh8wi76plr01f4x5l3b1929xk5a7vf42snc";

Also, a utility sbt.nix will be extracted from the plugin and placed in the root.

Why Nix?

Build tools should use a build cache, emphasis on the cache, for propagating results from one component to another. A cache is an abstraction that allows computing a function more quickly based on partial results computed in the past. The function, in this case, is for turning source code into a binary.

A cache does nothing except speed things up. You could remove a cache entirely and the surrounding system would work the same, just more slowly. A cache has no side effects, either. No matter what you've done with a cache in the past, a given query to the cache will give back the same value to the same query in the future.

From Lex Spoon's Recursive Maven Considered Harmful, which I discovered while reading the excellent Ultimate Build Tool. This is a good post on using Nix for Haskell development. And finally my own little rant.

Help wanted

We need you! Come and chat on Freenode ##nix-sbt if you want to know more.

See the list of Issues for an overview on what needs to happen.

The current code is something hacked together in roughly a day, so please don't judge it too harshly. The important thing at the moment is the generated Nix output, which will need to be improved in a number of ways, as outlined in various issues. If you have any experience in Nix, your input and suggestions on what we needs to happen will be much appreciated.