Tour of Ceylon

This tour of the Ceylon language is primarily intended for developers with some experience in object-oriented programming. It assumes basic familiarity with concepts like static typing, inheritance, subtyping, and type parameterization (generics). If you already know a language like Java, C#, or C++, you already have all the background you need.

What if I don't know Java?

If you're new to object-oriented programming, you'll still be able to learn Ceylon. These concepts aren't difficult to pick up! But you might find some chapters of the tour pretty hard going first time through. If so, take it slowly: experiment with the language using Ceylon IDE, and gradually get a feel for how these things work and how they are useful. None of us learned to program from books or tutorials or from other people telling us how to do it. We learned by playing and experimenting and working with other people's code.

If you're completely new to static typing, you'll probably find Ceylon very fussy and even a bit complicated at first. There's a lot more rules to know about than in a language like Python, Ruby, or Smalltalk. But we promise that the benefits make it worthwhile in the end, especially once you learn to use the IDE effectively. Tools for a dynamic language simply can't reason about your code like Ceylon IDE can!

Help us improve!

If you find some part of this tour difficult to read or difficult to understand, or if you think one of the examples sucks, or if you think a section is missing some useful information, please let us know.

Before you start

If you're using the command line distribution to try out Ceylon for the first time, we highly recommend you start by compiling and running the samples included in the distribution.

Instructions for getting started are contained in the file in the root directory of the distribution, or right here in GitHub.

Now, let's just make sure we can compile and run our own program from the command line and IDE.

A really simple program

Here's a classic example program.

void hello() {
    print("Hello, World!");

This function prints Hello, World! on the console. We call this a toplevel function because it's not a member of any specific type. So you don't need a receiving object to invoke a toplevel function. Instead, you can just call it like this:


Or you can run it directly from the command line.

Ceylon doesn't have static methods like Java, C++, or C#, but you can think of toplevel functions as filling the same role. The reason for this difference is that Ceylon has a very strict block structure - a nested block always has access to declarations in all containing blocks. This isn't the case with Java's static methods.

Ceylon doesn't (yet) support scripting. You can't write statements like print("Hello, World!"); outside of a function or class. This is not, on its own, a legal program:

print("Hello, World!");  //error: must occur inside a function or class

Running the program from the command line

Let's try it out. Save the above code in the file ./source/hello.ceylon and then run the following commands:

ceylon-1.0.0/bin/ceylon compile source/hello.ceylon
ceylon-1.0.0/bin/ceylon run --run hello default

where ceylon-1.0.0 is the path to your Ceylon install directory. You should see the message Hello, World!. You will find the compiled module archive in the directory ./modules/default.

A very useful trick is:

ceylon-1.0.0/bin/ceylon help compile


ceylon-1.0.0/bin/ceylon help run

The command ceylon help outputs usage information about any of the ceylon subcommands.

If you're still having trouble getting started with the command line tools, try compiling and running the samples if you haven't already.

Selecting the JDK

Ceylon requires Java 7, so you might need to verify that this is the version of Java you're using.

bash$ java -version
java version "1.7.0_05"
Java(TM) SE Runtime Environment (build 1.7.0_05-b06)
Java HotSpot(TM) 64-Bit Server VM (build 23.1-b03, mixed mode)
bash$ javac -version
javac 1.7.0_05

If you're using some other version of Java, you'll need to change to use Java 7:

  • on Linux, use update-java-alternatives,
  • on Mac, use the System Preferences applet, or
  • on Windows, set the JAVA_HOME environment variable.

Setting the character encoding

If you see the following error, or similar, when compiling a Ceylon program:

unmappable character for encoding ASCII

Then you have a source file whose character encoding doesn't match the default character encoding for your OS. You'll need to explicitly specify the character encoding on the command line like this:

ceylon compile --encoding UTF-8 source/hello.ceylon

Running the program from the IDE

To run the program in Ceylon IDE, go to the Ceylon perspective, then:

  1. create a new project using File > New > Ceylon Project,
  2. create a new .ceylon file inside the project using File > New > Ceylon Source File,
  3. paste the definition of hello() in this new file, and then
  4. select the file and run it using Run > Run As > Ceylon Application.

This executes the program on the JVM.

If you have node.js installed, you can go to Project > Properties, select the Ceylon section, enable Compile project to JavaScript, then click OK, and run the program using Run > Run As > Ceylon JavaScript Application.

Or, if you're unfamiliar with Eclipse, go to Help > Cheat Sheets, open the Ceylon item, and run the Hello World with Ceylon cheat sheet which takes you step by step through the process.

Selecting the JDK

Ceylon IDE requires Java 7, so you might need to verify that Eclipse is running on a Java 7 VM. Go to Eclipse > About Eclipse, click Installation Details, and go to the Configuration tab. You'll see the Java version listed among the other system properties. See the instructions above to change the version of Java. You might need to edit eclipse.ini.

You need to make sure that your project is configured to compile using the Java 7 compiler. Go to Project > Properties, select the Java Compiler section, and make sure that the project is configured to use the Java 7 compiler.

Setting the character encoding

To set the source file character encoding in Eclipse, go to Project > Properties, select the Resource section, and select a Text file encoding, for example, UTF-8.

Continue the tour

We'll begin with the Basics.