Packages and modules

This is the tenth part of the Tour of Ceylon. If you found the previous section on generic types a little overwhelming, don't worry; this part is going to cover some material which should be much easier going. We're turning our attention to a very different subject: modularity. We're going to learn about packages and modules.

Packages and imports

Every source file—along with everything declared in the file—belongs to a package. Even source files that don't belong to a named package are considered to belong to the "default" package. It's the location of a source file within a source directory that determines which package a source file belongs to.

Source files and packages

There's no package statement in Ceylon source files. The compiler determines the package and module to which a toplevel program element belongs by the location of the source file in which it is declared. For example, if source is a source directory, and if a class named Hello is defined in the file source/org/jboss/hello/Hello.ceylon, then Hello belongs to the package org.jboss.hello.

Note that the name of the source file itself is not significant, as long as it has the extension .ceylon. It's only the directory in which the source file is located that matters to the compiler.


When a source file in one package refers to a toplevel program element in another package, it must explicitly import that program element. Ceylon, unlike Java, does not support the use of qualified names within the source file. We can't write org.jboss.hello.Hello in Ceylon.

The syntax of the import statement is slightly different to Java. To import a program element, we write:

import com.redhat.polar.core { Polar }

To import several program elements from the same package, we write:

import com.redhat.polar.core { Polar, pi }

To import all toplevel program elements of a package, we write:

import com.redhat.polar.core { ... }

To resolve a name collision, we can rename an imported declaration:

import com.redhat.polar.core { PolarCoord = Polar }

We think renaming is a much cleaner solution than the use of qualified names. We can even rename members of type:

import com.redhat.polar.core { Polar { r = radius, theta = angle } }

Now here's a big gotcha for folks new to Ceylon.


As we're about to see, importing a program element from a different module is always a two step process:

  1. import the module containing the program element in the module descriptor (module.ceylon file) of the module containing the source file, and then
  2. import the program element in the source file.

One import statement is not enough!

In particular, this means that you simply can't import a program element defined in a module when you're playing around with code occurring outside a well-defined module (code in the "default" module).

With that in mind, it's definitely time to learn how to define modules and dependencies between modules.

Tip: local import statements

Unlike Java, Ceylon lets you write a local import statement at the start of the body of a class, interface, or function. Local imports are only visible within the program element in which they occur, instead of being visible to the whole source file.

This, local imports can be used to resolve name collisions:

void usesCeylonHashMap() {
    import ceylon.collection { HashMap }

    Map<String,String> map = HashMap<String,String>();

void usesJavaHashMap() {
    import java.util { Map, HashMap }

    Map<String,String> map = HashMap<String,String>();

However, we don't especially recommend this; we prefer to use toplevel import aliases to resolve name collisions, since this provides much less potential for confusion:

import ceylon.collection { HashMap }
import java.util { JMap = Map, JHashMap = HashMap }

void usesCeylonHashMap() {
    Map<String,String> map = HashMap<String,String>();

void usesJavaHashMap() {
    JMap<String,String> map = JHashMap<String,String>();

On the other hand, local imports are very useful when writing native code in a cross-platform module.


Modularity is of central importance to the Ceylon language. But what does this word even mean? Well, a program is modular if it's composed of more than one module. Separate modules are:

  • independently distributed,
  • maintained by different teams, and
  • released according to independent schedules.

Therefore, we can often identify the modules that comprise our program by looking at how the program is maintained, released, and distributed.

A module has:

  • a well-defined public API, and an inaccessible internal implementation,
  • a well-defined version, and
  • well-defined dependencies upon versions of collaborating modules.

The module system

There are several layers to the module system in Ceylon:

  • Language-level support for a unit of visibility that is bigger than a package, but smaller than "all packages".
  • A module descriptor format that expresses dependencies between specific versions of modules.
  • A built-in module archive format and module repository layout that is understood by all tools written for the language, from the compiler, to the IDE, to the runtime.
  • A runtime that features module isolation and the ability to manage multiple versions of the same module.
  • An ecosystem of remote module repositories where folks can share code with others.
  • A suite of assemblers—tools for packaging a module and its dependencies into a standalone runnable archive.
  • A built-in assembly archive format that is understood by ceylon run and can even be executed using java -jar on a system which does not have Ceylon installed.

Ceylon's module system has two principal levels of granularity: packages and modules. Each package within a module has its own namespace and well-defined API. For many simple modules, this is overkill, and thus it's perfectly acceptable for a module to have just one package. But more complex modules, with their own internal subsystems, often benefit from the additional level of granularity.

A third level of granularity is the assembly, a standalone, packaged, runnable program or application. Unlike a module archive, which may depend on other modules, an assembly does not have external dependencies, because the assembly archive itself includes all the program's dependencies. In some scenarios, an assembly is unnecessary, but many programs are ultimately packaged as an assembly for deployment or distribution.

Module-level visibility and package descriptors

A package in Ceylon may be shared or unshared. An unshared package (the default) is visible only to the module which contains the package. We can make the package shared by providing a package descriptor:

"The typesafe query API."
shared package org.hibernate.query;

A shared package defines part of the "public" API of the module. Other modules can directly access shared declarations in a shared package.

A package descriptor must be defined in a source file named package.ceylon placed in the same directory as the other source files for the package. In this case, the package descriptor must occur in the file source/org/hibernate/query/package.ceylon.

Dependencies and module descriptors

A module must explicitly specify the other modules on which it depends. This is accomplished via a module descriptor:

"The best-ever ORM solution!"
license ("")
module org.hibernate "3.0.0.beta" {
    import ceylon.collection "1.0.0";
    import java.base "7";
    shared import java.jdbc "7";

A module import annotated shared is implicitly inherited by every module which imports the module with the shared module import.

A module descriptor must be defined in a source file named module.ceylon placed in the same directory as the other source files for the root package of the module. In this case, the module descriptor must occur in the file source/org/hibernate/module.ceylon.


Unlike some other module systems such as OSGi and Maven, Ceylon does not support version ranges in module dependencies, and the Ceylon module system never attempts to resolve version conflicts in transitive dependencies automatically. Instead Ceylon requires you to explicitly override conflicting module versions of dependencies when assembling an application.

Tip: overriding module imports

To resolve conflicting module versions in the transitive dependencies of a module, we can specify module overrides in an XML file, usually named overrides.xml. The format of this file is described in the reference documentation for module overrides.

Note that overrides.xml is considered a temporary stopgap measure. In a future version of Ceylon, it will be possible to specify module overrides using a more comfortable syntax based on the format of the module descriptor.

Module repositories

Compiled modules live in module repositories. A module repository is a well-defined directory structure with a well-defined location for each module. A module repository may be either local (on the filesystem) or remote (on the Internet).

If you've installed ceylon and compiled a program, you might already have some module repositories on your machine:

  • ceylon-1.3.x/repo is a repository containing the Ceylon compiler and all its dependencies,
  • ~/.ceylon/cache is a repository containing locally cached versions of other modules you've used in your programs, and
  • the modules directory of any Ceylon project is, by default, a repository containing the compiled project modules.

Given a list of module repositories, the Ceylon compiler can automatically locate dependencies mentioned in the module descriptor of the module it is compiling. And when it finishes compiling the module, it puts the resulting module archive in the right place in a local module repository (./modules, by default).

Likewise, given a similar list of module repositories, the Ceylon module runtime can automatically locate dependencies of the compiled module it is executing.

The repository architecture also includes well-defined locations for source archives produced by the Ceylon compiler, and for module API documentation produced by the ceylon doc command.

The Ceylon module system even interoperates with Maven repositories and npm.

Module tools

Ceylon comes with a suite of command-line tools for managing modules and module repositories, including ceylon copy, ceylon info, ceylon import-jar, and more.

Certain module repositories are searched by default by these tools, by the compiler, and by the module runtime. These are:

  • $CEYLON_HOME/repo, the distribution repository
  • ~/.ceylon/cache, the local cache,
  • ~/.ceylon/repo, the user repository,
  •, the community repository,
  • maven:, which refers to the maven repositories specified in the Maven ~/.m2/settings.xml file, and
  • npm:, the npm registry.

We don't need to specify these repositories explicitly. Additional repositories may be specified using --rep.

Tip: using a config file

You can save yourself the trouble of explicitly specifying module repositories with --rep, or of explicitly overriding other defaults such as the name of the source directory, using a config file to specify settings that are understood by both the command line toolset and by the Ceylon IDEs.

Module repository ecosystem

One nice feature of this architecture is that it's possible to run a module "straight off the internet", just by typing, for example:

ceylon run --rep org.jboss.ceylon.demo/1.0

It does not matter if the program is installed locally, as long as it's available in some accessible repository. And all required dependencies get automatically downloaded as needed.

This feature makes it extremely easy to distribute libraries and assemble applications.

Ceylon Herd is a central community module repository where anyone can contribute reusable modules. Of course, the module repository format is an open standard, so any organization can maintain its own public module repository. You can even run your own internal instance of Herd!

Tip: developing modules in Ceylon IDE for Eclipse

A wizard to create a new module, and add its dependencies can be found at File > New > Ceylon Module.

To change the dependencies of an existing module, you can select the module in the Ceylon Explorer, go to File > Properties, and select the Ceylon Module properties page. (Or, of course, you can just edit the module descriptor directly.)

To view the full dependency graph for a project, select the project, and go to Navigate > Show In > Ceylon Module Dependencies.

To view or change the module repositories configured for your project, select the project, go to Project > Properties, and then navigate to Ceylon Build > Module Repositories.

The Ceylon Repository Explorer helps you find modules available in the configured module repositories. It may be accessed via Window > Show View > Ceylon Repository Explorer when in the Ceylon perspective.

Under File > Export... > Ceylon, you'll find two very useful wizards:

  • a wizard to export a Ceylon module defined in a workspace project to a local module repository, and
  • a wizard to add a Java .jar archive to a Ceylon module repository.

Tip: developing modules in Ceylon IDE for IntelliJ

To create a new module, select the source directory, and go to File > New > Ceylon Module.

To change the dependencies of a module, edit the module descriptor directly.

To view or change the module repositories configured for your project, go to File > Project Structure, navigate to Facets > Ceylon, and select the Repositories tab.

Compiling modules

The output of the Ceylon compiler depends upon the virtual machine platform we're compiling for:

  • ceylon compile compiles module archives for execution on the JVM,
  • ceylon compile-js compiles module scripts and model descriptors for execution on JavaScript virtual machines, and
  • ceylon compile-dart produces artifacts that can be executed on the Dart VM.

Finally, ceylon doc compiles HTML-format API documentation for a module.

Module archives

When compiled for execution on the Java virtual machine, using the command ceylon compile, a module compiles to a module archive. The module archive packages together:

  • compiled .class files,
  • package descriptors, and module descriptors, and
  • resources (text files, properties files, images, etc)

into a Java-style jar archive with the extension .car.

The Ceylon compiler never produces individual .class files in a directory.

A .car module archive also includes OSGi and Maven metadata, and service provider configuration files for interoperation with Java's ServiceLoader. These artifacts are generated automatically by the compiler without any manual intervention.

Module scripts and model descriptors

When compiled for execution on a JavaScript virtual machine, using the command ceylon compile-js, the module compiles to:

  • a .js file, called a module script, containing the executable JavaScript code,
  • a -model.js file, called the model file, containing a description of the program elements in the module in a JSON-like format, and
  • a module-resources directory containing resources.

The module script follows a standard called Common JS Modules, which allows the script to be used in node.js, with require.js, or with some other JavaScript module loaders.

The model file is used:

  • when code that uses the Ceylon module is compiled to JavaScript without access to the source code of the library, or
  • when the metamodel of the module is accessed at runtime.

All the artifacts produced by the compiler are grouped together in a directory of the output module repository.

Running modules

When we actually run a Ceylon program, our program is usually executed by some sort of module system.

  • When executing on the JVM, using ceylon run, Ceylon's module runtime is based on JBoss Modules, a technology that also exists at the very core of the WildFly application server.
  • When executing on a JavaScript virtual machine using ceylon run-js, the module runtime is the module system of node.js.
  • When executed in a web browser, the module system is typically require.js, though other options exist.
  • When executing on the Dart VM via ceylon run-dart, the module runtime is provided by Dart itself.

Naturally, the capabilities of the module runtime vary somewhat depending on the virtual machine platform. The JBoss Modules-based runtime for the JVM is the most powerful.

Usually, the Ceylon runtime is invoked by specifying the name of a runnable module at the command line. But of course that can't work in a web browser, where it's necessary to write some boilerplate JavaScript code to bootstrap require.js and invoke the Ceylon module. It's even possible to execute a Ceylon module programmatically on the JVM, using the Main API.

Resolving dependencies at runtime

When a Ceylon module is executed via run, run-js, or run-dart, and provided with a list of module repositories using --rep, the runtime automatically locates the module archive and its versioned dependencies in the repositories, even downloading modules from remote repositories if necessary.

When a Ceylon module runs in the browser, using require.js, module loading is a bit less transparent. It's up to the developer to either:

  • collect together all the module artifacts into a single repository accessible to require.js, or
  • set up a proxy repository server on the server side.

To collect artifacts for a module and its dependencies, you can use ceylon copy --dependencies --include-language. Typically, you would locate the resulting repository somewhere under the document root of your web server.

ceylon copy --out=web-content/scripts/repo --with-dependencies --include-language org.jboss.demo/1.0

Alternatively, to set up a server-side proxy repository, you could use the RepositoryEndpoint provided for this purpose by the module ceylon.http.server. This requires a process executing the Ceylon HTTP server to exist on the server side.

Finally, not every Ceylon program executes on a modular runtime. As we'll see below, Ceylon provides tooling for assembling a Ceylon program for execution in other environments which require that programs be packaged as a single monolithic artifact.


To include resources in a module archive, you must place them in a resource directory, named resource by default, in a subdirectory corresponding to the module. For example, resources belonging to the module should be located in the subdirectory resource/net/example/foo of the project directory.

The compiler is responsible for packaging resources:

  • ceylon compile packages resources into the module archive for the module, and
  • ceylon compile-js packages them into a directory of the module repository where they're accessible to the JavaScript runtime.

At runtime, the resource may be loaded by calling resourceByPath() on the Module object representing the module to which the resource belongs:

assert (exists Resource resource 
        = `module`
String text = resource.textContent();

Alternatively, you may identify the resource by a fully qualified path beginning with /, for example:

assert (exists Resource resource 
        = `module`

The contents of a text resource may be obtained using Resource.textContent(). The URI of a binary resource may be obtained using Resource.uri.

Services and service providers

Services provide a lightweight way to achieve loose coupling between the client and the implementation or implementations of an API, allowing the provider of an API to change.

Annotating a Ceylon class with the service annotation defines a service provider for a specified service type. Here, DefaultManager is declared as a service provider for the service type Manager:

 service (`Manager`)
 shared class DefaultManager() satisfies Manager {}

Typically, the service type, service provider, and the client of the service are defined in three separate modules. But this is not a requirement.

Clients of a given service type may obtain a service provider by calling Module.findServiceProviders().

 {Manager*} managers = `module`.findServiceProviders(`Manager`);
 assert (exists manager = managers.first);"

This code will find the first service which implements Manager and is defined in the dependencies of the module in which this code occurs. To search a different module and its dependencies, specify the module explicitly:

 {Manager*} managers = `module com.acme.manager`.findServiceProviders(`Manager`);
 assert (exists manager = managers.first);"

On the JVM, Ceylon services and service providers interoperate with Java's service loader architecture, as we'll see later in the tour.

Assembler tools

To distribute or deploy a Ceylon program or application, it may be convenient to package the program or application as an assembly. An assembly archive is completely self-contained, and allows the program to function without access to external module repositories.

On the other hand, certain environments, for example, Java EE, or Wildfly Swarm, define their own packaging format, along with a bootstrap process that isn't compatible with ceylon run. In such cases, it's most convenient to have an assembler that accepts a compiled Ceylon module archive and repackages it, along with its dependencies, for execution in the target environment.

At present, there are seven such tools, all implemented as plugins for the ceylon command:

  • ceylon assemble packages a module and its dependencies inside a standard Ceylon assembly archive.
  • ceylon fat-jar repackages a module and its dependencies into a single archive, for execution via the java command, as already we saw, right at the beginning of the tour.
  • ceylon war repackages a module and its dependencies as a Java EE .war archive, for execution in a Java servlet engine or Java EE application server.
  • ceylon swarm repackages a module and its dependencies, along with the WildFly Swarm environment, for execution via the java command.
  • ceylon jigsaw deploys a module and all its dependencies to a Jigsaw-style mlib/ directory.
  • ceylon assemble-dart packages a Ceylon module compiled using ceylon compile-dart as a standalone executable for the Dart VM.
  • ceylon maven-export assembles a Maven repository containing a list of modules and all their dependencies.

Note that when repackaged by one of these tools, the runtime execution, classloading, and classloader isolation model is that of the given platform, and may not fully respect the semantics of Ceylon's native module system.

Assembly archives

A .cas assembly archive is a zip-format archive containing a Ceylon module repository with all transitive dependencies of a certain Ceylon module and, optionally, a Maven repository containing all transitive Maven dependencies of the module.

An assembly archive is produced using ceylon assemble, and may be executed using ceylon run --assembly.

Alternatively, if the assembly archive is assembled using the option ceylon assemble --include-runtime, it may be executed using java -jar on a system that does not have Ceylon installed.

It's important to understand the difference between ceylon assemble and ceylon fat-jar:

  • a .jar archive assembled with ceylon fat-jar and executed using java -jar runs on a flat class path, but
  • a .cas archive assembled with ceylon assemble always runs with full module isolation using Ceylon's standard module runtime.

There's more...

Later in the tour, we'll learn how to interoperate with native Java archives, including Java modules imported from Maven, and native JavaScript modules imported from npm.

Next we're going to look at Ceylon's support for higher order functions.