Slick Actions Composition


You want to insert a new row to a table which has auto increment primary key; Also some additional information must be persist in other tables. At the end you also want to return the inserted generated ID. Imaging you are developing a new web application, and you are working on user registration code. Each time a new user signs up, you want to store his credential in users table and all of his roles in userRoles table. Here is the potential data model:

data models
How do you do this in Slick? Sounds extremely simple!? Believe me or not, many of my experienced colleagues do it the wrong way. Here is their’s solution:

  1. Insert new user into the users table and grab the auto generated primary key
  2. Use the generated user id for inserting into other tables, for example userRoles
  3. Return the generated user id to the caller

Although it works, it has some drawbacks. First of all, in this scenario, storing user information in multiple tables should be done in an atomic way. All rows must be inserted or none of them. However in this naive implementation, you may encounter partial insert, because of failure in second or later inserts, leaving database in an inconsistent way.

Secondly, It has performance drawback because for inserting in each table, new database roundtrip is involved.


Slick uses DBIOAction for anything that can be executed on a database, whether it is a getting the result of a query (myQuery.result), creating a table (myTable.schema.create), inserting data (myTable += item) or something else. You can compose DBIOActions using provided methods like map and flatMap to construct new DBIOAction and run all of them transactionaly using Slick.

Source Code

To insert into users table and returning the inserted primary key:

def insert(user: User) = (users returning += user

The return type of above method is DBIOAction parameterized by the result type it will produce when you execute it which in this case is Long. Also note that nothing has happend into database now. We ’ve just defined the action. Later we will run these actions against database. For inserting row into userRoles:

def insert(rows: Seq[UserRole]) = userRoles ++= rows

Nothing special in the above code. Now the intersting part, composing actions togeher:

def register(user:User , roleIds: List[Long]) = {
 insert(user).flatMap { userId =>
    val insertUserRoleAction = insert( => UserRole(userId,roleId)) ) _ => userId )

We can rewrite above function even simpler using for-comprehension:

def register(user:User , roleIds: List[Long]) = {
  for {
       userId <- insert(user)
       _ <- insert( => UserRole(userId,roleId)) )
  } yield userId

And finally run register action transactionaly:

    val userId = Await.result("mostafa.asg","pass"),List(1,2)).transactionally),

You can find the full source code here