How to set up Java Play Framework sbt project on VSCode

This guide will show you how to use Visual Studio Code to work on Java Play Framework project that is using sbt for dependency management.


I have a Java Play Framework project to work on, but I have also used Visual Studio Code for many years and don't want to move to IntelliJ Idea and re-learn all the new bindings just for this project. Furthermore, IntelliJ Idea is just extremely sluggish on my machine.

This guide aims to achieve the following (in decreasing priority):

  • Code navigation in Visual Studio Code (e.g., jumping to definition should work, and should jump to .class file if actual source files are not available)

  • Interactive Debugging

Step 1: Generate pom.xml

  1. Clone the project repository, and cd to the root directory.

  2. Generate a POM file by running sbt makePom.

  3. Copy the generated POM file from target/scala-<version>/<project-name>.pom to the project root directory, and rename it to pom.xml.

Step 2: Fix the pom.xml file

This step is necessary because the generated POM file assumes the project is using the default Maven project structure, which is move likely not the case if your project is using sbt in the first place.

  1. Specify the paths containing application and test source code:

    • In pom.xml, under the <project> tag, add the following:

  2. Specify the paths containing the application and test resource files:

    • In pom.xml, modify the <build> tag added above to the following:

  3. (If necessary) Specify the source and target versions (both are 1.8 in the example below) for the compilation:

    • In pom.xml, modify the <build> tag added above to following:

  4. (If necessary) Add support for processing of twirl templates:

    • In pom.xml, modify the <build> tag added above to the following:


      Note: I couldn't find detailed documentation regarding the <configuration> tag for this plugin, but was able to glimpse the <templateDirectory> and <outputDirectory> tags from the source code.

  5. (If necessary) Add any missing dependencies directly to the POM file:

    • For example:


Step 2: Set up Visual Studio Code

  1. Install the Java Extension Pack.

  2. Configure the various JAVA_HOME:

    • Add the following to the Visual Studio Code settings (add the necessary runtime paths as required, and set the default accordingly):

      "java.configuration.runtimes": [
          "name": "JavaSE-1.8",
          "path": "</path/to/jdk-8>",
          "name": "JavaSE-11",
          "path": "</path/to/jdk-11>",
          "name": "JavaSE-14",
          "path": "</path/to/jdk-14>",
          "default": true
    • For details, refer to the official documentation of relevant extension (Language support for Java ™ for Visual Studio Code) at Setting the JDK.

  3. Configure the Java to use for launching the language server:

    • Add the following to the Visual Studio Code settings:

      "java.home": "</path/to/jdk/>",
    • Refer to the official documentation for other supported settings in relation to the language server: Supported VS Code Settings.

Step 3: Open the project in Visual Studio Code

  • Select "File: Open Folder…" from the Command Palette, and select the project root directory (i.e., the folder containing the pom.xml file).

  • Verify that the following files are created in the project root directory by Visual Studio Code:

    • .settings/org.eclipse.jdt.apt.core.prefs

    • .settings/org.eclipse.jdt.core.prefs

    • .settings/org.eclipse.m2e.core.prefs

    • .classpath

    • .factorypath

    • .project

    • If not, try selecting "Java: Update project configuration" from the Command Palette.

  • Select "Maven: Execute Commands…" from the Command Palette, and select the relevant command (e.g., select "compile" to compile the project).


  • If the project is not compiling, verify that the dependencies are resolved correctly.

    • Follow the instructions on the page on Resolving conflicts using the dependency tree from the Apache Maven Project to see the dependencies resolved by Maven.

    • Google how to see the dependencies resolved by sbt, and compare it with that above.

  • If the dependencies cannot be satisfied properly, you may need to manually install the dependencies to the local machine.

  • If the mvn command fails within Visual Studio Code's integrated terminal, try running java -version within the same integrated terminal instance to double check that the Java version is correct.