Simple Value Codecs 

There are a number of pre-defined codecs for simple value types provided by the scodec.codecs object. In this section, we’ll look at some of these.

BitVector and ByteVector 

One of the simplest codecs is an identity for BitVectors. That is, a Codec[BitVector] that returns the supplied bit vector from encode and decode. This is provided by the scodec.codecs.bits method. This codec has some interesting properties — it is both total and greedy. By total, we mean that it never returns an error from encode or decode. By greedy, we mean that the decode method always consumes the entire input bit vector and returns an empty bit vector as the remaining bits.

The greedy property may seem strange, or at least more specialized than codec for a fixed number of bits — for instance, a constant width binary field. However, non-greedy codecs can often be built out of greedy codecs. We’ll see a general combinator for doing so later, in the Framing section.

Nonetheless, constant width binary fields occur often enough to warrant their own built-in constructor. The scodec.codecs.bits(size: Long) method returns a Codec[BitVector] that decodes exactly size bits from the supplied vector, failing to decode with an Err.InsufficientBits error if there are less than size bits provided. If a bit vector less than size bits is supplied to encode, it is right-padded with 0s.

Similarly, the scodec.codecs.bytes and scodec.codecs.bytes(size: Int) methods return a greedy Codec[ByteVector] and a fixed-width Codec[ByteVector], where the latter’s size is specified in bytes instead of bits.


The bool codec is a Codec[Boolean] which encodes a 1-bit vector where 0 represents false and 1 represents true.

There’s an overload of bool which takes a bit count — bool(n) — which also is a Codec[Boolean]. When decoding, it treats n consecutive 0s as false and all other vectors as true. When encoding, true is encoded as n consecutive 1s.


Codecs are also provided for various numeric types — Int, Long, Short, Float, and Double. Let’s consider first the integral types, Int, Long, and Short, followed by the non-integral types.

Integral Types 

There are a number of predefined integral codecs defined by methods named according to the form:


where u stands for unsigned, size is replaced by one of 8, 16, 24, 32, 64, and L stands for little-endian. For each codec of that form, the type is Codec[Int] or Codec[Long] depending on the specified size. Signed integer codecs use the 2’s complement encoding.

For example, int32 supports 32-bit big-endian 2s complement signed integers, and uint16L supports 16-bit little-endian unsigned integers. Note: uint64 and uint64L are not provided because a 64-bit unsigned integer does not fit in to a Long.

Additionally, methods of the form [u]int[L](size: Int) and [u]long[L](size: Int) exist to build arbitrarily sized codecs, within the limitations of Int and Long. Hence, a 13-bit unsigned integer codec is given by uint(13).

Similarly, Short codecs are provided by short16, short16L, short(size), shortL(size), ushort(size), and ushortL(size). The signed methods take a size up to 16 and the unsigned methods take a size up to 15.

Non-Integral Types 

Float and Double codecs are provided by float and double. Both use IEEE754, with the former represented as 32-bits and the latter represented as 64-bits.


Strings are supported by a variety of codecs.

The rawest form is the string method, which takes an implicit java.nio.charset.Charset. The resulting codec encodes strings using the supplied charset — that is, all of the heavy lifting of converting each character to binary is handled directly by the charset. Hence, the string codec is nothing more than glue between the Codec type and Charset.

There are two convenience codecs defined as well, utf8 and ascii, which are simply aliases for the string(charset), passing the UTF-8 and US-ASCII charsets.

Codecs returned from string, including utf8 and ascii, are greedy. The byte size / character count is not encoded in the binary, and hence, it is not safe to decode a vector that has been concatenated with another vector. For example:

scala> val pair = utf8 ~ uint8
pair: scodec.Codec[(String, Int)] = (UTF-8, 8-bit unsigned integer)

scala> val enc = pair.encode(("Hello", 48))
enc: scodec.Attempt[scodec.bits.BitVector] =
  Successful(BitVector(48 bits, 0x48656c6c6f30))

scala> pair.decode(enc.require)
res1: scodec.Attempt[scodec.DecodeResult[(String, Int)]] =
  Failure(cannot acquire 8 bits from a vector that contains
0 bits)

Here, we create a Codec[(String, Int)] using the utf8 codec and a uint8 codec. We then encoded the pair ("Hello", 48) and then tried to decode the result. However, we got a failure indicating there were not enough bits. Let’s try decoding the resulting vector using the utf8 codec directly:

scala> utf8.decode(enc.require)
res2: scodec.Attempt[scodec.DecodeResult[String]] =

The result is "Hello0", not "Hello" as expected. The utf8 codec decoded the entire vector, including the 0x30 byte that originally was written by the uint8 codec.

This greediness property is a feature of string — often, the size of a string field in a binary protocol is provided by some external mechanism. For example, by a record size field that is defined in another part of the message.

There are alternatives to string, utf8, and ascii that encode the string’s byte size in the binary — string32, utf8_32, and ascii32. Executing the same example as above with utf8_32 instead of utf8 yields the expected result:

scala> val pair = utf8_32 ~ uint8
pair: scodec.Codec[(String, Int)] = (string32(UTF-8), 8-bit unsigned integer)

scala> val enc = pair.encode(("Hello", 48))
enc: scodec.Attempt[scodec.bits.BitVector] =
  Successful(BitVector(80 bits, 0x0000000548656c6c6f30))

scala> val dec = pair.decode(enc.require)
dec: scodec.Attempt[scodec.DecodeResult[(String, Int)]] =

By looking at the encoded binary, we can see that the byte size of the string was encoded in a 32-bit field the preceeded the encoded string.

In order to handle size delimited string fields, like the above, except with artibrary size fields, we can use the variableSizeBytes combinator along with string, utf8, or ascii. The variableSizeBytes combinator is covered in more detail in a later section. For now though, consider the following example, which encodes the byte size of the string in an unsigned little-endian 18-bit integer field.

scala> val str18 = variableSizeBytes(uintL(18), utf8)
str18: scodec.Codec[String] = variableSizeBytes(18-bit unsigned integer, UTF-8)

scala> str18.encode("Hello")
res0: scodec.Attempt[scodec.bits.BitVector] =
  Successful(BitVector(58 bits, 0x050012195b1b1bc))

This has the same benefits as utf8_32 except it allows for an arbitrary size field, rather than being limited to a 32-bit size field.