Mixing programming languages

One of Polynote’s most interesting features is its support for polyglot notebooks, where cells within the same notebook can be written in different languages. For example, a notebook could do some data manipulation with Scala and Spark, and then plot that data in Python with Matplotlib.

We find that this lets us do some pretty neat things, but it does have some limitations and caveats, and plenty of edge-cases left to be worked out.

Execution state in Polynote

We hinted previously that the way Polynote handles cell execution is a little special.

As a reminder, the kernel keeps track of all the symbols defined by a cell execution. These symbols are part of the cell’s state, which is made available to downstream cells (those below the cell in question) when they in turn are executed.

Polynote stores these symbols, alongside their types and other information, in a Scala-based format. Symbols defined by and provided to other languages are wrapped (and unwrapped) appropriately.

Sharing between Python and Scala

For now, Python is the major non-JVM-based language you’ll be using with Polynote. Polynote uses jep to do most of the heavy-lifting when it comes to Python interop. If you’re going to be moving back and forth between Python and Scala a lot, we highly recommend at least reading about how Jep works.

Our goals right now are to support a few, key use-cases with a focus on sharing from Scala to Python, such as plotting data generated in Scala with matplotlib, or using Scala-generated data with tensorflow and scikit-learn. We’ve found that the interop between Python and Scala can be very powerful even if its limited to these simple cases.

Here are a few important points to keep in mind when sharing between Python and Scala:

Note that these implementation details may change and while we’ll work hard to update this information we can’t guarantee that it won’t get out-of-date. Of course, feel free to drop us a line if you think that’s the case!


We have a bunch of example notebooks over in the examples folder, showcasing various useful tricks and things to keep in mind while working with Polynote.