5 ways to add multiple JAR in to Classpath in Java

How to add JAR file to Classpath in Java
Adding JAR into classpath is a common task for Java programmer and different programmer do it on different way. Since Java allows multiple ways to include JAR file in classpath, it becomes important to know pros and cons of each approach and How exactly they work. There are 5 ways to add  jars on into classpath in Java some of them we have already seen in  How classpath works in Java and How to set Path in Java. In this post we will revisit some of those techniques and explore Java 1.6 wildcard to add multiple JAR into classpath. By the way here is 5 ways to add JAR file into classpath. In short knowledge of Path, Classpath and Classloaders are must for any Java programmer, not only from knowledge point of view but also to successfully debug and resolve issues related to Classpath e.g. NoClassDefFoundError and java.lang.ClassNotFoundException  in Java.

5 ways to add multiple JARs in Classpath

Here are some of the ways you can add jar files in classpath of a Java program :

1. Include the JAR name in CLASSPATH environment variable.

CLASSPATH environment variable is case insensitive and it can be either Classpath or classpath as well. This is similar to PATH environment variable which is used to locate Java binaries e.g. javaw and java command.

2. Include name of JAR file in -classpath command line option.

How to add JAR File into Java Classpath with ExampleThis is the preferred option if you are passing –classpath option while running your Java program as java –classpath ${CLASSPATH}  Main . Here CLASSPATH shell variable can contain list of Jar file required by your application. Another advantage of using –classpath command line option is that, it  allows every application to have its own set of JAR in classpath unlike previous option which is available to all Java program running on same host.

3. Include the jar name in the Class-Path option in the manifest.

If you are running an executable JAR file, you might have noticed Class-Path attribute in manifest file inside META-INF folder. Class-Path  option takes highest priorities and overrides both CLASSPATH environment variable and –classpath command line option. This is also a good place to include all JAR file required by Java application.

4. Use Java 6  wildcard option to include multiple JAR

Form Java 1.6+ onwards you can use wildcard to include all jars in a directory into the set classpath or provide it to Java program directly using  -classpath command line option. Following Java command example shows how to add multiple JAR into classpath using Java 6 wildcard method.

java.exe -classpath E:\lib\* Main

This is the newest option of adding multiple JAR file into classpath. Above command will include all JAR file inside E:\lib directory into classpath. One thing which is worth noting while using wildcard to include multiple JAR is that syntax mut be correct. In fact that’s a common mistake many Java programmer make. Here is few more important points about using Java 6 widlcard to include multiple JAR in classpath :

1) In order to include all JAR from a directory you need to use wildcard * and not  *.jar

2) If you have JAR and class file in same directory than you need to include each of them separately.
    Wildcard only match JAR files and not classes. E.g.
 Java –classpath /classes;/lib/*

3) Java 6 wildcard to inlcude all JAR will not search for JARs in subdirectory.

4) One more important point is that wildcard to include all JAR is not honored in case if you are running Java program with JAR file and that have Class-Path attribute in manifest file.  JAR wildcard is honored If you use –cp or –classpath option. See Core Java for Impatient for more details:

How to add multiple JAR into classpath Java

5. Adding JAR in ext directory e.g. C:\Program Files\Java\jdk1.6.0\jre\lib\ext

This is another way you can add multiple JAR in your classpath. JAR from ext directory is loaded by extension  Classloader and it has higher priority than application class loader which loads JAR from either CLASSPATH environment variable or directories specified in –classpath or –cp option. By the way I don’t suggest this way of adding JAR into  Classpath as its not standard, it just for information purpose.

These were couple of ways you can include JAR files in your Classpath. Java 6 wildcard is preferred way of adding multiple JAR in class path along with –cp and –classpath command line option. If you are working in multiple operating system than its also good to remember that two directories in classpath are separated using semi colon(;) in windows and with colon : in UNIX based system.

Further Learning
The Eclipse Guided Tour - Part 1 and 2
Java Fundamentals, Part 1 and 2
Clean Code: Writing Code for Humans

Other Java fundamental Tutorials


Usul said...

The opposite of this problem is quite a bigger one: Given classpath, for instance inside an application server like jboss, or inside an IDE like eclipse, how can I determine,from which part of this given classpath a certain class comes from?

Anonymous said...

To add JAR in eclipse classpath, if we are using Maven, the command "mvn eclipse:eclipse" will populate classpath and if we are using Gradle, command "gradle eclipse" will populate classpath

Hallowizer said...

Does not work! There is no folder called "C:\", and the correct seperator character is a forward slash (/)! Where is the default classpath?

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