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Chris Serra

Is there a way to include all the jar files within a directory in the classpath?

I'm trying java -classpath lib/*.jar:. my.package.Program and it is not able to find class files that are certainly in those jars. Do I need to add each jar file to the classpath separately?

Answered By: basszero ( 192)

If using Java 6 or later, classpath wildcards are a part of the JVM.

java -cp "Test.jar;lib/*" my.package.MainClass

Key gotchas:

  1. Use quotes
  2. Use * only, not *.jar

The above example and gotchas are from other answers on this page. (Thanks davorp et al & Wim Deblauwe)

From the Classpath document section entitled, Understanding class path wildcards:

Class path entries can contain the basename wildcard character *, which is considered equivalent to specifying a list of all the files in the directory with the extension .jar or .JAR. For example, the class path entry foo/* specifies all JAR files in the directory named foo. A classpath entry consisting simply of * expands to a list of all the jar files in the current directory.

A class path entry that contains * will not match class files. To match both classes and JAR files in a single directory foo, use either foo;foo/* or foo/*;foo. The order chosen determines whether the classes and resources in foo are loaded before JAR files in foo, or vice versa.

Subdirectories are not searched recursively. For example, foo/* looks for JAR files only in foo, not in foo/bar, foo/baz, etc.

The order in which the JAR files in a directory are enumerated in the expanded class path is not specified and may vary from platform to platform and even from moment to moment on the same machine. A well-constructed application should not depend upon any particular order. If a specific order is required then the JAR files can be enumerated explicitly in the class path.

Expansion of wildcards is done early, prior to the invocation of a program's main method, rather than late, during the class-loading process itself. Each element of the input class path containing a wildcard is replaced by the (possibly empty) sequence of elements generated by enumerating the JAR files in the named directory. For example, if the directory foo contains a.jar, b.jar, and c.jar, then the class path foo/* is expanded into foo/a.jar;foo/b.jar;foo/c.jar, and that string would be the value of the system property java.class.path.

The CLASSPATH environment variable is not treated any differently from the -classpath (or -cp) command-line option. That is, wildcards are honored in all these cases. However, class path wildcards are not honored in the Class-Path jar-manifest header.

If you cannot use wildcards, bash allows the following syntax (where lib is the directory containing all the Java archive files):

java -cp $(echo lib/*.jar | tr ' ' ':')

(Note that using a classpath is incompatible with the -jar option. See also: Execute jar file with multiple classpath libraries from command prompt)