Including all the jars in a directory within the Java classpath


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?

6/8/2017 8:47:33 AM

Under windows this works:

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

and this does not work:

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

notice the *.jar, so the * wildcard should be used alone.

On Linux, the following works:

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

The separators are colons instead of semicolons.


We get around this problem by deploying a main jar file myapp.jar which contains a manifest ( file specifying a classpath with the other required jars, which are then deployed alongside it. In this case, you only need to declare java -jar myapp.jar when running the code.

So if you deploy the main jar into some directory, and then put the dependent jars into a lib folder beneath that, the manifest looks like:

Manifest-Version: 1.0
Implementation-Title: myapp
Implementation-Version: 1.0.1
Class-Path: lib/dep1.jar lib/dep2.jar

NB: this is platform-independent - we can use the same jars to launch on a UNIX server or on a Windows PC.


My solution on Ubuntu 10.04 using java-sun 1.6.0_24 having all jars in "lib" directory:

java -cp .:lib/* my.main.Class

If this fails, the following command should work (prints out all *.jars in lib directory to the classpath param)

java -cp $(for i in lib/*.jar ; do echo -n $i: ; done). my.main.Class

Short answer: java -classpath lib/*:. my.package.Program

Oracle provides documentation on using wildcards in classpaths here for Java 6 and here for Java 7, under the section heading Understanding class path wildcards. (As I write this, the two pages contain the same information.) Here's a summary of the highlights:

  • In general, to include all of the JARs in a given directory, you can use the wildcard * (not *.jar).

  • The wildcard only matches JARs, not class files; to get all classes in a directory, just end the classpath entry at the directory name.

  • The above two options can be combined to include all JAR and class files in a directory, and the usual classpath precedence rules apply. E.g. -cp /classes;/jars/*

  • The wildcard will not search for JARs in subdirectories.

  • The above bullet points are true if you use the CLASSPATH system property or the -cp or -classpath command line flags. However, if you use the Class-Path JAR manifest header (as you might do with an ant build file), wildcards will not be honored.

Yes, my first link is the same one provided in the top-scoring answer (which I have no hope of overtaking), but that answer doesn't provide much explanation beyond the link. Since that sort of behavior is discouraged on Stack Overflow these days, I thought I'd expand on it.



 java -cp file.jar;dir/*


 java -cp file.jar:dir/*

- Windows path separator is ;
- Linux path separator is :
- In Windows if cp argument does not contains white space, the "quotes" is optional


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