Including all the jars in a directory within the Java classpath – Dev

The best answers to the question “Including all the jars in a directory within the Java classpath” in the category Dev.


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?


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.


Using Java 6 or later, the classpath option supports wildcards. Note the following:

  • Use straight quotes (")
  • Use *, not *.jar


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


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

This is similar to Windows, but uses : instead of ;. If you cannot use wildcards, bash allows the following syntax (where lib is the directory containing all the Java archive files):

java -cp "$(printf %s: lib/*.jar)"

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

Understanding Wildcards

From the Classpath document:

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

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.

Note: due to a known bug in java 8, the windows examples must use a backslash preceding entries with a trailing asterisk:


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


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.