The CLASSPATH environment variable tells the Java Virtual Machine and other Java applications (for example, the Java tools located in the
jdk1.1.x\bindirectory) where to find the class libraries, including user-defined class libraries.
The CLASSPATH environment variable is set with the set command. Using set at the DOS prompt changes the current value of CLASSPATH. You can also use set in your startup file to specify a CLASSPATH at startup. The format is:set CLASSPATH=path1;path2 ...where a path to a .zip or .jar file must terminate with the filename, and a path to a .class file must terminate with the directory name. The paths should begin with the letter specifying the drive, for example,
C:\.... The Java interpreter will search the paths for a class by name and load the first one it finds.
The CLASSPATH tells the Java Virtual Machine and other Java applications and tools where to find the class libraries. The class libraries that the CLASSPATH points to may be the JDK classes (contained in the
classes.zipfile in the
libfolder) and/or any classes that you want to use.
- Default CLASSPATH setting
- If you followed the default JDK installation procedure, you probably do not need to set CLASSPATH because the following paths are automatically appended to CLASSPATH at runtime:.;[bin]\..\classes;[bin]\..\lib\classes.zipIn this expression,
[bin]is the absolute path to the
jdk1.1.x\bindirectory. Therefore, if you keep the
libfolders at the same directory level, the Java executables will find the JDK classes (contained in the
classes.zipfile). Note that the default CLASSPATH also includes a path to a
classesfolder on the same directory level as
lib. You can put your own (unzipped) class files in a
classesfolder that you create, and the Java executables will be able to find them with the default CLASSPATH.
You should also be aware that some third-party applications that use the Java Virtual Machine may modify your CLASSPATH environment variable.
- Setting CLASSPATH
- You need to set the CLASSPATH if you move the JDK's
classes.zipfile or if you want to load a class library that's not in a location specified by the default CLASSPATH. To set CLASSPATH, use the set command.
Classes can be saved either in individual class files, such as
MyClass.class, or in groups in a file such as
classes.jar. When specifying a path to a .zip or .jar file, you must end the path with the filename. When specifying a path to .class files, that path should end with the folder containing the .class files. For example, if you have class files in the directory
C:\java\MyClasses, you could set the CLASSPATH with the following:set CLASSPATH=C:\java\MyClassesIf you also wanted to include the path
C:\java\OtherClasses, you could use the command:set CLASSPATH=C:\java\MyClasses;C:\java\OtherClassesNote that the two paths are separated by a semicolon.
The order in which you specify multiple paths in the CLASSPATH variable is important. The Java interpreter will look for classes in the directories in the order they appear in the CLASSPATH variable. In the example above, the Java interpreter will first look for a needed class in the directory
C:\java\MyClasses. Only if it doesn't find a class with the proper name in that directory will the interpreter look in the
If you want to use a class library that is in a zipped file, you must include the name of that file in the CLASSPATH, for example:set CLASSPATH=C:\java\MyClasses\myclasses.zip
If you want the CLASSPATH to point to class files that belong to a package, you should specify a path name that includes the path to the directory one level above the directory having the name of your package. For example, suppose you want the Java interpreter to be able to find classes in the package
mypackage. If the path to the
C:\java\MyClasses\mypackage, you would set the CLASSPATH variable as follows:set CLASSPATH=C:\java\MyClasses
- Unsetting CLASSPATH
- If your CLASSPATH environment variable has been set to a value that is not correct, or if your startup file or script is setting an incorrect path, you can unset CLASSPATH by using:set CLASSPATH=This command unsets only CLASSPATH's current value. You should also delete or modify the lines in your startup file (autoexec.bat) that may be setting an incorrect CLASSPATH.
- The Java Runtime Environment (JRE) and CLASSPATH
- The wrappers that invoke the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) unset the CLASSPATH variable before starting the Java interpreter. The reason is simple: there might be several Java applications installed on the machine. If you or someone else previously installed a Java development tool that modified your startup file, then CLASSPATH may point at a JDK1.0.2-based Java runtime. If such a CLASSPATH were left intact when the Java interpreter is invoked, then it will be loading 1.0.2 classes. If your app relies on 1.1 features, it will fail. Just as bad, it's unlikely that the classes for your app will even be found in that CLASSPATH. Unsetting CLASSPATH before invoking the JRE interpreter sanitizes your application against unpredictable results.
The default CLASSPATH used by the JRE is:[jre_path]\lib\rt.jar;[jre_path]\lib\i18n.jar;[jre_path]\lib\classes.jar;[jre_path]\lib\classes.zip;[jre_path]\classeswhere
[jre_path]is the absolute path of the
jre1.1.xfolder (it has
libfolders underneath it). The files
i18n.jarare used to hold the runtime's (required) core classes and (optional) internationalization classes. While you can store the classes specific to your application in either
[jre_path]\lib\classes.jaror as individual class files in the
[jre_path]\classessubdirectory, it is better to keep the JRE separate from your application and use CLASSPATH to point the interpreter to your application's class files.
- Using both JDK 1.0.2 and JDK 1.1.x
- If you want to develop in both JDK 1.0.2 and JDK 1.1.x, you must set CLASSPATH separately for each one. To use both JDKs simultaneously, you can run them from separate DOS windows each having its own value for CLASSPATH. If you are running only one at a time, you should switch the value of CLASSPATH as appropriate.
- The Java tools' -classpath option
- Some of the Java tools such as java, javac, and javah have a -classpath option which can be used to override the path or paths specified by the CLASSPATH environment variable.