javac option to compile all java files under a given directory recursively

I would also suggest using some kind of build tool (Ant or Maven, Ant is already suggested and is easier to start with) or an IDE that handles the compilation (Eclipse uses incremental compilation with reconciling strategy, and you don’t even have to care to press any “Compile” buttons).

Using Javac

If you need to try something out for a larger project and don’t have any proper build tools nearby, you can always use a small trick that javac offers: the classnames to compile can be specified in a file. You simply have to pass the name of the file to javac with the @ prefix.

If you can create a list of all the *.java files in your project, it’s easy:

# Linux / MacOS
$ find -name "*.java" > sources.txt
$ javac @sources.txt

:: Windows
> dir /s /B *.java > sources.txt
> javac @sources.txt
  • The advantage is that is is a quick and easy solution.
  • The drawback is that you have to regenerate the sources.txt file each time you create a new source or rename an existing one file which is an easy to forget (thus error-prone) and tiresome task.

Using a build tool

On the long run it is better to use a tool that was designed to build software.

Using Ant

If you create a simple build.xml file that describes how to build the software:

<project default="compile">
    <target name="compile">
        <mkdir dir="bin"/>
        <javac srcdir="src" destdir="bin"/>

you can compile the whole software by running the following command:

$ ant
  • The advantage is that you are using a standard build tool that is easy to extend.
  • The drawback is that you have to download, set up and learn an additional tool. Note that most of the IDEs (like NetBeans and Eclipse) offer great support for writing build files so you don’t have to download anything in this case.

Using Maven

Maven is not that trivial to set up and work with, but learning it pays well. Here’s a great tutorial to start a project within 5 minutes.

  • It’s main advantage (for me) is that it handles dependencies too, so you won’t need to download any more Jar files and manage them by hand and I found it more useful for building, packaging and testing larger projects.
  • The drawback is that it has a steep learning curve, and if Maven plugins like to suppress errors 🙂 Another thing is that quite a lot of tools also operate with Maven repositories (like Sbt for Scala, Ivy for Ant, Graddle for Groovy).

Using an IDE

Now that what could boost your development productivity. There are a few open source alternatives (like Eclipse and NetBeans, I prefer the former) and even commercial ones (like IntelliJ) which are quite popular and powerful.

They can manage the project building in the background so you don’t have to deal with all the command line stuff. However, it always comes handy if you know what actually happens in the background so you can hunt down occasional errors like a ClassNotFoundException.

One additional note

For larger projects, it is always advised to use an IDE and a build tool. The former boosts your productivity, while the latter makes it possible to use different IDEs with the project (e.g., Maven can generate Eclipse project descriptors with a simple mvn eclipse:eclipse command). Moreover, having a project that can be tested/built with a single line command is easy to introduce to new colleagues and into a continuous integration server for example. Piece of cake 🙂

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