Running JDK Tools within a JShell Session

This blog post is about running tools provided by the Java Development Kit (JDK) in a JShell session.

JShell was introduced in JDK 9 by JEP 222 - jshell: The Java Shell (Read-Eval-Print Loop) as an interactive tool to evaluate Java code. When using JShell for interactive development and code exploration, it is often desirable to run JDK tools, that are usually executed on the command-line, “in-shell”: for example to avoid starting a new operating system shell and also for feeding a just created class as an input to a JDK tool and evaluate its output. The TOOLING.jsh script introduced later in this blog post makes it easy to run a selection of JDK tools.

An example presented below will print out verbose disassembled code with internal type signatures of a Java class created in the current JShell session.

Consult to learn more about JShell features.


In other words, the goal is to be able to write something like the following:

jshell> interface Empty {}
jshell> javap(Empty.class)

For reference, here are the equivalent steps and commands for an operating system shell like cmd.exe or bash:

Depending on the JDK version installed and configured (here JDK 17.0.6), the output should read like:

Classfile .../Empty.class
  Last modified Mar 9, 2023; size 91 bytes
  SHA-256 checksum 619286c972fba33cc94ae68b010888447efeafa04c58edad5045052f720a87fc
  Compiled from ""
interface Empty
  minor version: 0
  major version: 61
SourceFile: ""

JShell supports loading scripts

The jshell tool supports loading predefined scripts via its /open file command.

The section of jshell’s man page reads:

/open file

Opens the script specified and reads the snippets into the tool. The script can be a local file or one of the following predefined scripts:

In addition to local files and predefined scripts you may also load a remote resource.

This JShell feature must be used carefully!

You should only load a remote script from a site you trust. Open it in a browser window first, check that it only contains non-malicious snippets in text form. Follow any nested /open file command. Also, double-check the exact spelling when copying /open https://... commands.

Introducing TOOLING.jsh

The source of TOOLING.jsh script is shared at:

Take a moment to follow the link read it before proceeding with using TOOLING.jsh.


// Dedicated tool running methods
void jar(String... args) { run("jar", args); }
void javac(String... args) { run("javac", args); }
void javadoc(String... args) { run("javadoc", args); }
void javap(String... args) { run("javap", args); }
// ...

// Run named tool with an array of arguments
void run(String tool, String... args) { /* ... */ }

// List available tools
void tools() { /* ... */ }

Consult the API documentation of ServiceLoader (since Java 6) and ToolProvider (since Java 9) for more details.

Using TOOLING.jsh

Now, let’s make use of jshell’s support of loading predefined scripts via its /open file command.

Open TOOLING.jsh from a remote location in a fresh Java Shell session.

|  Welcome to JShell -- Version 17.0.6
|  For an introduction type: /help intro

jshell> /open

List available tools by invoking the tools() method.

jshell> tools()

Note that not all tools listed by the Java Development Kit Tool Specifications implement the ToolProvider interface. Some might do so in the future, some never will.

Run an arbitrary tool by passing its name and command-line arguments to the run(String, String...) method.

jshell> run("javap", "-version")

Run a tool by using its dedicated wrapper method javap(String...) and passing command-line arguments.

jshell> javap("-version")

Run javap tool for the Runnable class (from package java.lang in module java.base loaded by the Java Runtime file system jrt:) by using the javap(Class) overload.

jshell> javap(java.lang.Runnable.class)
Classfile jrt:/java.base/java/lang/Runnable.class
  Last modified Dec 6, 2022; size 201 bytes
  SHA-256 checksum a4525fd4150d870abe74d18d81470c2ba6b345bbbea96e2a8d09acfb0026e5f8
  Compiled from ""
public interface java.lang.Runnable
  minor version: 0
  major version: 61
  public abstract void run();
    descriptor: ()V
    flags: (0x0401) ACC_PUBLIC, ACC_ABSTRACT
SourceFile: ""
  0: #10()


Create an empty interface named Empty and disassemble it promptly.

jshell> interface Empty {}
|  created interface Empty

jshell> javap(Empty.class)
Classfile /tmp/TOOLING-11160583645141535433.class
  Last modified Mar 9, 2023; size 191 bytes
  SHA-256 checksum 1b2d874a42c3695a136f3ce0bb849ce2aa09f6a96c8b5f4d18f7c1f07fc8bf20
  Compiled from "$JShell$"
public interface REPL.$JShell$27$Empty
  minor version: 0
  major version: 61
SourceFile: "$JShell$"
NestHost: class REPL/$JShell$27
  public static #11= #1 of #8;            // Empty=class REPL/$JShell$27$Empty of class REPL/$JShell$27

Next Steps