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A better Java mode for Emacs
Emacs Lisp Groovy Java
tag: malabar-1.0

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malabar-mode :: A better Java mode for Emacs

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Why yet another Java mode?

After all there is java-mode, included with recent Emacsen, and JDEE if you want something more IDEish. So why yet another?


There's nothing (much) wrong with java-mode, but it doesn't provide enough power to do the things a Java developer (I, at least) needs to do every day.


Enter JDEE. It's big, it's powerful, it probably includes more features than you'll ever need; I mean, who needs to run jdb on an applet these days?

Yet even so, something is lacking. It's something big, it's something new, it's something no Java developer can live without these days:


That's right; use generics (or enums, or foreach loops - annotations, on the other hand, are quite reasonably supported) and JDEE will, at best, get confused. Part of the reason is that JDEE uses BeanShell underneath; BSH is, sadly, unmaintained and lacks support for Java 5 features.

So why not use an IDE?

Because, in my arrogant opinion, the current crop of IDEs is complete and utter crap, not worth the bits to store or the CPU cycles to run (and definitely not worth the enormous amounts of memory they require). I have a major rant brewing on this subject; watch my blog if you care.

You see, when it comes down to brass tacks, code is really just text. And Emacs beats any other text editor out there hands down (vi lovers, I hear you; I like vi, too, but Emacs is just better).

What malabar-mode offers

Since malabar-mode is derived from java-mode, we get some things for free:

  • Syntax highlighting
  • Movement commands (C-M-f/-b is a winner; so is M-f/-b, especially with c-subword-mode turned on)
  • Electric punctuation

There's lots more; and since this is Emacs, you can turn off or modify anything you don't like.

But there is more:

  • Tight integration with Maven
  • A Groovy console for rapid prototyping and exploratory programming
  • JUnit integration, both for running tests standalone and through Maven
  • Import help; import one class or all needed classes in the buffer (with prompting if the class name is ambiguous)
  • Extend class / implement interface / override method helpers

and more.


As malabar-mode is still in a state of considerable flux, there is no released version. Fortunately, building is pretty easy:

  1. Make sure you have Maven and Groovy installed (and git)

  2. Clone the repository from git://

  3. Build with mvn package

  4. Unpack the resulting malabar-<version> somewhere

  5. Add malabar-<version>/lisp to your Emacs load-path

  6. Add the following to your .emacs:

    (require 'malabar-mode)
    (setq malabar-groovy-lib-dir "/path/to/malabar/lib")
    ;; If groovysh is not on your PATH
    (setq malabar-groovy-command "/path/to/groovysh")
    (add-to-list 'auto-mode-alist '("\\.java\\'" . malabar-mode))


Here is a list of available interactive commands:

malabar-import-one-class : C-c C-v C-z

Adds an import statement for a single unqualified class (defaults to the symbol at point). If more than one class matches the unqualified name you will be asked which class to import.

The variable malabar-import-excluded-classes-regexp-list contains a list of regular expressions; if one of these matches the qualified class name, the class will be excluded from import. The default value excludes classes from java.lang, JRE internal classes and inner classes.

malabar-import-all : C-c C-v z
Adds import statements for all unqualified classes in the buffer, as if by performing malabar-import-one-class on each.
malabar-install-project : C-c C-v C-b
Runs mvn install on your project.
malabar-compile-file : C-c C-v C-c
Compiles the current file.

Visits the corresponding test class; that is, the file in the parallel src/test/java hierarchy that matches the class in the current buffer (with malabar-test-class-suffix appended).

E.g., M-x malabar-visit-corresponding-test in a buffer visiting src/main/java/org/grumblesmurf/malabar/ will visit the file src/test/java/org/grumblesmurf/malabar/ with the default value of malabar-test-class-suffix.

If the current buffer satisfies malabar-test-class-buffer-p, this command does nothing.

malabar-run-junit-test-no-maven : C-c C-v C-t
Runs the corresponding test to this buffer using JUnit.
malabar-run-test : C-c C-v t
Runs the corresponding test to this buffer using Maven (mvn test -Dtest=classname)
Moves point to the beginning of the class at point (supports inner classes).
Moves point to the end of the class at point (supports inner classes).
malabar-override-method : C-c C-v C-o
Prompts for an eligible method from the superclass of the class at point and adds a stub implementation of that method. If the chosen method is Object.equals or Object.hashCode, override both.
Updates the package statement of the current buffer to match its place in the source directory.
malabar-implement-interface : C-c C-v C-i
Prompts for an interface, adds stub implementations of all that interface's methods and adds the interface to the class's implements clause.
malabar-extend-class : C-c C-v C-e
Prompts for a class, adds stub implementations of all that class's abstract methods and accessible constructors and inserts the appropriate extends clause.

Not really a command, but it is central to malabar-mode's function; this predicate decides whether a buffer uses Maven's test or compile scope.

In essence, the predicate tests whether the primary class in the current buffer either

  1. extends junit.framework.TestCase or junit.framework.TestSuite or
  2. contains a method annotated with an annotation named Test

This is cool, I want to help

Github has excellent support for forking! If you don't want to go that far, git is, after all, a distributed VCS. Just commit to your local repository and then use git-format-patch to extract patches in a useful format.

But where do I send patches?

To the issue tracker (see the next section).

I found a bug! You suck!

Quite possibly. I have an issue tracker over at Lighthouse; create a ticket there and I will do my best to help you.

Hint: Bugs with patches tend to be fixed faster...

Wouldn't it be cool if malabar-mode could...

Yes! Either describe the feature that you want in the issue tracker, or (even better) fork, code, and ask me to pull.


  • JDEE for being a source of frustration and inspiration (and sometimes of code)
  • Nikolaj Schumacher for fringe-helper and elk-test
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