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jlauncher is a utility that makes it easy to run jvm based programs without having to assemble them into "fat jars". jlauncher fetches jar files and their dependencies from maven style repos and launches a main class.

The input is a special manifest that locks down all dependency versions, so that the launch is repeatable.

Installing jlauncher

Currently jlauncher is implemented in ruby and distributed as a ruby gem. The installation is straightforward:

gem install jlauncher

Launching a Local Manifest File

Here is an example of a manifest file to launch a helloworld example directly from maven central:

  "mainClass": "org.programmiersportgruppe.jtester.App",
  "dependencies": [
      "groupId": "com.beust",
      "artifactId": "jcommander",
      "version": "1.72"
      "groupId": "org.programmiersportgruppe",
      "artifactId": "j-maven-tester",
      "version": "0.2.0"

The jlauncher command line tool can now be used to launch the manifest. The parameters after the manifest are passed into the main class.

jlauncher run manifest.json --name Tom

While manifest can be created manually, this process can be automated using the maven / sbt plugin. Also, the convention is to package a manifest as j-manifest.json into an "executable" jar.

Launching from a Local Jar-File

A jar file containing a j-manifest can then be launched like this:

jlauncher run target/j-maven-tester-0.2.0.jar --name Jerry

Launching from Maven Coordinates

If the jar is deployed to maven central we can also launch it using its maven coordinates:

jlauncher run org.programmiersportgruppe:j-maven-tester:0.2.0 --name World

Installing a Wrapper Script

jlauncher also supports the installation of a wrapper script, in the jlauncher bin-directory, so that a utiltiy packaged with jlauncher manifest can be started with a simple script name.

If we take our previous hello world example, we can install it like so:

jlauncher install org.programmiersportgruppe:j-maven-tester:0.2.0

With the jlauncher bin-directory on the path we can now start hello world like this:

hello-world --name Donald

Creating an executable jar with Maven

To get started you need to add the plugin to your maven build and specify the main class:



Creating an Executable Jar with SBT

Include the plugin into your project/plugins.sbt

addSbtPlugin("org.programmiersportgruppe.sbt" % "jpackager" % "0.2")

Then add the following to your main module:

mainClass := Some("org.programmiersportgruppe.App")

resourceGenerators in Compile += generateManifest

Creating an Executable Jar with mill

Mill currently doesn't have a plugin concept, so here we provide a snippet to generate a manifest (and package it into the jar):

object mymodule extends SbtModule {

  // … Normal module definition stuff left out for clarity

  // Include the manifest in the classpath so that it gets packaged:
  override def localClasspath = T {super.localClasspath() ++ jManifest()}

  // The task to create the manifest:
  def jManifest: Target[Seq[PathRef]] = T {
    val (_, resolution) = Lib.resolveDependenciesMetadata(

    val jsonManifest = ujson.write(
        "mainClass" -> ujson.Str(mainClass().get),
        "executableName" -> ujson.Str("hello-world"),
        "dependencies" ->
              "groupId" -> ujson.Str(x.module.organization.value),
              "artifactId" -> ujson.Str(,
              "version" -> ujson.Str(x.version)
        )), indent = 4)

    os.write(T.dest / "j-manifest.json", jsonManifest)



  • Fix typo in SBT key.

  • Make repositories overridable/ allow to define bootstrap, repository, perhaps in a global config.

  • Add field for repositories in manifest, so that artifacts can be pulled in from arbitrary repos.

  • Allow to specify vm version in the manifest.

    It would be nice to allow to specify version ranges, e.g. >= 9

    The launcher should be able to pick the right jvm if it can find it following platform conventions, e.g. doing a /usr/libexec/java_home -X on macOS.

  • Allow to specify vm options in the manifest.

  • Make vm options overridable on the command line.

  • Have a way to add aliases/ wrapper scripts so that we can create an alias for a tool. => We can now install.

  • Reimplement jlauncher in go, so that we can have a small statically linked executable that is more suitable for use in a docker container.

  • Add progress bar for fetching deps

  • Make verbose mode beautiful, alignment, colours

  • Add optional size to dependencies in manifest, so that we have more accurate progress info.

  • Support "LATEST" version when using maven coordinates (this should also work offline)

  • Bash completion (local or remote, caching) for maven coordinates.