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A better Java mode for Emacs
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malabar-mode :: A better Java mode for Emacs

You may want to skip to Installation.

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; if fact, so tight that if you're not using Maven (why?) you should not consider malabar-mode.

  • 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

  • Simplistic refactorings

and more.


  1. You probably already have Emacs (if not, go get it right now. I'll wait). However, for this beast, you will need Emacs 23.

    Warning, warning, Ubuntu users: The Intrepid emacs-snapshot package is too old (strangely enough, by about eight days). The Jaunty snapshot package should work, but you should consider getting the release (23.2 at the time of writing). Compiling your own Emacs isn't hard.

  2. Get CEDET and arrange for it to be on your Emacs load-path (I develop using CVS HEAD; older versions may or may not work), e.g. by linking the CEDET directory into your site-lisp directory.

    Alternatively, if you are running Emacs 23.2 or later malabar-mode should work fine with the embedded CEDET.

  3. Clone the repository from git://

  4. Build with mvn package. If load-test.el fails, it is most likely because CEDET is not on your load-path.

    Note that since malabar-mode master tracks Maven 3.0-SNAPSHOT directly, it may fail to work (or even compile) due to upstream changes. I usually fix such breakage reasonably quickly, so don't despair (or even better, if you notice breakage you can fix it yourself and send me a patch...)

    If you really really need a working version Right Now[TM] you can always use the malabar-1.4.0 tag.

    When a Maven (pre)release is made, I will usually tag a version of malabar-mode that locks to that version.

  5. Unpack the resulting malabar-<version> somewhere

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

  7. Add the following to your .emacs::

    (require 'cedet)
    (semantic-load-enable-minimum-features) ;; or enable more if you wish
    (require 'malabar-mode)
    (setq malabar-groovy-lib-dir "/path/to/malabar/lib")
    (add-to-list 'auto-mode-alist '("\\.java\\'" . malabar-mode))

    Alternatively, using Emacs 23.2 and the embedded CEDET:

    ;; Or enable more if you wish
    (setq semantic-default-submodes '(global-semantic-idle-scheduler-mode
    (semantic-mode 1)
    (require 'malabar-mode)
    (setq malabar-groovy-lib-dir "/path/to/malabar/lib")
    (add-to-list 'auto-mode-alist '("\\.java\\'" . malabar-mode))
  8. (optional) If you want to mimic the IDEish compile-on-save behaviour, add the following as well::

    (add-hook 'malabar-mode-hook
         (lambda () 
           (add-hook 'after-save-hook 'malabar-compile-file-silently
                      nil t)))


Update: malabar-mode now has a menu. Yay!

Here is a list of available interactive commands, with default keybindings where applicable:

malabar-compile-file (C-c C-v C-c)
Compiles the current file.
Clears the type cache (used for code completion) if it gets confused. If you have to use this often, please file a bug.
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.
Start the Groovy console, or pop to it if it is running.
Kill the Groovy console process.
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-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-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.

Prompts for and executes an (almost) arbitrary Maven command line. Honors profile activation, property definitions and lifecycle phases/goals. E.g.: -DskipTests=true -Pdev-mode install will run the install lifecycle with the dev-mode profile active, skipping tests.
malabar-install-project (C-c C-v C-b)
Runs mvn install on your project. With prefix argument (C-u), cleans the project first (mvn clean install).
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 one of Object.equals` or `Object.hashCode, override both of them.
malabar-run-all-tests (C-c C-v M-t)
Runs mvn test on your project. With prefix argument (C-u), cleans the project first (mvn clean test).
malabar-run-junit-test-no-maven (C-c C-v C-t)
Compiles the current file, performs malabar-visit-corresponding-test, compiles that file (if not the same as where we started) and runs the now-current buffer as a standalone JUnit test.
malabar-run-test (C-c C-v t)
Runs the corresponding test to this buffer using Maven (mvn test -Dtest=classname)
Updates the package statement of the current buffer to match its place in the source directory.

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 looks like a test class, this command does nothing.

malabar-visit-project-file (C-c C-v C-p)
Visit the project file, that is the closest file named pom.xml searching upwards in the directory structure.
malabar-jump-to-thing (C-c C-v C-y)
Jumps to the definition of the 'thing' at point. More technically, uses semantic-analyze-current-context output to identify an origin for the code at point, taking type membership into account. This function is much like semantic-ia-fast-jump, only a little smarter.
malabar-refactor-extract-constant (C-c C-v C-r C-c)
Extracts the thing at point as a named constant. The scope of the constant will default to malabar-refactor-extract-constant-default-scope, but with a prefix arg will prompt for the scope.

In addition, standard Semantic code completion is available; trigger this however you wish. By default, semantic-ia-complete-symbol is bound to C-c C-v C-. and semantic-ia-complete-symbol-menu is bound to C-c C-v ..


Some default abbrevs are set up, see the variable malabar-case-fixed-abbrevs for the current list.

Note the presence of the #Test abbrev; this expands to::

 public void |() throws Exception {
     fail("Unfinished test");

With point left at the position marked with |.

Electric expansions

In addition to the electric insertion offered by CC-mode, malabar-mode offers an expansion that simulates the Elvis operator, although the generated code is not as efficient as a language-provided Elvis operator would be. This expansion is controlled by the variable malabar-electric-elvis-p.

This is cool, I want to help

Github has excellent support for forking! Just hit the fork button at the top, code and go. For everyone's convenience, you should probably rebase to espenhw/malabar-mode/master every now and then. :)

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!

Good for you. Create a ticket in the issue tracker and stuff will happen.

Hint #1: Tell me what you did, what you expected to happen and what actually happened. Include any error messages (Emacs backtraces, output in the buffers named starting with *Malabar, interesting stuff from *Messages* etc.).

Hint #2: Bugs with patches tend to be fixed faster (see the previous section).

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

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

And of course, if I nix your feature request, you're free to maintain your own local patch branch if you wish (or, for that matter, a complete fork). malabar-mode is Open Source, after all.


  • JDEE for being a source of frustration and inspiration (and sometimes of code)
  • Nikolaj Schumacher for fringe-helper and elk-test
  • nflath, stepb and bbatsov for caring enough to help
  • Everybody else for caring enough read this and report bugs

Boring legal stuff

malabar-mode is copyright (c) 2009-2010 Espen Wiborg

This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation; either version 2 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.

This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License for more details.

For the full text of the GPL, see

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