Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Java's File Names and Class Names

Java is picky about the file names you use.

Each source file can contain one public class. The source file's name has to be the name of that class. By convention, the source file uses a .java filename extension (a tail end of a file name that marks the file as being of a particular type of file.)

So, for a class declared as such:

public class HelloWorld{

The file it is stored in should be named HelloWorld.java.

The capitalization should be the same in both cases. Some operating systems don't notice whether file names are capitalized or not. It doesn't matter, you should be in the habit of using the correct capitalization in case you work on a system that does care about capitalization.

When you compile your file with javac, you pass the full file name to javac:

javac HelloWorld.java

Let's say we save the file under a different name. We write the following program:

public class HelloThere{
public static void main(String arg[]){
System.out.println("Hello There.");

Then we save it as HelloWorld.java, and try to compile it:

>javac HelloWorld.java
FileName.java:1: class HelloThere is public, should be declared
in a file named HelloThere.java
public class HelloThere{
1 error

Java lets us know that it won't compile until we rename the file appropriately (according to its rules.)

So let's rename the file. Let's call it HelloThere.javasource. Seems a bit more explicit than just .java, right? Let's run the compiler:

>javac HelloThere.javasource
error: Class names, 'HelloThere.javasource', are only accepted
if annotation processing is explicitly requested
1 error

Java's still not happy with us. Annotation processing? That's when we include extra information in the program about the program itself. We're not bothering with that just now. So we should just name the file HelloThere.java, and not get fancy with our file names.

But, under the right circumstances, javac does allow file name extensions other than .java. That's why we always type in the full file name, including .java, when we use javac. We say 'javac HelloThere.java', not just 'javac HelloThere'. Javac can't assume that we mean a .java file, though that's what it will usually be.

The Class File

Once we make javac happy with a proper file name, and a program with no errors, javac produces a new file. This file will have the original file name, but with .java replaced with .class. This is your bytecode file, the file that the Java Virtual Machine can run.

When we run the program with Java, we're running the .class file. In the case of HelloThere, we're running the HelloThere.class file. But we don't type in the full file name. Why?

Unlike javac, java requires a .class file. That's all it will work with. There's no opportunity to have a different extension to the file name. So it assumes the .class part of the file name. But that's not the whole story.

If you add .class yourself, here's what you'll get:

>java HelloThere.class
Exception in thread "main" java.lang.NoClassDefFoundError:
Caused by: java.lang.ClassNotFoundException: HelloThere.class
at java.net.URLClassLoader$1.run(URLClassLoader.java:202)
at java.security.AccessController.doPrivileged(Native Method)
at java.net.URLClassLoader.findClass(URLClassLoader.java:190)
at java.lang.ClassLoader.loadClass(ClassLoader.java:307)
at sun.misc.Launcher$AppClassLoader.loadClass(Launcher.java:301)
at java.lang.ClassLoader.loadClass(ClassLoader.java:248)

Pretty ugly. What we're actually doing when we type "java HelloThere" is telling Java to run the class HelloThere. Java assumes that it will find this in a file called "HelloThere.class", so that's what it's looking for first.

We're not telling Java to run the file HelloThere.class, we're telling it to run the class HelloThere, which it expects to find in the file HelloThere.class.

But what if we ask for another class that doesn't have its own .class file?

Just for fun, let's change HelloThere.java like this, and see what happens:
public class HelloThere{
public static void main(String[] arg){

class HelloZoik{
public static void main(String[] arg){

After we edit it, we compile with 'javac HelloThere.java' and hold our breath.

Hurray! No errors!

Now we have a second class, HelloZoik, in the HelloThere.class file. Can Java find it?

Let's try:
 java HelloZoik

It worked! Java found our class inside HelloThere.class.

This shows it's not the file name that we're calling with the 'java' command, it's the class name.

If Java doesn't find the class inside a file with the same name as the class followed by .class, it'll look in the other .class files available.