HOWTO Create MANIFEST.MF Classpath From Ant


UPDATE It seems this is at least partly outdated, have a look at manifestclasspath.

It is possible to define .jar dependencies in the MANIFEST.MF of the main .jar file, it is just a comma seperated string which looks like this:

Class-Path: lib/log4j.jar lib/commons.jar

In a project I work on, we keep all our dependencies in a lib directory, where we add and remove libraries from time to time, therefore it would be nice if the above text can be generated automatically. Fortunately, this is possible using just Ant. Unfortunately, this is rather cumbersome. (If you want something more powerful and simpler to use, have a look at Rake).

In a nutshell, this is how I did it:

  1. First, let’s define some properties:
    <!-- name of the output .jar file -->
    <property name="" value="ourjarfile.jar" />
    <!-- base directory for distribution target -->
    <property name="dist.home" value="dist" />
    <!-- base directory for compilation targets -->
    <property name="build.home" value="target" />
    <!-- The base directory for all libraries (jar) files -->
    <property name="lib.home" value="lib" />
  2. Now to the fun part, create a nice .jar file. This generates the MANIFEST.MF but first generates a property libs.project that contains all .jar files, sperated with space. If you later look at the generated MANIFEST.MF you will notice that the paths are wrapped every 72 character, even in the middle of the word. Although this looks like an error, it works correctly.
    <target name="jar" depends="compile" description="Create jar and MANIFEST.MF">
      <!-- create a property containing all .jar files, prefix lib/, and seperated with a space -->
      <pathconvert property="libs.project" pathsep=" ">
            <!-- remove absolute path -->
            <flattenmapper />
            <!-- add lib/ prefix -->
            <globmapper from="*" to="lib/*" />
          <!-- lib.home contains all jar files, in several subdirectories -->
          <fileset dir="${lib.home}">
            <include name="**/*.jar" />
      <!-- create the jar -->
      <jar jarfile="${build.home}/${}" basedir="${build.home}/classes">
        <!-- define MANIFEST.MF -->
          <attribute name="Built-By" value="${}" />
          <attribute name="Main-Class" value="" />
          <section name="common">
            <attribute name="Specification-Title" value="${}" />
            <attribute name="Specification-Version" value="${component.version}" />
            <attribute name="Specification-Vendor" value="${component.vendor}" />
            <attribute name="Implementation-Title" value="${}" />
            <attribute name="Implementation-Version" value="${component.version} ${TODAY}" />
            <attribute name="Implementation-Vendor" value="${component.vendor}" />
          <!-- finally, use the magically generated libs path -->
          <attribute name="Class-Path" value="${libs.project}" />
  3. Finally we need to create a distribution by copying all .jar files into dist/lib while using a flat directory structure:
    <target name="dist" depends="jar" description="Create binary distribution">
      <delete dir="${dist.home}" />
      <!-- contains all library dependencies -->
      <mkdir dir="${dist.home}/lib" />
      <copy todir="${dist.home}" file="${build.home}/${}" />
      <copy todir="${dist.home}/lib" filtering="off">
        <!-- remove the directory hierarchy: lib contains no subdirectories -->
        <flattenmapper />
        <fileset dir="${lib.home}" includes="**/*.jar" />

I use Ant 1.6.2, and this works perfectly for me. Have fun!

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  • brian liddle

    Is the ClassPath defining the physical directory where the libs must exist? i.e. if ${libs.project} is defined as “c:/devl/workspace/libs”, how will this work for anyone else but the developer that wrote the code?

  • Martin Ankerl

    brian, it is a relative path, like

    lib/commons-cli-1.1.jar lib/commons-logging-1.1.jar

    So you just need to copy the generated .jar and the lib directory and everything works.

  • martin

    fantastic! you rule!

  • Michele Silva

    Great! Finally a solution that really works. Not complicated at all ;)

  • RIF

    Hey everybody

    Why not just use the core Ant task: “manifestclasspath”.

    It’s in the AntManual

  • –dnajam

    Hi dear Martin Ankerl ,
    I have tried your sample code its writing the file correctly. but while invoking any class file from an external jar, for example StringUtils from apache common-lang. it says java.lang.NoClassDefFoundError: org/apache/commons/lang/StringUtils.
    However, commons-lang-2.4.jar is available within the folder name lib at the root of the jar archive as shown in above example. And the Manifest.MF also have an entry similar to following
    Class-Path: lib/commons-lang-2.4.jar

    Please help

  • Dan S

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. This was the answer to several hours of pain. I tried using but couldn’t figure out how to make it build relative paths. (I’m an Ant newbie and couldn’t figure how to pipe the flattenmapper result to the globmapper…chainedmapper was the missing link)

    I suspect dnajam’s errors are due to attempting to load classes from a jar within his project jar. If I understand correctly, that requires a custom classloader. The solution presented here is for referencing external jars placed in a relative path below where the project jar is.

  • Reynolds

    Muchas gracias por la publicacion del script justo lo que necesitaba para generar el jar de mi proyecto

  • Martin Ankerl

    de nada :)

  • Dimitri Koami Missoh

    Thanks a lot for sharing your experience. Your blog entry helps me a lot when I get stuck today trying to make my deployment run.

    Dimitri Missoh.

  • Bernhard Kabelka

    Thanks Martin for saving my day! When I was facing this problem today at my new job, I remembered our project and your nifty Ant script. However, I already feared the worst, as I have never really taken a closer look on the Ant script. Can you imagine my joy on finding this blog entry? :-)

  • Martin Ankerl

    Hi Bernhard! Service is our success ;)

  • Venkat

    Awesome!! It’s perfect and working great. Thanks a lot, Martin.

  • Amit

    Great Help through this. Thanks!

  • Bruce

    My “Class-Path” in the generated file is truncating my classpath to 80 bytes using:


    lass-Path: commons-beanutils.jar commons-collections-3.2.1.jar common
    s-collections-3.2.jar commons-collections.jar commons-digester-1.8.ja
    r commons-digester.jar commons-lang-2.1.jar commons-logging-1.1.1.jar
    commons-logging.jar commons-pool-1.3.jar derby- el-api-1
    .0.jar el-impl-1.0.jar geronimo-jpa_3.0_spec-1.0.jar geronimo-jta_1.1
    _spec-1.1.jar jhighlight-1.0.jar jsf-api-1.2_04-p02.jar jsf-api.jar j
    sf-facelets.jar jstl.jar openjpa-1.2.0.jar portlet.jar richfaces-api-
    3.3.2.SR1.jar richfaces-impl-3.3.2.SR1.jar serp-1.13.1.jar servlet-ap

  • Senthil

    Hello friends,

    I need to convert my java application into an executable jar. My app have some third party jar files. In manifest file, I have set classpath also in relative path only as given above. But when I run my executable jar in my machine, its working fine. If I run in some other system, I am getting classNotFoundException, the class which is present inside my third party jar. Can anyone knows what s de reason and how to solve this problem ?


  • Jaap

    It worked like a charm! Thank you: I was starting to get cranky again as I am getting more used to Python which is much easier with this library management and stuff.

  • Edgard

    Thank you very much, Martin!

    This is exactly what I was looking for.
    You’ve just saved my day !

    Thank you so much.


  • Gabriele



  • John Kelly

    Very useful, good example, and well explained – thanks !

  • srinivasa

    Thanks a lot for the help

  • Ahmed Yehia

    Hi Martin , when i used the out put jar file in the classpath of my project , it didn’t refer to the dependencies that gathered in the jar file.
    Could u please give me advice ?
    thanks for your help

    • MartinAnkerl

      is the manifest correct?

  • Tom Hallman

    THANK YOU!!! I’ve been banging my head against this problem for several hours… this worked perfectly!!

  • Ayyaz Shaukat

    Goood I got idea from this topic and its solved my issue
    Thanks a lot