running a single Java source code file as a script (Java 11 with shebang support)

1 minute read

This cool new feature allows to run a single java source file as a shell or python script, without the need to compile the source code first. This opens up the possibility to run simple (single file) Java programs fairly easily. You’ll need an UNIX based operating system for this guide.


1) Create a ‘HelloWorld’ file

Don’t use .java as the extension. Java will not recognize the shebang. You can use any other extension, or none.

#!/usr/bin/java --source 11

public class HelloWorld {
    public static void main(String... args) {
      System.out.println("Running Java 11 as script");

2) Make sure JDK 11 is installed

Java 11 does not have to be the default.

eimert@EIM ~ $ sudo update-alternatives --config java
Er zijn 5 beschikbare keuzemogelijkheden voor het alternatief java (dat voorziet in /usr/bin/java).

  Keuze        Pad                                             Prioriteit Status
* 0            /usr/lib/jvm/java-11-openjdk-amd64/bin/java      1111      automatische modus
  1            /usr/lib/jvm/java-11-openjdk-amd64/bin/java      1111      handmatige modus
  2            /usr/lib/jvm/java-12-oracle/bin/java             1091      handmatige modus
  3            /usr/lib/jvm/java-8-openjdk-amd64/bin/java       1090      handmatige modus
  4            /usr/lib/jvm/java-8-openjdk-amd64/jre/bin/java   1081      handmatige modus
  5            /usr/lib/jvm/java-9-openjdk-amd64/bin/java       1091      handmatige modus

Druk <enter> om de huidige keuze[*] te behouden, of typ een keuzenummer in: 

3) Run the script

Despite #!/usr/bin/java --source 11 as the first line, simply running java HelloWorld does not work:

eimert@EIM ~ $ java HelloWorld 
Error: Could not find or load main class HelloWorld
Caused by: java.lang.ClassNotFoundException: HelloWorld

Java does compile (under water) and execute when specifying --source 11 as argument.

eimert@EIM ~ $ java --source 11 HelloWorld 
Running Java 11 as script

The file executes with default 0644 permissions:

eimert@EIM ~ $ ls -al HelloWorld 
-rw-r--r-- 1 eimert eimert 164 jun 21 10:24 HelloWorld
eimert@EIM ~ $ java --source 11 HelloWorld 
Running Java 11 as script


Running ‘Java as a script’ gives developers the ability to easily run small utilities on a UNIX system. This feature opens up the possibility to run Java utilities on an UNIX system.