This guide walks you through the process of using Gradle’s Build Init plugin to produce a JVM library which is suitable for consumption by other JVM libraries and applications.

What you’ll build

You’ll generate a Java library with the standard layout.

What you’ll need

Create a library project

Gradle comes with a built-in plugin called the Build Init plugin. It is documented in the Gradle User Manual. The plugin has one task, called init, that generates the project. The init task calls the (also built-in) wrapper task to create a Gradle wrapper script, gradlew.

The first step is to create a folder for the new project and change directory into it.

$ mkdir building-java-libraries
$ cd building-java-libraries

Run the init task

From inside the new project directory, run the init task with the java-library argument.

$ gradle init --type java-library


The init task runs the wrapper task first, which generates the gradlew and gradlew.bat wrapper scripts. Then it creates the new project with the following structure:

├── build.gradle
├── gradle
│   └── wrapper (1)
│       ├── gradle-wrapper.jar
│       └──
├── gradlew
├── gradlew.bat
├── settings.gradle
└── src
    ├── main
    │   └── java (2)
    │       └──
    └── test
        └── java (3)
1 Generated folder for wrapper files
2 Default Java source folder
3 Default Java test folder

You now have the necessary components for a simple Java library project.

Review the generated project files

The settings.gradle file is heavily commented, but has only one active line:

Generated settings.gradle'building-java-libraries' (1)
1 This assigns the name of the root project.

The generated build.gradle file also has many comments. The active portion is reproduced here (note version numbers for the dependencies may be updated in later versions of Gradle):

Generated build.gradle
apply plugin: 'java-library'

repositories {
    jcenter() (1)

dependencies {
    api 'org.apache.commons:commons-math3:3.6.1' (2)

    implementation '' (3)

    testImplementation 'junit:junit:4.12' (4)

version = '0.1.0'

jar {
    manifest {
                   'Implementation-Version': project.version)
1 Public Bintray Artifactory repository
2 This is an example of a dependency which is exported to consumers, that is to say found on their compile classpath.
3 This is an exampe of a dependency which is used internally, and not exposed to consumers on their own compile classpath.
4 JUnit testing library

The build file adds the java-library plugin. This is an extension of the java-base plugin and adds additional tasks for compiling Java source code.

The file src/main/java/ is shown here:

Generated src/main/java/
public class Library {
    public boolean someLibraryMethod() {
        return true;

The generated JUnit specification, src/test/java/ is shown next:

Generated src/test/java/
import org.junit.Test;

public class LibraryTest {
    @Test public void testSomeLibraryMethod() {
        Library classUnderTest = new Library();
        assertTrue("someLibraryMethod should return 'true'", classUnderTest.someLibraryMethod());

The generated test class has a single JUnit 4 test. The test instantiates the Library class, invokes the someLibraryMethod method, and checks that the returned value is `true.

Assemble the library JAR

To build the project, run the build task. You can use the regular gradle command, but when a project includes a wrapper script, it is considered good form to use it instead.

$ ./gradlew build
:processResources NO-SOURCE
:processTestResources NO-SOURCE

The first time you run the wrapper script, gradlew, there may be a delay while that version of gradle is downloaded and stored locally in your ~/.gradle/wrapper/dists folder.

The first time you run the build, Gradle will check whether or not you already have the JUnit libraries and other listed dependencies in your cache under your ~/.gradle directory. If not, the libraries will be downloaded and stored there. The next time you run the build, the cached versions will be used. The build task compiles the classes, runs the tests, and generates a test report.

You can view the test report by opening the HTML output file, located at build/reports/tests/test/index.html.

A sample report is shown here:

Test Summary

You can find your newly packaged JAR file in the build/libs directory with the name building-java-libraries.jar. Verify that the archive is valid by running the following command:

$ jar tf build/libs/building-java-libraries.jar

You should see the required manifest file—MANIFEST.MF—and the compiled Library class.

All of this happens without any additional configuration in build.gradle because Gradle’s java-library plugin assumes your project sources are arranged in a conventional project layout. You can customize the project layout if you wish as described in the user manual.

Congratulations, you have just completed the step from creating a Java library! You can can now customize this to your own project needs.

Customize the library JAR

You will often want the name of the JAR file to include the library version. This is easily achieved by setting a top-level version property in the build script, like so:

version = '0.1.0'

Now run the jar task:

$ ./gradlew jar

and notice that the resulting JAR file at build/libs/building-java-libraries-0.1.0.jar contains the version as expected.

Another common requirement is customizing the manifest file, typically by adding one or more attributes. Let’s include the library name and version in the manifest file by configuring the jar task. Add the following to the end of your build script:

jar {
    manifest {
                   'Implementation-Version': project.version)

To confirm that these changes work as expected, run the jar task again, and this time also unpack the manifest file from the JAR:

$ ./gradlew jar
$ jar xf build/libs/building-java-libraries-0.1.0.jar META-INF/MANIFEST.MF

Now view the contents of the META-INF/MANIFEST.MF file and you should see the following:

Manifest-Version: 1.0
Implementation-Title: building-java-libraries
Implementation-Version: 0.1.0
Learn more about configuring JARs

The manifest is just one of many properties that can be configured on the jar task. For a complete list, see the Jar section of the Gradle Language Reference as well as the Jar and Creating Archives sections of the Gradle User Manual.

Now you can complete this exercise by trying to compile some Java code that uses the library you just built.

Adding API documentation

The java-library plugin has built-in support for Java’s API documentation tool via the javadoc task.

The code generated by the Build Init plugin already placed a comment on the file. Modify the comment to become javadoc markup.

/** This java source file was generated by the Gradle 'init' task.
public class Library {
    public boolean someLibraryMethod() {
        return true;

Run the javadoc task.

$ ./gradlew javadoc

:processResources NO-SOURCE


You can view the generated javadoc files by opening the HTML file located at build/docs/javadoc/index.html.


That’s it! You’ve now successfully built a Java library project, packaged it as a JAR and consumed it within a separate application. Along the way, you’ve learned how to:

  • How to generate a Java library

  • How the generated build file and sample Java files are structured

  • How to run the build and view the test report

  • Customize the name of a JAR file and the content of its manifest

  • Generating API documentation.

Next steps

Building a library is just one aspect of reusing code across project boundaries. From here, you may be interested in: