Java Development Kit (JDK)

Last Updated: October 6, 2020

Definition - What does Java Development Kit (JDK) mean?

The Java Development Kit (JDK) is a software development environment used for developing Java applications and applets.

It includes the Java Runtime Environment (JRE), an interpreter/loader (java), a compiler (javac), an archiver (jar), a documentation generator (javadoc) and other tools needed in Java development.

Techopedia explains Java Development Kit (JDK)

As a major programming language throughout the past few decades, Java has been integral to computer science, and the Java JDK is the essential vehicle for establishing a development environment.

People new to Java may be confused about whether to use the JRE or the JDK. To run Java applications and applets, simply download the JRE. However, to develop Java applications and applets as well as run them, the JDK is needed. One way to think of it is that JRE is “just for executables” or limited to that scope, where the JDK is the development toolkit, as mentioned.

Java developers are initially presented with two JDK tools, java and javac. Both are run from the command prompt. Java source files are simple text files saved with an extension of .java. After writing and saving Java source code, the javac compiler is invoked to create .class files. Once the .class files are created, the 'java' command can be used to run the java program.

For developers who wish to work in an integrated development environment (IDE), a JDK bundled with Netbeans can be downloaded from the Oracle website. Such IDEs speed up the development process by introducing point-and-click and drag-and-drop features for creating an application.

There are different JDKs for various platforms. The supported platforms include Windows, Linux and Solaris. Mac users need a different software development kit, which includes adaptations of some tools found in the JDK.

The Use of IDEs

As with other kinds of specific language development environments, programmers and engineers can use the Java development kit in an IDE for enhanced support.

However, JDK does stand on its own somewhat uniquely, as one of the biggest pushes for IDE use in some other cases is that it centralizes a toolkit.

Since JDK already includes the Java Runtime Environment, an interpreter, compiler, archiver and document generator, it's hard to say that the IDE centralizes tools much more than that.

However, experts still say that the IDE provides an enhanced environment and, as mentioned above, speeds up or automates some of the processes of using JDK. The use of a graphical user interface to abstract and guide a user’s progress in development has been a signature advance of the past years as engineers found shortcuts beyond just using “hand coding” methods.

In the above example of bundling JDK with NetBeans, the IDE involves creating this kind of an overlay for the essential JDK that’s still necessary to work on these creations. Think about having the most commonly used controls visualized and optimized for access. This is the kind of operational benefit that the IDE tends to provide over strictly sticking with the JDK.

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