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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.
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.
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.