What does Could not find or load main class mean

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A common problem that new Java developers experience is that their programs fail to run with the error message: Could not find or load main class ...

What does this mean, what causes it, and how should you fix it?
Dec 22, 2020 in Java by Rajiv
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1 answer to this question.

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First of all, you need to understand the correct way to launch a program using the java (or java) command.

The normal syntax1 is this:

    java [ <options> ] <class-name> [<arg> ...]

where <option> is a command-line option (starting with a "-" character), <class-name> is a fully qualified Java class name, and <arg> is an arbitrary command line argument that gets passed to your application.


1 - There are some other syntaxes which are described near the end of this answer.

The fully qualified name (FQN) for the class is conventionally written as you would in Java source code; e.g.

    packagename.packagename2.packagename3.ClassName

However some versions of the java command allow you to use slashes instead of periods; e.g.

    packagename/packagename2/packagename3/ClassName

which (confusingly) looks like a file pathname, but isn't one. Note that the term fully qualified name is standard Java terminology ... not something I just made up to confuse you :-)

Here is an example of what a java command should look like:

    java -Xmx100m com.acme.example.ListUsers fred joe bert

The above is going to cause the java command to do the following:

  1. Search for the compiled version of the com.acme.example.ListUsers class.
  2. Load the class.
  3. Check that the class has a main method with signaturereturn type and modifiers given by public static void main(String[]). (Note, the method argument's name is NOT part of the signature.)
  4. Call that method passing it the command line arguments ("fred", "joe", "bert") as a String[]
answered Dec 22, 2020 by Gitika
• 65,870 points

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