Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Executing a Command Line Executable From Java

In this post we'll deal with a common need for Java developers. Execute and manage an external process from within Java. Since this task is quite common we set out to find a Java library to help us accomplish it.
The requirements from such a library are:
  1. Execute the process asynchronously. 
  2. Ability to abort the process execution.
  3. Ability to wait for process completion.
  4. On process output notifications.
  5. Ability to kill the process in case it hung.
  6. Get the process exit code.
The native JDK does not help much. Fortunately, we have Apache Commons Exe. Indeed it is much easier but still not as straightforward as we hoped. We wrote a small wrapper on top of it.
Here is the method signature we expose:
public static Future<Long> runProcess(final CommandLine commandline, final ProcessExecutorHandler handler, final long watchdogTimeout) throws IOException;
  1. It returns a Future<Long>. This covers section 1,2,3,6. 
  2. Instance of ProcessExecutorHandler is passed to the function. This instance is actually a listener for any process output. This covers section 4 in our requirement.
  3. Last but not least you supply a timeout. If the process execution takes more than said timeout you assume the process hung and you will end it. In that case the error code returned by the process will be -999. 
That's it! Here is the method implantation. Enjoy.

import org.apache.commons.exec.*;
import org.apache.commons.exec.Executor;
import java.io.IOException;
import java.util.concurrent.*;

public class ProcessExecutor {
    public static final Long  WATCHDOG_EXIST_VALUE = -999L;

    public static Future<Long> runProcess(final CommandLine commandline, final ProcessExecutorHandler handler, final long watchdogTimeout) throws IOException{

        ExecutorService executor = Executors.newSingleThreadExecutor();
        Future<Long> result =  executor.submit(new ProcessCallable(watchdogTimeout, handler, commandline));
        return result;


    private static class ProcessCallable implements Callable<Long>{

        private long watchdogTimeout;
        private ProcessExecutorHandler handler;
        private CommandLine commandline;

        private ProcessCallable(long watchdogTimeout, ProcessExecutorHandler handler, CommandLine commandline) {
            this.watchdogTimeout = watchdogTimeout;
            this.handler = handler;
            this.commandline = commandline;

        public Long call() throws Exception {
            Executor executor = new DefaultExecutor();
            executor.setProcessDestroyer(new ShutdownHookProcessDestroyer());
            ExecuteWatchdog watchDog = new ExecuteWatchdog(watchdogTimeout);
            executor.setStreamHandler(new PumpStreamHandler(new MyLogOutputStream(handler, true),new MyLogOutputStream(handler, false)));
            Long exitValue;
            try {
                exitValue =  new Long(executor.execute(commandline));

            } catch (ExecuteException e) {
                exitValue =  new Long(e.getExitValue());
                exitValue =WATCHDOG_EXIST_VALUE;

            return exitValue;



    private static class MyLogOutputStream extends  LogOutputStream{

        private ProcessExecutorHandler handler;
        private boolean forewordToStandardOutput;

        private MyLogOutputStream(ProcessExecutorHandler handler, boolean forewordToStandardOutput) {
            this.handler = handler;
            this.forewordToStandardOutput = forewordToStandardOutput;

        protected void processLine(String line, int level) {
            if (forewordToStandardOutput){

// interface.
public interface ProcessExecutorHandler {
    public void onStandardOutput(String msg);
    public void onStandardError(String msg);



  1. Hi Nadav,

    Would this method allow me to run the following command line from a web browser via JavaScript. eg using the DeployJava.js etc?

    "D:\Eclipse\eclipse.exe --launcher.openFile C:\mytest.js"

    I am trying to develop a way for my JS (ExtJS) code to send the commandline to Java for execution.

    I can get the JS to Java communication happening but seem to be hitting security issues when I try to use Runtime.getRuntime().exec(cmd);

    I was wondering whether your approach might work better!?


  2. Thanks for sharing it. This will be helpful in understanding the command line better.