Java Language Processing arguments by hand


Example

When the command-line syntax for an application is simple, it is reasonable to do the command argument processing entirely in custom code.

In this example, we will present a series of simple case studies. In each case, the code will produce error messages if the arguments are unacceptable, and then call System.exit(1) to tell the shell that the command has failed. (We will assume in each case that the Java code is invoked using a wrapper whose name is "myapp".)

A command with no arguments

In this case-study, the command requires no arguments. The code illustrates that args.length gives us the number of command line arguments.

public class Main {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        if (args.length > 0) {
            System.err.println("usage: myapp");
            System.exit(1);
        }
        // Run the application
        System.out.println("It worked");
    }
}

A command with two arguments

In this case-study, the command requires at precisely two arguments.

public class Main {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        if (args.length != 2) {
            System.err.println("usage: myapp <arg1> <arg2>");
            System.exit(1);
        }
        // Run the application
        System.out.println("It worked: " + args[0] + ", " + args[1]);
    }
}

Note that if we neglected to check args.length, the command would crash if the user ran it with too few command-line arguments.

A command with "flag" options and at least one argument

In this case-study, the command has a couple of (optional) flag options, and requires at least one argument after the options.

package tommy;
public class Main {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        boolean feelMe = false;
        boolean seeMe = false;
        int index;
        loop: for (index = 0; index < args.length; index++) {
            String opt = args[index];
            switch (opt) {
            case "-c":
               seeMe = true;
               break;
            case "-f":
               feelMe = true;
               break;
            default:
               if (!opts.isEmpty() && opts.charAt(0) == '-') {
                   error("Unknown option: '" + opt + "');
               }
               break loop;
            }
        }
        if (index >= args.length) {
            error("Missing argument(s)");
        }      
        
        // Run the application
        // ...
    }

    private static void error(String message) {
        if (message != null) {
            System.err.println(message);
        }
        System.err.println("usage: myapp [-f] [-c] [ <arg> ...]");
        System.exit(1);
   }
}

As you can see, processing the arguments and options gets rather cumbersome if the command syntax is complicated. It is advisable to use a "command line parsing" library; see the other examples.