Eclipse contains a native executable launcher that is used to start
Eclipse. There is more to the launcher than just the eclipse
executable in the root of the install.
The launcher and its shared library
The launcher executable comes in 2 pieces:
the executable (eclipse.exe), and a shared library (eclipse_1017.dll). The
executable lives in the root of the eclipse install. The shared library
is in a platform specific fragment,
org.eclipse.equinox.launcher.[config], in the plugins directory.
Having the majority of the launcher code in a shared library
that lives in a fragment means that that portion of the launch code can
now be updated from an update site. Also, when starting from java, the
shared library can be loaded via JNI in order to display the splash
The launcher bundle
Previous versions of Eclipse had a startup.jar JAR file in the root
of the install. In 3.3, this code has been moved to a plug-in org.eclipse.equinox.launcher in
the plugins directory. Eclipse can still be started directly with java
using, for example:
java -jar plugins/org.eclipse.equinox.launcher_1.0.0.v20070606.jar
Launching Eclipse involves 3 main pieces: the native executable, the
launcher platform specific fragment and the launcher jar. In the
example below, notice that the launcher fragment is in folder form,
this is necessary so that the native eclipse.exe can load the shared
The version numbers above are for illustration purposes only (e.g. 1.0.0.v20070606). The actual version
numbers may vary depending on the version of Eclipse you are using.
Finding a VM and using the JNI Invocation API
The Eclipse launcher is capable of loading the Java VM in the
eclipse process using the Java Native Interface Invocation API.
The launcher is still capable of starting the Java VM in a separate
process the same as previous version of Eclipse did. Which method
is used depends on how the VM was found.
No -vm specified
When no -vm is specified, the launcher looks for a virtual machine
first in a jre directory in the root of eclipse and then on the search
path. If java is found in either location, then the launcher looks for a jvm
shared library (jvm.dll on Windows, libjvm.so on *nix platforms)
relative to that java executable.
- If a jvm shared library is found the launcher loads it and uses the JNI invocation API to start the vm.
- If no jvm shared library is found, the launcher executes the java launcher to start the vm in a new process.
-vm specified on the command line or in eclipse.ini
Eclipse can be started with "-vm <location>" to indicate a
virtual machine to use. There are several possibilities for the value
directory: <location> is a directory. We look in that
directory for: (1) a java launcher or (2) the
jvm shared library. If we find the jvm shared library, we use JNI
invocation. If we find a launcher, we attempt to find a jvm library in
known locations relative to the launcher. If we find one, we use JNI
invocation. If no jvm library is found, we exec java in a new process.
java.exe/javaw.exe: <location> is a path to a java
launcher. We exec that java launcher to start the vm in a new process.
jvm dll or so: <location> is a path to a jvm
shared library. We attempt to load that library and use the JNI
Invocation API to start the vm in the current process.
linux.ppc, linux.x86_64, aix.ppc:
The launcher is not able to load some older vms using the JNI
invocation API. By default on these platforms the launcher will
prefer to execute java in a separate process. To force the
launcher to load the vm using JNI, specify a -vm option pointing
directly to the vm's shared library (libjvm.so).
MacOSX: The launcher uses the system JavaVM framework and will always load the vm in-process using the JNI invocation API.