Core Java

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:

  • Execute the process asynchronously.
  • Ability to abort the process execution.
  • Ability to wait for process completion.
  • On process output notifications.
  • Ability to kill the process in case it hung.
  • Get the process exit code.

The native JDK does not help much. Fortunately, we have Apache Commons Exec. 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:

   1: 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.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();

       return executor.submit(new ProcessCallable(watchdogTimeout, handler, commandline));




     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){









     public static void main(String[] args) throws IOException {

         CommandLine cl = CommandLine.parse("test.bat");

         Future<Long> exitValue = runProcess(cl, new ProcessExecutorHandler() {



             public void onStandardOutput(String msg) {

                 System.out.println("output msg = " + msg);




             public void onStandardError(String msg) {

                 System.out.println("error msg = " + msg);


         }, 1);

         try {


             Long aVoid = exitValue.get();

             System.out.println("Finished with  " + aVoid);

         } catch (InterruptedException e) {

             e.printStackTrace();  //To change body of catch statement use File | ngs | File Templates.

         } catch (ExecutionException e) {

             e.printStackTrace();  //To change body of catch statement use File | ngs | File Templates.









Reference: Executing a Command Line Executable From Java from our JCG partner Nadav Azaria at the DeveloperLife blog.

Want to know how to develop your skillset to become a Java Rockstar?

Join our newsletter to start rocking!

To get you started we give you our best selling eBooks for FREE!


1. JPA Mini Book

2. JVM Troubleshooting Guide

3. JUnit Tutorial for Unit Testing

4. Java Annotations Tutorial

5. Java Interview Questions

6. Spring Interview Questions

7. Android UI Design


and many more ....


Receive Java & Developer job alerts in your Area

I have read and agree to the terms & conditions


Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Matteo Dosmi
10 years ago

It seems the code is missing the interface declaration:
interface ProcessExecutorHandler {
public void onStandardOutput(String line);
public void onStandardError(String line);

Increse the watchdog timeout expressed in millisecs (i.e. to 3000)

Then you can try it with a simple bat file like “C:/Users/username/Desktop/test/test.bat”:

cd C:UsersusernameDesktoptest
echo 123
copy one.txt two.txt
exit /b 55

8 years ago
Back to top button