What is the JDK? Introduction to the Java Development Kit

The Java Development Kit (JDK) is one of three core technology packages used in Java programming, along with the JVM (Java Virtual Machine) and the JRE (Java Runtime Environment). It’s important to differentiate between these three technologies and understand how they’re connected:

  • The JVM is the runtime that hosts running programs.
  • The JRE is the on-disk part of Java that creates the JVM and loads programs into them.
  • The JDK provides the tools necessary to write Java programs that can be executed and run by the JVM and JRE.

Developers new to Java often confuse the Java Development Kit and the Java Runtime Environment. The distinction is that the JDK is a package of tools for developing Java-based software, whereas the JRE is a package of tools for running Java code.

The JRE can be used as a standalone component to simply run Java programs, but it’s also part of the JDK. The JDK requires a JRE because running Java programs is part of developing them.

Figure 1 shows how the JDK fits into the Java application development lifecycle.

A diagram of the JDK.IDG

Figure 1. A high-level view of the JDK.

Before we move on, let’s consider the technical and everyday definitions of the JDK:

  • Technical definition: The JDK is an implementation of the Java platform specification, which includes the compiler and standard class libraries.
  • Everyday definition: The JDK is a software package you download in order to create Java-based applications.

JDK versions and packages

Getting Java set up in your development environment is as easy as downloading a JDK and adding it to the system path on your operating system.  For Windows and macOS, Java includes an installer that will do this for you.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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