To Shell Or Not To Shell

Jim Laskey
Senior Development Manager

I find myself facing a dilemma today. How should I use Java FX from Nashorn? So far, I have two approaches I could use, but each comes with some issues. Some background first.

Java FX, even though ships with the JDK, is on a different build cycle and has dependencies on elements of the JDK. This arraignment limits Nashorn, which is part of the JDK, from actually having dependencies into Java FX. But, there is a dependency requirement to implement a Java FX application. Java FX applications begin with a subclass instance of javafx.application.Application. Therefore, whatever choice is made, it has to be independent of the JDK (at some point should be part of Java FX.)

The first approach, in general terms, is the easiest to use. It involves using a predefined shell that is similar to jjs but handles the overrides of Application methods init, start and finish. The source of this shell is currently checked into the Nashorn repo under nashorn/tools/fxshell.

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package jdk.nashorn.tools;
import java.io.FileInputStream;
import java.io.FileNotFoundException;
import java.io.InputStreamReader;
import java.io.UnsupportedEncodingException;
import java.util.ArrayList;
import java.util.List;
import java.util.Map;
import java.util.Set;
import java.util.logging.Level;
import java.util.logging.Logger;
import javafx.application.Application;
import javafx.stage.Stage;
import javax.script.Invocable;
import javax.script.ScriptContext;
import javax.script.ScriptEngine;
import javax.script.ScriptEngineFactory;
import javax.script.ScriptEngineManager;
import javax.script.ScriptException;
import jdk.nashorn.api.scripting.NashornScriptEngineFactory;
 * This shell is designed to launch a JavaFX application written in Nashorn JavaScript.
public class FXShell extends Application {
     * Script engine manager to search.
    private ScriptEngineManager manager;
     * Nashorn script engine factory.
    private NashornScriptEngineFactory factory;
     * Main instance of Nashorn script engine.
    private ScriptEngine engine;
     * Needed so that the FX launcher can create an instance of this class.
    public FXShell() {
     * Main entry point. Never actually used.
     * @param args Command line arguments.
    public static void main(String[] args) {
     * Application overrides.
    public void init() throws Exception {
        // Script engine manager to search.
        this.manager = new ScriptEngineManager();
        // Locate the Nashorn script engine factory.  Needed for passing arguments.
        for (ScriptEngineFactory engineFactory : this.manager.getEngineFactories()) {
             if (engineFactory.getEngineName().equals("Oracle Nashorn") &&
engineFactory instanceof NashornScriptEngineFactory) {
                this.factory = (NashornScriptEngineFactory)engineFactory;
        // If none located.
        if (this.factory == null) {
            System.err.println("Nashorn script engine not available");
        // Get the command line and JNLP parameters.
        final Parameters parameters = getParameters();
        // To collect the script paths and command line arguments.
        final List<String> paths = new ArrayList<>();
        final List<String> args = new ArrayList<>();
        // Pull out relevant JNLP named parameters.
        final Map<String, String> named = parameters.getNamed();
        for (Map.Entry<String, String> entry : named.entrySet()) {
            final String key = entry.getKey();
            final String value = entry.getValue();
            if ((key.equals("cp") || key.equals("classpath")) && value != null) {
            } else if (key.equals("source") && value != null &&
value.toLowerCase().endsWith(".js")) {
        // Pull out relevant command line arguments.
        boolean addNextArg = false;
        boolean addAllArgs = false;
        for (String parameter : parameters.getUnnamed()) {
            if (addAllArgs || addNextArg) {
                addNextArg = false;
            } else if (parameter.equals("--")) {
                addAllArgs = true;
            } else if (parameter.startsWith("-")) {
                addNextArg = parameter.equals("-cp") || parameter.equals("-classpath");
            } else if (parameter.toLowerCase().endsWith(".js")) {
        // Create a Nashorn script engine with specified arguments.
        engine = factory.getScriptEngine(args.toArray(new String[args.size()]));
        // Load initial scripts.
        for (String path : paths) {
        // Invoke users JavaScript init function if present.
        try {
            ((Invocable) engine).invokeFunction("init");
        } catch (NoSuchMethodException ex) {
            // Presence of init is optional.
    public void start(Stage stage) throws Exception {
        // Invoke users JavaScript start function if present.
        try {
            ((Invocable) engine).invokeFunction("start", stage);
        } catch (NoSuchMethodException ex) {
            // Presence of start is optional.
    public void stop() throws Exception {
        // Invoke users JavaScript stop function if present.
        try {
            ((Invocable) engine).invokeFunction("stop");
        } catch (NoSuchMethodException ex) {
            // Presence of stop is optional.
     * Load and evaluate the specified JavaScript file.
     * @param path Path to UTF-8 encoded JavaScript file.
     * @return Last evaluation result (discarded.)
    private Object load(String path) {
        try {
            FileInputStream file = new FileInputStream(path);
            InputStreamReader input = new InputStreamReader(file, "UTF-8");
            return engine.eval(input);
        } catch (FileNotFoundException | UnsupportedEncodingException | ScriptException ex) {
        return null;

To built it you can (cd make ; ant build-fxshell) from within the nashorn repo. The result is in nashorn/dist/nashornfx.jar. To use just java -cp dist/nashornfx.jar jdk.nashorn.tools.FXShell <myscript.js> … . For the JDK savvy you can create a launcher by modelling an entry in jdk/makefiles/CompileLaunchers.gmk after the jjs entry.

The big plus for this approach is that it handles almost everything for you. You just have to define a start method with a few class declarations and that is it. The down side is that ideally you would want this implemented as a jjsfx launcher embedded in the JDK. But then we run into the chicken and egg dependency on Java FX.

The second approach only relies on jjs. With a recent modification to Java.extend (currently only in the nashorn forest), it is now possible to subclass javafx.application.Application. and thus launch from within a script. This sounds like all pluses except for the fact you have to wrap your brain around the fact that FX applications take control of execution and has static init dependencies that require careful use in your program.

I prototyped a simple fxinit.js include that shows how we could implement such a scheme. Ignore the implementation quirks. It's simpler than it seems.

GLOBAL = this;
javafx = Packages.javafx;
(Java.extend(javafx.application.Application, {
    init: function() {
        // FX packages and classes must be defined here because they may not be
        // viable until launch time.
        Stage          = javafx.stage.Stage;
        scene          = javafx.scene;
        Scene          = scene.Scene;
        Group          = scene.Group;
        chart          = scene.chart;
        control        = scene.control;
        Button         = control.Button;
        StackPane      = scene.layout.StackPane;
        FXCollections  = javafx.collections.FXCollections;
        ObservableList = javafx.collections.ObservableList;
        Chart          = chart.Chart;
        CategoryAxis   = chart.CategoryAxis;
        NumberAxis     = chart.NumberAxis;
        BarChart       = chart.BarChart;
        XYChart        = chart.XYChart;
        Series         = chart.XYChart$Series;
        Data           = chart.XYChart$Data;
        TreeView       = control.TreeView;
        TreeItem       = control.TreeItem;
        if (GLOBAL.init) {
    start: function(stage) {
        if (GLOBAL.start) {
    stop: function() {
        if (GLOBAL.stop) {
})).class, new (Java.type("java.lang.String[]"))(0));

How you would use it is straight forward. Here is the FX HelloWorld.java example written for Nashorn;

function start(stage) {
    stage.title = "Hello World!";
    var button = new Button();
    button.text = "Say 'Hello World'";
    button.onAction = function() print("Hello World!");
    var root = new StackPane();
    stage.scene = new Scene(root, 300, 250);
Note the placement of the load("fxinit.js");. Since this is where the FX Application takes control, anything after the load will not complete until the application exits.

One other quirk. Since you can not static init some of Java FX classes until after the application launches. You can not globally (script level) declare any uses of these classes. Uses can be embedded in methods used after the launch, but no where else. This is a style cramp for me.

There is a third approach I have been considering. It involves some argument trickery, but may play out as a better way of doing things. Imagine jjs fxinit.js -- myscript.js -- my scripts args . The -- indicates the beginning of arguments passed to the script. The notion here is that fxinit.js launches the application and then evals myscript.js. This cleanses my script of any quirks, while putting the onus on getting the command line right.


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Comments ( 2 )
  • guest Sunday, April 7, 2013

    FWIW I use your third choice in rtalk. Standard launcher to get the classes etc loaded and then pass a class name method name to invoke. I also allow passing a script but that is harder to debug and get correct


  • our distance education Sunday, April 7, 2013

    Of course, this is very effective sharing. I am pleased most. I hope for the next. I Thank Jlaskey.

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