Viewing the Contents of JAR

Listing files inside a JAR or displaying content of a single file using different commands: "jar", "unzip", or "vim".


As a Java developer, it’s important to understand how to manipulate JAR file. It happened to me recently, because I needed to inspect and modify some files in a JAR during development. In this article, I will share with you some commands that help to do that. After reading this article, you will understand how to:

  • Create a JAR
  • List all files inside a JAR
  • Display content of a single file
  • Extract files

Create JAR

Before continuing, let’s create a simple JAR file for the demo purpose. Here’s the structure of the project with 3 files:

demo $ tree
└── docs
    └── foo.txt

1 directory, 3 files

# App

README is not always useful. The end.

public class App {
  public static void main(String[] args) {
    System.out.println("Hello world!");



Now, compile the source code and use command jar to create (c) a JAR file, which will include 3 files: the class file, the txt and the README. The created JAR will be stored in relative filepath (f) app.jar. The entire process will be done in verbose mode (v).

$ javac
$ jar cvf app.jar App.class docs
added manifest
adding: App.class(in = 412) (out= 288)(deflated 30%)
adding: = 45) (out= 47)(deflated -4%)
adding: docs/(in = 0) (out= 0)(stored 0%)
adding: docs/foo.txt(in = 4) (out= 6)(deflated -50%)

List Files

List all the files inside the JAR without extracting it. This can be done using either command jar, unzip or vim.

Using jar command in normal mode: viewing the table (t) of contents of the JAR file, available in filepath (f) app.jar which is the current directory. The command displays the contents of the JAR file to standard output:

$ jar tf app.jar

Using jar command in verbose mode (v):

$ jar tvf app.jar
     0 Tue Apr 30 20:38:16 CEST 2019 META-INF/
    69 Tue Apr 30 20:38:16 CEST 2019 META-INF/MANIFEST.MF
   412 Tue Apr 30 20:37:34 CEST 2019 App.class
    45 Tue Apr 30 20:12:46 CEST 2019
     0 Tue Apr 30 20:36:16 CEST 2019 docs/
     4 Tue Apr 30 20:36:16 CEST 2019 docs/foo.txt

Using unzip command in normal mode: list (-l) archive files in short format. The names, uncompressed file sizes and modification dates and times of the specified files are printed, along with totals for all files specified.

$ unzip -l app.jar
Archive:  app.jar
  Length      Date    Time    Name
---------  ---------- -----   ----
        0  04-30-2019 20:38   META-INF/
       69  04-30-2019 20:38   META-INF/MANIFEST.MF
      412  04-30-2019 20:37   App.class
       45  04-30-2019 20:12
        0  04-30-2019 20:36   docs/
        4  04-30-2019 20:36   docs/foo.txt
---------                     -------
      530                     6 files

Using unzip command in verbose mode (-v):

$ unzip -v app.jar
Archive:  app.jar
 Length   Method    Size  Cmpr    Date    Time   CRC-32   Name
--------  ------  ------- ---- ---------- ----- --------  ----
       0  Defl:N        2   0% 04-30-2019 20:38 00000000  META-INF/
      69  Defl:N       68   1% 04-30-2019 20:38 4c2a0a51  META-INF/MANIFEST.MF
     412  Defl:N      288  30% 04-30-2019 20:37 3bcbe29a  App.class
      45  Defl:N       47  -4% 04-30-2019 20:12 0f4320d6
       0  Stored        0   0% 04-30-2019 20:36 00000000  docs/
       4  Defl:N        6 -50% 04-30-2019 20:36 04a2b3e9  docs/foo.txt
--------          -------  ---                            -------
     530              411  23%                            6 files

Using VIM: VIM editor contains a ZIP script (zip.vim) which allows you to browse ZIP file directly, which is also valid for JAR files. To enter into a file, you need to select a file with cursor and press ENTER key.

$ vim app.jar
" zip.vim version v28
" Browsing zipfile /Users/mincong/Desktop/demo/app.jar
" Select a file with cursor and press ENTER


For those who are curious, you can show all the script names using command :scriptnames in VIM editor.

Display File Content

Using unzip command: extract files to stdout / screen with the name of each file printed. Similar to -p. Here’s an example of displaying content of README and foo:

$ unzip -c app.jar docs/foo.txt
Archive:  app.jar
# App

README is not always useful. The end.

  inflating: docs/foo.txt

Using unzip command (2): extract files to pipe (-p) (stdout). Nothing but the file data is sent to stdout, and the files are always extracted in binary format, just as they are stored (no conversions).

$ unzip -p app.jar
# App

README is not always useful. The end.
$ unzip -p app.jar docs/foo.txt

Using vim command: open VIM editor and browse the file as described in section above. Select a file and press ENTER will enter into a file. You can edit it and save (:x), too.

$ vim app.jar

Extract Files

After viewing the contents is not enough for you, perhaps you will want to extract some files from the JAR, too.

Extracting (x) one file from JAR can be done using jar, where you need to provide the filepath f of the JAR and the target files to extract:

$ jar xf app.jar

Without the target files to extract, command jar will extract all files in the current directory:

$ jar xf app.jar


In this article, we saw different methods of viewing contents of a JAR file using jar, unzip, and vim. Hope you enjoy this article, see you the next time!