Tying things together

Oracle Nashorn: A next-generation JavaScript engine for the JVM


Julien Ponge outlines scenarios for using Oracle Nashorn as a command-line tool and as an embedded interpreter in Java applications.

Scenarios for using Oracle Nashorn as a command-line
tool and as an embedded interpreter in Java

Until Java SE 7, JDKs shipped with a JavaScript scripting engine
based on Mozilla Rhino. Java SE 8 will instead ship with
a new engine called Oracle Nashorn, which is based on JSR 292
and invokedynamic. It provides better compliance with the
ECMA normalized JavaScript specification and better runtime
performance through invokedynamic-bound call sites.

This article is an introduction to using Oracle Nashorn in
several ways. It covers using the standalone engine through the
jjs command-line tool as well as using Oracle Nashorn as
an embedded scripting engine inside Java applications. It shows the
Java-to-JavaScript interoperability and how Java types can be
implemented and extended from JavaScript, providing a seamless
integration between the two languages.

The examples can be run using a recent JDK 8
early-access release
. You can also use a custom
build of OpenJDK 8
. This is very simple to do thanks to the new
OpenJDK build infrastructure (for example, sh configure
&& make images
on a Mac OS X operating system with the
XCode command-line tools installed).

It’s just JavaScript

A simple way to get started with Oracle Nashorn is to run
JavaScript programs from the command line. To do so, builds of
Oracle’s JDK or OpenJDK include a command-line tool called
jjs. It can be found in the bin/ folder of a JDK
installation along with the well-known java,
javac, or jar tools.

The jjs tool accepts a list of JavaScript source code
files as arguments. Consider the following hello.js

var hello = function() {
  print("Hello Nashorn!");


Evaluating it is as simple as this: 

$ jjs hello.js
Hello Nashorn!


var data = [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10];

var filtered = data.filter(function(i) {
  return i % 2 == 0;

var sumOfFiltered = filtered.reduce(function(acc, next) {
  return acc + next;
}, 0);

Listing 1

Oracle Nashorn is an ECMA-compliant implementation of the
language; hence, we can run more-elaborate snippets, such as the
one shown in Listing 1, which prints a filtered list in which only
the even numbers remain from the original list. It also prints the
sum of those even numbers:  


While Oracle Nashorn runs ECMA-compliant JavaScript, it is
important to note that objects normally accessible in a web browser
are not available, for example, console, window,
and so on.

Scripting extensions

If you run jjs -help to get a comprehensive list of the
jjs command-line tool commands, you will notice a few
interesting features: 

  • It can run scripts as JavaFX applications.

  • JavaScript strict mode can be activated.

  • Additional classpath elements can be specified for the Java
    Virtual Machine (JVM).

  • An intriguing scripting mode can be enabled. 

The scripting mode is interesting if you plan to take advantage
of jjs to run system scripts written in JavaScript, just
as you would do in Python, Ruby, or Bash. The scripting mode mainly
consists of two language extensions: heredocs and shell

A simple way to get started with Oracle Nashorn is to
run JavaScript programs from the command line.

Heredocs. Heredocs are simply multiline
strings, and they use a syntax that is familiar to Bash, Perl, and
Ruby programmers (see Listing 2). Text begins with
<< followed by a special termination marker, which
is EOF in our case. The formatting is left intact until
the termination marker. Also, JavaScript expressions can be
embedded in ${...} expressions. Running this program
yields the output shown in Listing 3. 

var data = {
 foo: “bar”,
 time: new Date()

print(<So...       foo = ${data.foo} and the current time is       ${data.time} EOF);  

Listing 2

$  jjs -scripting heredocs.js
      foo = bar
and the current time is
      Thu Aug 01 2013 16:21:16 GMT+0200 (CEST)

Listing 3

Note that in scripting mode, double-quoted strings can embed
expressions that will be evaluated: "Hello ${name}" will
evaluate against the value of name, while 'Hello
will not.

Shell invocations. Shell invocations allow the
invocation of external programs in which the command is put between
back-tick characters. Consider the following example: 

var lines = 
'ls -lsa'.split("n");
for each (var line in lines) {
  print("|> " + line);

It runs the ls -lsa command. A shell invocation returns
the standard console output as a string, which enables us to split
lines and print them prepended with "|> ", as shown in
Listing 4. If you need more-elaborate control over invoked
processes, you should know that a $EXEC function exists,
which provides access to the standard input, output, and error

jjs -scripting dir.js
|> total 72
|>  0 drwxr-xr-x  2 jponge  staff    238 Aug  1 16:12 .
|>  0 drwxr-xr-x  5 jponge  staff    170 Aug  1 12:15 ..
|>  8 -rw-r--r--  1 jponge  staff     90 Jul 31 23:36 dir.js
|>  8 -rw-r--r--  1 jponge  staff    304 Aug  1 15:56 hello.js
|>  8 -rw-r--r--  1 jponge  staff    143 Aug  1 16:12 heredocs.js

Listing 4

Other goodies. The scripting mode provides
further goodies: 

  • The $ENV variable provides the shell environment

  • The $ARG variable is an array of the program
    command-line arguments.

  • Comments can start with #, which is useful for making
    scripts executable on UNIX-like systems. exit(code) and
    quit() functions can terminate the current JVM

Consider the following executable.js file: 

#!/usr/bin/env jjs -scripting
"Arguments (${$ARG.length})");
for each (arg in $ARG) {
  print("- ${arg}")

We can make it executable and invoke it (arguments are passed after
–), as shown in Listing 5. 

$ chmod +x executable.js
$ ./executable.js
Arguments (0)
$ ./executable.js -- hello world !
Arguments (3)
- hello
- world
- !

Listing 5

Embedding Oracle Nashorn

The public API to embed Oracle Nashorn is simply
javax.script. When Oracle Nashorn is available, its
scripting engine is accessible through the nashorn

Listing 6 shows how you can access Oracle Nashorn from a Java
application to define a sum function, call it, and then
display the result. 

package sample1;

import javax.script.ScriptEngine;
import javax.script.ScriptEngineManager;

public class Hello {

  public static void main(String... args) throws Throwable {
    ScriptEngineManager engineManager = 
new ScriptEngineManager();
    ScriptEngine engine = 
    engine.eval("function sum(a, b) { return a + b; }");
    System.out.println(engine.eval("sum(1, 2);"));

Listing 6 

The scripting engine object is the sole entry point to the
Oracle Nashorn interpreter. It can be cast to the
javax.script.Invocable interface, too: 

Invocable invocable = (
Invocable) engine;
"sum", 10, 2)); 

The Invocable interface also provides a method to convert
evaluated code to a reference on a Java interface. Suppose that
there exists some interface Adder as follows: 

public interface Adder {
  int sum(int a, int b);

The evaluated code defines a sum function with two
arguments; hence, we can use it as an implementation as

Adder adder = 
  adder.sum(2, 3)); 

This is a convenient way to extend Java types from JavaScript, but
fortunately it’s not the only one, as we will see in the next

Not every JavaScript code is to be evaluated from a String:
; instances can be used, too, as shown in
Listing 7. 

engine.eval(new FileReader("src/sample1/greeter.js"));
System.out.println(invocable.invokeFunction("greet", "Julien"));

Listing 7 

You should consult the complete javax.script APIs for
more details, including the information about the ability to define
scopes and bindings of script engines.


Let’s now call a real-world JavaScript library from a Java
application. To do so, let’s use the popular mustache.js
template library, which is commonly used to render view fragments
in HTML applications. Briefly, given a JSON data object
{"name":"Bean"} and a template "Hello {{name}}",
Mustache renders "Hello Bean". The template engine can do
more than that, though, because it also supports conditions,
collection iteration, and more.

Suppose that we downloaded mustache.js. Listings 8a
and 8b show our Java integration example. 

package sample2;

import javax.script.Invocable;
import javax.script.ScriptEngine;
import javax.script.ScriptEngineManager;
import java.io.FileReader;

public class Mustache {

  public static void main(String... args) throws Throwable {
    ScriptEngineManager engineManager = 
new ScriptEngineManager();
    ScriptEngine engine = 
    engine.eval(new FileReader("src/sample2/mustache.js"));
    Invocable invocable = (Invocable) engine;

    String template = "Email addresses of {{contact.name}}:n" +
        "{{#contact.emails}}n" +
        "- {{.}}n" +

    String contactJson = "{" +
        ""contact": {" +
        ""name": "Mr A", "emails": [" +
        ""contact@some.tld", "sales@some.tld"" +

Listing 8a

Object json = engine.eval("JSON");
    Object data = 
invocable.invokeMethod(json, "parse", contactJson);

    Object mustache = engine.eval("Mustache");
mustache, "render", template, data));

Listing 8b

After getting a scripting engine reference for Oracle Nashorn,
we evaluate the mustache.js code. We then define the
Mustache template as a String. The data model needs to be
a JSON object. In our case, we first have to define it as a
String and call JSON.parse to have it as a JSON
object. We can then call Mustache.render. Running this
program yields the following output, calling mustache.js
for template rendering: 

$ java sample2.Mustache 
Email addresses of Mr A:
- contact@some.tld
- sales@some.tld


Java seen from Oracle Nashorn

In most cases, calling Java APIs from Oracle Nashorn is
straightforward, with the resulting code being Java written in

Java objects can be instantiated using the new operator:
var file = 
new java.io.File("sample.js");

Listing 9

Basic example. We can call the
System.currentTimeMillis() static method, as shown in
Listing 9. And Java objects can be instantiated using the
new operator: 

var file = 
new java.io.File("sample.js");

Note that although java.io.File does not define an
absolutePath method or public field, Oracle Nashorn
inferred a property for it, so the expression
file.absolutePath is equivalent to file.get
. In fact, Oracle Nashorn treats the
getXY() and setXY(value) methods as

Dealing with arrays. The following snippet
populates a queue as an instance of

var stack = 
new java.util.LinkedList();
[1, 2, 3, 4].forEach(function(item) {


This produces the following output, confirming that we are directly
manipulating Java objects from JavaScript: 

[4, 3, 2, 1]
class java.util.LinkedList 

We can also take a tour through the new Java 8 stream APIs to sort
the collection, although in this case, this is not the most
efficient way to do so: 

var sorted = stack

This time, it prints something like
[Ljava.lang.Object;@473b46c3, which indicates a Java
native array. However, a Java array is not a JavaScript array.
Internally, Oracle Nashorn provides JavaScript arrays using a
custom class that also implements java.util.Map.
Conversions can be performed using the to and
from methods of the Oracle Nashorn–provided Java

var jsArray = Java.from(sorted);

var javaArray = 

which prints: 


By default, all references to Java types need to
be fully qualified (for example, java.lang.String,
java.util.LinkedHashSet, and so on). Oracle Nashorn does
not import the java package by default, because references
to String or Object conflict with the
corresponding types in JavaScript. Hence, a Java string is
java.lang.String, not String.

Mozilla Rhino was the predecessor of Oracle Nashorn as the
JavaScript engine implementation provided with Oracle’s JDK
releases. It featured a load(path) function to load a
third-party JavaScript file. This is still present in Oracle
Nashorn. You can use it to load a special compatibility module that
provides importClass to import a class (like an explicit
import in Java) and importPackage to import a package
(like a wildcard import in Java): 


var set = new HashSet();

var list = new ArrayList(); 

It is important to note that these functions import the symbolic
references into the global scope of the JavaScript code being
interpreted. While they are still supported for compatibility
reasons, the use of mozilla_compat.js and
importClass is discouraged. Instead, it is recommended
that you use another function coming from the Mozilla Rhino
heritage—JavaImporter—as shown in Listing 10. 

var CollectionsAndFiles = new JavaImporter(

with (CollectionsAndFiles) {
  var files = new LinkedHashSet();
  files.add(new File("Plop"));
  files.add(new File("Foo"));
  files.add(new File("w00t.js"));

Listing 10

JavaImporter takes a variable number of arguments as
Java packages, and the returned object can be used in a
with statement whose scope includes the specified package
imports. The global JavaScript scope is not affected, making
JavaImporter a much better alternative to
importClass and importPackage.

Overloaded methods. Java allows method
, that is, the definition within a single class of
several methods that have the same names but different signatures.
The java.io.PrintStream class is a good example, providing
many print and println methods for objects,
strings, arrays, and primitive types.

Oracle Nashorn properly selects the most suitable target at
runtime on a per-invocation basis. This means that you should never
have to worry about overloaded methods when dealing with Java APIs.
Still, there is a way to precisely select the required target if
you need to. This need mainly occurs with ambiguous parameters when
you are passing a function object in which different interface
types are permitted by overloaded methods, such as with the
submit methods of java.util.concurrent

In the following code, the first call to println will
select the println(String) overloaded method. The second
call uses a JavaScript object property to access the
println(Object) variant. The string to be passed provides
a signature that Oracle Nashorn uses at resolution time. Note that
as an exception, classes from the java package need not be
qualified; hence, we can write println(Object) instead of
the valid, but longer,

var stdout = 

Type objects.
The Java.type function can be used
to obtain references to precise Java types. These include not just
objects but also primitive types and arrays: 

var LinkedList = Java.type(
var primitiveInt = Java.type(
var arrayOfInts = Java.type(

The returned objects are an Oracle Nashorn–specific representation
of mappings to Java types. It is important to note that they differ
from instances of java.lang.Class. Type objects are useful
as constructors and for instanceof-based comparisons.
Let’s look at Listing 11. 

var list = new LinkedList;
print(list instanceof LinkedList);

var a = new arrayOfInts(3);
print(a instanceof arrayOfInts);

Listing 11

It is possible to go back and forth between a type object and a
Java class reference. The class property of type objects
returns their java.lang.Class counterpart. Similarly, the
static property is made available to
java.lang.Class instances to get their corresponding type

print(LinkedList.class === list.getClass());
print(list.getClass().static === LinkedList);

The code in Listing 12 would print the following: 

class java.util.LinkedList
[JavaClass java.util.LinkedList]

Extending Java types

Oracle Nashorn provides simple mechanisms for extending Java
types from JavaScript code. It is important to be able to provide
interface implementations and concrete subclasses.

Implementing interfaces. Given a Java
interface, a simple way to provide an implementation is to
instantiate it, and pass its constructor function a JavaScript
object in which the methods to be implemented are given as

Listing 13 provides a concrete implementation of
java.util.Iterator, giving implementations of the
next and hasNext methods (the remove
method is provided by a default method in Java 8). We can run it,
and check that it works as expected (see Listing 14). 

var iterator = new java.util.Iterator({
  i: 0,
  hasNext: function() {
    return this.i < 10;
  next: function() {
    return this.i++;

print(iterator instanceof Java.type("java.util.Iterator"));
while (iterator.hasNext()) {
  print("-> " + iterator.next());

Listing 13

-> 0
-> 1
-> 2
-> 3
-> 4
-> 5
-> 6
-> 7
-> 8
-> 9 

Listing 14

When interfaces consist of a single method, a function object
can be directly given with no need to perform an explicit
new operator call. The example in Listing 15 illustrates
this on collection streams. 

var list = java.util.Arrays.asList(1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8);
var odd = list.stream().filter(function(i) {
  return i % 2 == 0;
odd.forEach(function(i) {
  print(">>> " + i);

Listing 15

Running the code in Listing 15 prints the following: 

>>> 2
>>> 4
>>> 6
>>> 8 

Note that Oracle Nashorn also provides a language extension in the
form of Oracle Nashorn functions, which provides an
abridged syntax for small lambda functions. This works everywhere a
single abstract-method type is expected from Java APIs, too.
Therefore, we can rewrite the following code from Listing

var odd = list.stream().filter(
  function(i) {
  return i % 2 == 0;

Like this: 

var odd = list.stream().filter(
  function(i) i % 2 == 0);

This language extension is useful when dealing with the new Java SE
8 APIs that provide support for lambda expressions, because
JavaScript functions can be used wherever a Java lambda is
expected. Also, note that this shorter form is to be supported by
JavaScript 1.8 engines.

The case of abstract classes is the same as interfaces: you
provide a JavaScript object with the required method
implementations to its constructor function. Or, directly pass a
function when an instance of a single abstract-method class is

Using instance-bound implementations. To extend
concrete classes, you have to use the Java.extend
function. It takes a type object as a first argument to denote the
base class to be extended. If the parameter is an interface type,
it assumes that the base class is java.lang.Object.
Further types can be given as extra parameters to specify a set of
implemented interfaces.

Consider the example shown in Listing 16. The
Java.extend function returns a type object, also called an
extender. It can be invoked to create concrete subclasses;
in our case, instance is a subclass of
java.lang.Object that implements the two interfaces
java.lang .Comparable and java.io.Serializable.
Implementations are passed to instances being created through a
JavaScript object passed to the constructors. 

var ObjectType = Java.type("java.lang.Object");
var Comparable = Java.type("java.lang.Comparable");
var Serializable = Java.type("java.io.Serializable");

var MyExtender = Java.extend(
ObjectType, Comparable, Serializable);
var instance = new MyExtender({
  someInt: 0,
  compareTo: function(other) {
    var value = other["someInt"];
    if (value === undefined) {
      return 1;
    if (this.someInt < value) {
      return -1;
    } else if (this.someInt == value) {
      return 0;
    } else {
      return 1;

print(instance instanceof Comparable);
print(instance instanceof Serializable);
print(instance.compareTo({ someInt: 10 }));
print(instance.compareTo({ someInt: 0 }));
print(instance.compareTo({ someInt: -10 })); 

Listing 16

Running the code in Listing 16 yields the following console


Using class-bound implementations.
Instances created from
the same extender type share the same class although their
implementations differ on a per-instance basis (see Listing

var anotherInstance = new MyExtender({
  compareTo: function(other) {
    return -1;

// Prints 'true'!
print(instance.getClass() === anotherInstance.getClass()); 

Listing 17

While this is fine in many cases, passing the implementation to
each instance might not always be convenient. Indeed, there are
cases where objects must be instantiated through some form of
inversion-of-control mechanism, such as those found in dependency
injection APIs. In such cases, the third-party APIs typically
require a reference to the implementation class, which makes the
previous extender mechanism unsuitable.

Fortunately, Java.extend allows implementations to be
bound to a class definition rather than being specified for each
instance. To do so, you simply need to pass an implementation
JavaScript object as the last parameter.

Consider Listing 18, which defines two extender types:
FooCallable and BarCallable. When creating
instances foo and bar, there is no need to pass
implementations. We can also check that instances do not have the
same class definition. In fact, FooCallable.class or
BarCallable.class can be passed to third-party Java APIs
that need instances of java.lang.Class

var Callable = Java.type("java.util.concurrent.Callable");

var FooCallable = Java.extend(Callable, {
  call: function() {
    return "Foo";

var BarCallable = Java.extend(Callable, {
  call: function() {
    return "Bar";

var foo = new FooCallable();
var bar = new BarCallable();

// 'false'
print(foo.getClass() === bar.getClass());


Listing 18

Although not illustrated by this example, classes defined with
class-bound implementations provide constructors inherited from
their superclass. In this example, our objects implicitly extend
java.lang.Object and implement
java.util.concurrent.Callable; hence, the corresponding
class definition simply has a public no-arguments constructor.

Using instance-bound and class-bound
Last but not least, it is possible to
combine both instance-bound and class-bound implementations. You
can refine the class-bound implementation of all or some of the
methods by passing an implementation object to its constructor, as
shown in Listing 19. 

var foobar = new FooCallable({
  call: function() {
    return “FooBar”;

// ‘FooBar’

// ‘true’
print(foo.getClass() === foobar.getClass());  

Listing 19


This article covered various scenarios for using Oracle Nashorn
as a command-line tool and as an embedded interpreter in Java
applications. It also covered the interoperability between Java and
JavaScript, including the ability to implement and extend Java
types from JavaScript.

Oracle Nashorn is an excellent way to take advantage of a
scripting language for polyglot applications on the JVM. JavaScript
is a popular language, and the interaction between Java and
JavaScript is both seamless and straightforward for a wide range of
use cases.

Originally published in the Jan/Feb 2014 issue of Java
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About the author

Julien Ponge (@jponge) is a
longtime open source craftsman who is currently an associate
professor in computer science and engineering at INSA de Lyon.
He focuses his research on programming languages, virtual machines,
and middleware as part of the CITI Laboratory activities.

(1) Originally published in the Jan/Feb 2014 Edition of
Java Magazine 
(2) Copyright © [2014] Oracle.

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