Installing and Running JFlex

Installing JFlex


To install JFlex on Windows, follow these three steps:

  1. Unzip the file you downloaded into the directory you want JFlex in. If you unzipped it to say C:\, the following directory structure should be generated:
        +--bin\                        (start scripts) 
        +--doc\                        (FAQ and manual) 
            +--byaccj\                 (calculator example for BYacc/J) 
            +--cup-maven\              (calculator example for cup and maven) 
            +--interpreter\            (interpreter example for cup) 
            +--java\                   (Java lexer specification) 
            +--simple-maven\           (example scanner built with maven) 
            +--standalone-maven\       (a simple standalone scanner, 
                                        built with maven) 
            +--zero-reader\            (Readers that return 0 characters) 
        +--lib\                        (precompiled classes) 
                +--config\             (PMD source analyzer configuration) 
                +--cup\                (JFlex parser spec) 
                    +--jflex\          (source code of JFlex) 
                        +--anttask\    (source code of JFlex Ant Task) 
                        +--gui\        (source code of JFlex UI classes) 
                        +--unicode\    (source code for Unicode properties) 
                +--jflex\              (JFlex scanner spec) 
                +--resources\          (messages and default skeleton file) 
            +--test\                   (unit tests)
  1. Edit the file bin\jflex.bat (in the example it’s C:\jflex-$VERSION\bin\jflex.bat) such that

    • JAVA_HOME contains the directory where your Java JDK is installed (for instance C:\java) and

    • JFLEX_HOME the directory that contains JFlex (in the example: C:\jflex-$VERSION)

  2. Include the bin\ directory of JFlex in your path. (the one that contains the start script, in the example: C:\jflex-$VERSION\bin).

Mac/Unix with tar

To install JFlex on a Mac or Unix system, follow these two steps:

You can verify the integrity of the downloaded file with the SHA1 checksum available on the JFlex download page. If you put the checksum file in the same directory as the archive, and run:

shasum --check jflex-$VERSION.tar.gz.sha1

it should tell you

jflex-$VERSION.tar.gz: OK

Running JFlex

You run JFlex with:

jflex <options> <inputfiles>

It is also possible to skip the start script in bin/ and include the file lib/jflex-$VERSION.jar in your CLASSPATH environment variable instead.

Then you run JFlex with:

java jflex.Main <options> <inputfiles>

or with:

java -jar jflex-$VERSION.jar <options> <inputfiles>

The input files and options are in both cases optional. If you don’t provide a file name on the command line, JFlex will pop up a window to ask you for one.

JFlex knows about the following options:

-d <directory>
writes the generated file to the directory <directory>

--encoding <name>
uses the character encoding <name> (e.g. utf-8) to read lexer specifications and write java files.

--skel <file>
uses external skeleton <file>. This is mainly for JFlex maintenance and special low level customisations. Use only when you know what you are doing! JFlex comes with a skeleton file in the src directory that reflects exactly the internal, pre-compiled skeleton and can be used with the -skel option.

skip the DFA minimisation step during scanner generation.

tries even harder to comply to JLex interpretation of specs.

generate graphviz dot files for the NFA, DFA and minimised DFA. This feature is still in alpha status, and not fully implemented yet.

display transition tables of NFA, initial DFA, and minimised DFA

dot (.) meta character matches [^\n] instead of

--verbose or -v
display generation progress messages (enabled by default)

--quiet or -q
display error messages only (no chatter about what JFlex is currently doing)

warn about unused macros (by default true in verbose mode and false in quiet mode)

do not warn about unused macros (by default true in verbose mode and false in quiet mode)

display time statistics about the code generation process (not very accurate)

print version number

print system and JDK information (useful if you’d like to report a problem)

--unicodever <ver>
print all supported properties for Unicode version <ver>

--help or -h
print a help message explaining options and usage of JFlex.

JFlex Ant Task

JFlex can easily be integrated with the Ant build tool. To use JFlex with Ant, simply copy the lib/jflex-$VERSION.jar file to the $ANT_HOME/lib/ directory or explicitly set the path to lib/jflex-$VERSION.jar in the task definition (see example below).

The JFlex Ant Task invokes JFlex on a grammar file.

To use the JFlex task, place the following line in the Ant build file:

<taskdef classname="jflex.anttask.JFlexTask" name="jflex" />

Or, setting the path to the JFlex jar explicitly:

<taskdef classname="jflex.anttask.JFlexTask" name="jflex"
         classpath="path-to-jflex.jar" />

The JFlex task requires the file attribute to be set to the source grammar file (*.flex). Unless the target directory is specified with the destdir option, the generated class will be saved to the same directory where the grammar file resides. Like javac, the JFlex task creates subdirectories in destdir according to the generated class package.

This task only invokes JFlex if the grammar file is newer than the generated files.


The following attributes are available for invoking the JFlex task.


After the task definition, the <jflex ..> task is available in Ant. For example:


JFlex generates the scanner for src/parser/Scanner.flex and saves the result to build/generated/parser/, providing Scanner.flex is declared to be in package parser.


The same as above plus compile generated classes to build/classes