Java Project Management in VS Code

This document will give you an overview of how to use the Java Dependency Viewer and Maven for Java extensions to manage your projects within Visual Studio Code.

VS Code also supports a Syntax Mode for Java, which works best for reading and navigating through source files.

If you run into any issues when using the features below, you can contact us by clicking the Report an issue button below.

Syntax Mode

Reading and navigating through source code is a common use for a lightweight editor. When developers use VS Code to open a Java source file/folder that doesn't involve a project system, it's annoying to see semantic errors reported when the source cannot be resolved to a project. With Syntax Mode, you'll be able to read source code more efficiently with the help of Code Navigation and Outline features. Syntax errors are also reported so you can fix them right away.

Usually you won't even know Syntax Mode is on, but you can configure it. Go to Problems panel, and look for the warning File xxx is non-project file, only syntax errors are reported, which means you are in Syntax Mode. If you want to see all the type errors and get full support, right-click on this warning and switch out of Syntax Mode through the context menu. See the screenshots below.

Enable Semantic

The project mode will provide you full support for standalone Java files. It's also easy to turn back to Syntax Mode for either a single file or any non-project files with the Only report syntax errors for actions.

Switch to Syntax

Project management

Project Management in Visual Studio Code is provided by the Java Dependency Viewer extension. This extension has many features including creating projects as well as viewing the package structure of the project and its dependencies.

Install the Java Dependency Viewer

Create project

In addition to creating a project through Maven Archetype, you can also use the following command to create a simple Java project: Java: Create Java Project from the Command Palette.

If you're creating a Spring Boot project, you can also use the Spring Initializr extension, see Spring Boot in Visual Studio Code.

Package and dependency view

The extension also has a hierarchy view of your project and dependencies, which supplements the file view and outline provided by Visual Studio Code, so you don't need to expand multiple subfolders to just view your Java package.

Standalone Java file support

Visual Studio Code also supports Java files without a project system. The solution is folder-based, so you can open a source folder with Visual Studio Code. After switching from Syntax Mode to Project Mode (by selecting the Report compilation errors... Quick Fix), all the Java files within the folder will be properly compiled with all language features available. You can also run and debug standalone files.

Multiple source folders

If you have multiple subfolders that have source code for your project, you can easily add these folders to source path, then all the code inside will be correctly compiled.

Adding external JAR

You can use the Java Dependency Viewer to add any JAR file to your project.

Add Dependency

The other easy way to bring additional JAR files as dependencies is to create a lib/ folder in the root directory of the standalone files and place your JAR files there. Source for foo.jar is automatically detected if there is a foo-sources.jar in the lib/ folder.

Behind the scene, there's a setting java.project.referencedLibaries. Below are details on how to customize this setting.

Include libraries

The libraries to reference are described using a set of glob patterns.

For example:

"java.project.referencedLibraries": [

The settings above will add all .jar files in workspace's library folder along with foo.jar from a specified absolute path to the project's external dependencies.

The referenced libraries are then watched by VS Code, and the project will be refreshed if there is a change to any of these dependent files.

By default, VS Code will reference all JAR files in workspace's lib directory using the glob pattern lib/**/*.jar.

Exclude some libraries

If you want to exclude some libraries from the project, you can expand java.project.referencedLibraries to use include/exclude fields and add an exclude glob pattern:

"java.project.referencedLibraries": {
    "include": [
    "exclude": [

In the example above, any binary JAR files in the library/sources folder are ignored as the project's external dependencies.

Attach source jars

By default, a referenced {binary}.jar will try to search {binary}-sources.jar under the same directory, and attach it as source if one match is found.

If you want to manually specify a JAR file as a source attachment, you can provide a key-value map in the sources field:

"java.project.referencedLibraries": {
    "include": [
    "exclude": [
    "sources": {
        "library/bar.jar": "library/sources/bar-src.jar"

In this way, bar-src.jar is attached to bar.jar as its source.

In case VS Code throws an error for a classpath issue, try setting your classpath manually by either setting the CLASSPATH environment variable or editing the .classpath file with the path to the JAR file:

<classpathentry kind="lib" path="lib/log4j.jar"/>

In some rare cases, you may need to clean the Java workspace by executing the Java: Clean the java language server workspace command from the Command Palette (⇧⌘P (Windows, Linux Ctrl+Shift+P)) to let the language server rebuild your dependencies.

Configure multiple JDK

As Java evolves, Java developers sometimes need to deal with multiple Java runtimes. The Java extension supports preference mapping through the java.configuration.runtimes array for Java execution environments. VS Code will detect the runtime required for your project and choose the appropriate one configured.

"java.configuration.runtimes": [
    "name": "JavaSE-1.8",
    "path": "/usr/local/jdk1.8.0_201"
    "name": "JavaSE-11",
    "path": "/usr/local/jdk-11.0.3",
    "sources" : "/usr/local/jdk-11.0.3/lib/",
    "javadoc" : "",
    "default":  true
    "name": "JavaSE-12",
    "path": "/usr/local/jdk-12.0.2"
    "name": "JavaSE-13",
    "path": "/usr/local/jdk-13"

Runtime names must be one of: "J2SE-1.5", "JavaSE-1.6", "JavaSE-1.7", "JavaSE-1.8", "JavaSE-9", "JavaSE-10", "JavaSE-11", "JavaSE-12", "JavaSE-13". We will update the list with each supported release of the JDK.


Maven is a software tool that helps you manage Java projects and automate application builds. The Maven for Java extension for Visual Studio Code provides fully integrated Maven support, allowing you to explore Maven projects, execute Maven commands, and perform the goals of build lifecycle and plugins.

Install the Maven for Java extension

Exploring Maven project

Once a Maven project is loaded, the extension will be activated and it will automatically scan for pom.xml files in your workspace and displays all Maven projects and their modules in the side bar.

Maven Explorer

Resolve unknown type

The Maven extension also supports searching Maven Central to resolve unknown types in your source code. You can do this by selecting the Resolve unknown type link shown on hover.

Working with POM.xml

The extension provides code snippets and auto completion for adding Maven dependencies based on local Maven repositories. See how easy it is to add a new dependency to your pom.xml with those convenient features.

The extension also enables you to generate effective POM.

You can also use the command Maven: Add a Dependency (or maven.project.addDependency) to help add a new dependency to pom.xml. The process is interactive.

You can also add dependencies through the Java Dependency Viewer, which calls the same Maven command.

Furthermore, VS Code also supports showing dependencies in a tree view, which allows you to inspect all dependencies in your project at a single place and check for potential issues.

Execute Maven commands and goals

By right-clicking each Maven project in the explorer, you can conveniently run Maven goals.

The extension also preserves the history of goals for each project, so you can quickly rerun the previous command, which is useful when you're running a long custom goal.

There are two ways to rerun a goal:

  1. Command Palette > Select Maven: History > Select a project > Select command from the history.
  2. Right-click a project > Click History > Select command from history.

You can also specify your favorite commands in settings for future execution.

For each plug-in you use with your project, the extension also provides you an easy way to access the goals within each plugin.

To debug Maven goals, right-click on a goal and start debugging. The Maven extension will call the Java debugger with the right parameters. This is a handy, time-saving feature.

Generate project from Maven Archetype

Another handy feature provided by this extension is to generate a Maven project from Archetype. The extension loads archetypes listed in local/remote catalogs. After selection, the extension sends mvn archetype:generate -D... to the terminal.

There are two ways to generate a Maven project:

  1. From the Command Palette, select Maven: Generate from Maven Archetype.
  2. Right-click on a folder and select Generate from Maven Archetype.

Build Status

When you edit Java source code in Visual Studio Code, the Java language server is building your workspace to provide you with the necessary language features. You can see the detailed build task status and watch what is happening behind the scene by clicking the language server Status bar icon in the lower right.

Additional resources

Visit the GitHub Repo of the Maven extension for additional configurations and a troubleshooting guide.

In addition to Maven, there's also a Bazel extension if you use Bazel to build and test your project.

Next steps

Read on to find out more about:

  • Java Editing - Explore the editing features for Java in VS Code.
  • Java Debugging - Find out how to debug your Java project with VS Code.
  • Java Testing - Use VS Code for your JUnit and TestNG cases.
  • Java Extensions - Learn about more useful Java extensions for VS Code.