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Declaring Native Methods

This page shows you how to declare a native method in Java and how to generate the C/C++ function prototype.

The Java Side

Our first example,, contains a native method that takes and prints a Java string, waits for user input, and then returns the line that the user typed in.

The Java class Prompt contains a main method which is used to invoke the program. In addition, there is a getLine native method:

private native String getLine(String prompt);

Notice that the declarations for native methods are almost identical to the declarations for regular, non-native Java methods. There are two differences. Native methods must have the native keyword. The native keyword informs the Java compiler that the implementation for this method is provided in another language. Also, the native method declaration is terminated with a semicolon, the statement terminator symbol, because there are no implementations for native methods in the Java class file.

The Native Language Side

You must declare and implement native methods in a native language, such as C or C++. Before you do this, it is helpful to generate the header file that contains the function prototype for the native method implementation.

First, compile the file and then generate the .h file. Compile the file as follows:


Once you have successfully compiled and have created the Prompt.class file, you can generate a JNI-style header file by specifying a -jni option to javah:

javah -jni Prompt

Examine the Prompt.h file. Note the function prototype for the native method getLine that you declared in

Java_Prompt_getLine(JNIEnv *, jobject, jstring);

The native method function definition in the implementation code must match the generated function prototype in the header file. Always include JNIEXPORT and JNICALL in your native method function prototypes. JNIEXPORT and JNICALL ensure that the source code compiles on platforms such as Win32 that require special keywords for functions exported from dynamic link libraries.

Native method names are concatenated from the following components:

(Note that overloaded native method names, in addition to the above components, have extra two underscores "__" appended to the method name followed by the argument signature.)

As a result, the Prompt.getLine method is implemented by Java_Prompt_getLine in native code. (There is no package name component because the Prompt class is in the default package.)

Each native method has two additional parameters, in addition to any parameters that you declare on the Java side. The first parameter, JNIEnv *, is the JNI interface pointer. This interface pointer is organized as a function table, with every JNI function at a known table entry. Your native method invokes specific JNI functions to access Java objects through the JNIEnv * pointer. The jobject parameter is a reference to the object itself (it is like the this pointer in C++).

Lastly, notice that JNI has a set of type names (e.g., jobject, jstring) that correspond to Java types. This is covered in the next section.

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