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Declaring Native Methods

This section illustrates how to declare a native method in Java and how to generate the corresponding C/C++ function prototype.

The Java Side

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

The Prompt class contains a main method, which is used to invoke the program, and a native method named getLine, which is declared as follows:

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. However, you declare native methods differently, as follows:

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.

Compile the file and then generate the .h file. First, 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

JNIEXPORT jstring JNICALL Java_Prompt_getLine(JNIEnv *, jobject, jstring);

The native method function definition in the implementation code must match the generated function signature in the header file. Always include JNIEXPORT and JNICALL in your native method function signatures. 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:

Graphically, this looks as follows:

Thus, the native code implementation for the Prompt.getLine method becomes Java_Prompt_getLine. (Remember that no package name component appears because the Prompt class is in the default package.)

Note: Overloaded native method names, in addition to the above components, have an extra two underscores "__" appended to the method name followed by the argument signature. To illustrate, we created a second version of the Java program,, and overloaded the getLine method by adding a second argument of type int. The two getLine method names in the Prompt2.h header file look as follows:

Recall from Step 3: Create the .h File, each native method has two parameters in addition to those parameters that you declared 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 point. 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 Java).

Lastly, notice that the JNI has a set of type names, such as jobject and jstring, and each type corresponds to Java types. This is covered in the next section.

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