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Optional Dependencies with requires static

Optional Dependencies with requires static

The module system has a strong opinion on dependencies: By default, they need to be required (to be accessible) and then they need to be present both at compile and at run time. This does not work with optional dependencies, though, where code is written against artifacts that are not necessarily present at run time. The requires static directive solves this problem by demanding presence at compile time but tolerating absence at run time.

Note: You need to know the module system basics to get the most out of this article.

Optional Dependencies With requires static

When a module needs to be compiled against types from another module but does not want to depend on it at run time, it can use a requires static directive. If module A requires static module B, the module system behaves different at compile and run time:

  • At compile time, B must be present (or there will be an error) and B is readable by A. (This is the common behavior for dependencies.)
  • At run time, B might be absent and that will cause neither error nor warning. If it is present, it is readable by A.

How exactly presence is handled is not trivial, but before discussing that let's see an example. Within the JDK, no dependency is optional, so we have to come up with our own.

Let's imagine an app that solves its business case well enough but can do so better in presence of an additional, proprietary library. In this example, we call the app's module and the library com.sample.solver. We also assume that the integration is coded such that references types from com.sample.solver, which means app needs to be compiled against the solver, which in turn means app must require solver:

module {
    requires com.sample.solver;

But as we explored when discussing module resolution, this means tha the module system will throw an error at run time if com.sample.solver is absent - clearly the dependency is not optional. Let's use requires static instead:

module {
    requires static com.sample.solver;

For compilation of, com.sample.solver is required and must be present, which means its types can be freely used. At run time, it can be missing, though, which leads to two questions that we will answer next:

  • Under what circumstances will the optional dependency be present?
  • How can we code against an an optional dependency?

Resolution Of Optional Dependencies

Module resolution is the process that, starting from the root modules, builds a module graph by resolving requires directives. When a module is being resolved, all modules it requires must be found in the runtime or on the module path and if they are, they are added to the module graph; otherwise an error occurs. (Note that modules that did not make it into the module graph during resolution are not available later during compilation or execution, either.) At compile time, module resolution handles optional dependencies just like regular dependencies. At run time, though, they are mostly ignored.

When the module system encounters a requires static directive it does not try to fulfill it, meaning it does not even check whether the referenced module can be found. As a consequence, even if a module is present on the module path (or in the JDK for that matter), it will not be added to the module graph just because of an optional dependency. It will only make it into the graph if it is also a regular dependency of some other module that is being resolved or because it was added explicitly with the command line flag --add-modules. In that case, the module system will add a readability edge from the requiring mode to the optional dependency.

In other words, an optional dependency is ignored unless it makes it into the module graph some other way, in which case the resulting module graph is the same as if it would've been with a non-optional dependency.

Coding Against Optional Dependencies

Optional dependencies require a little more thought when writing code against them. Generally speaking, when the code that is currently being executed references a type, the Java runtime checks whether it is already loaded. If not, it tells the class loader to do that and if that fails, the result is a NoClassDefFoundError, which usually crashes the application or at least fails out of the chunk of logic that was being executed.

This is something JAR hell was famous for and that the module system wants to overcome by checking declared dependencies when launching an application. But with requires static we opt out of that check, which means we can end up with a NoClassDefFoundError after all.

Checking Module Presence

To avoid that, we can query the module system for the presence of a module:

public class ModuleUtils {

    public static boolean isModulePresent(Object caller, String moduleName) {
        return caller.getClass()


The caller needs to pass itself to the method so it can determine the correct layer to query for the desired module.

Established Dependency

It may not always be ne necessary to explicitly check a module's presence, though. Imagine a library com.example.lib that helps with the use of various existing APIs, among them the JDBC API in java.sql. Then it makes sense to assume that code that doesn't use JDBC doesn't use that part of the library. Put differently, we can assume that the JDBC parts of the library are only called from code that already uses JDBC, which means java.sql must be part of the module graph.

Generally speaking, if the code that uses an optional dependency will only ever be called from code that relies on the same dependency, its presence can be assumed and doesn't need to be checked.

Last update: September 14, 2021

Current Tutorial
Optional Dependencies with requires static