←  back to guides
How to use a custom Java distribution on Gitpod

How to use a custom Java distribution on Gitpod

The default Gitpod workspace-full image comes with preinstalled Java development tools like SDKMan, Maven and Gradle.

When you execute java --version in the terminal, you’ll find out that the current Java version is Java 11 (at the time of writing this blog post).

Since SDKMan is installed, you can easily switch to a different Java version with:

language icon bash
sdk install java 17.0.4.1-tem

But this change will be reflected only in your current workspace. If someone else opens the Gitpod workspace for the same Gitpod repository or if you recreate the workspace, Java will be back to 11, and the version you installed with SDKMan will be gone.

There are at least two ways to configure the Java version for each new Gitpod workspace.

Set Java version with .gitpod.yml

Gitpod workspaces can be configured with .gitpod.yml. We can specify startup task(s) that will execute shell commands for us:

language icon yml
tasks:
    - before: sdk install java 17.0.4.1-tem

This is almost good. The problem is that sdk install prompts the user to set the installed version as a default. There’s no flag to run the command in non-interactive mode, but there is a hacky workaround:

language icon yml
tasks:
    - before: sdk install java 17.0.4.1-tem < /dev/null

The drawback is that this command takes some time to run and is executed every time the workspace is created.

Instead, we can create a custom workspace image that will be built only once.

Set Java version with workspace image

Gitpod gives an option to use a custom Docker image on which the workspace runs. Let’s create one that uses Java 17 by default:

Remove the before task from .gitpod.yml and instead set the image.file property to .gitpod.Dockerfile.

language icon yml
image:
    file: .gitpod.Dockerfile

Next, create a file .gitpod.Dockerfile. If you are happy with the default Gitpod workspace image, you can use it as a base.

language icon dockerfile
FROM gitpod/workspace-full:2022-10-25-06-57-58

SHELL ["/bin/bash", "-c"]
RUN source "/home/gitpod/.sdkman/bin/sdkman-init.sh"  \
    && sdk install java 17.0.4.1-tem < /dev/null

Let’s break it down:

  1. It is recommended to use a specific Docker image tag for a base image. Go to https://hub.docker.com/r/gitpod/workspace-full and look for the latest tag, then use it in FROM command in the Dockerfile.
  2. Change shell to bash, source SDKMan init so that sdk command becomes available, and run sdk install like we previously did in the .gitpod.yml:

Then, when you create a new repository with these files, only on the first run, Gitpod builds an image:

build-image

.. and once the workspace is ready:

language icon bash
java --version

Example output:

language icon bash
Picked up JAVA_TOOL_OPTIONS:  -Xmx3489m
openjdk 17.0.4.1 2022-08-12
OpenJDK Runtime Environment Temurin-17.0.4.1+1 (build 17.0.4.1+1)
OpenJDK 64-Bit Server VM Temurin-17.0.4.1+1 (build 17.0.4.1+1, mixed mode, sharing)

Use a JDK that is unavailable in SDKman

What if the JDK we want to use is not available in SDKMan? Since we are using a Dockerfile, we can write shell scripts.

As an example, let’s use JetBrains distribution of the OpenJDK. Use the following .gitpod.Dockerfile contents:

language icon dockerfile
FROM gitpod/workspace-full:2022-10-25-06-57-58
SHELL ["/bin/bash", "-c"]
RUN wget https://cache-redirector.jetbrains.com/intellij-jbr/jbr-17.0.4.1-linux-x64-b653.1.tar.gz
RUN sudo tar zxf jbr-17.0.4.1-linux-x64-b653.1.tar.gz --directory /opt/
RUN echo 'export JAVA_HOME=/opt/jbr-17.0.4.1-linux-x64-b653.1/' >> /home/gitpod/.bashrc \
    && echo 'export PATH=/opt/jbr-17.0.4.1-linux-x64-b653.1/bin:$PATH' >> /home/gitpod/.bashrc

Let’s break it down:

  1. Download JetBrains Runtime release from https://github.com/JetBrains/JetBrainsRuntime/releases/
  2. Unpack it and move to /opt/

Now, two important points:

  1. export JAVA_HOME is effectively overwriting the one set by SDKMan
  2. Add JDK bin directory to $PATH. It is important to put it before what’s already been there so that the new JDK bin is before the SDKMan path.

Finally, use .gitpod.Dockerfile from your .gitpod.yml:

language icon yml
image:
    file: .gitpod.Dockerfile

And follow see it in action!

Once you recreate the workspace, and the new image is built:

language icon bash
java --version

Example output:

language icon bash
Picked up JAVA_TOOL_OPTIONS:  -Xmx3489m
openjdk 17.0.4.1 2022-08-12
OpenJDK Runtime Environment JBR-17.0.4.1+1-653.1-nomod (build 17.0.4.1+1-b653.1)
OpenJDK 64-Bit Server VM JBR-17.0.4.1+1-653.1-nomod (build 17.0.4.1+1-b653.1, mixed mode)

That’s all folks!

Author
@maciejwalkowiak's avatar on GitHub Maciej Walkowiak

Publish date

Nov 9, 2022

Helpful resources Cloud development environments for platform teams
Join developers, everywhere.

Development environments pre-configured with the tools and dependencies needed to get inspired and start building.

Monthly Newsletter

Subscribe to get a summary of what we've shipped over the last month, plus everything you need to know around developer experience.

By submitting this, I confirm that I have read and understood the Privacy policy.

Related articles