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Lesson 1 - Java Server - Introduction

Welcome to the Java tutorial to learn how to create a server for client applications. In this case, we'll focus on a chat server, but the base will be the same for other uses as well. In this lesson, we're going to set out the goals we want to achieve, describe the technologies used, and set up a project.


As mentioned in the introduction, this course aims to show that writing a quality server in Java is not as difficult as it may seem. In the first half of the course, we'll implement basic parts that can be used for any server application, from chat to a simple game server. The other half will focus on the chat itself.

Server Functions

The server will provide the following features:

  • client management
    • establish direct communication
    • queue waiting clients
  • the waiting queue will be used in case there are too many clients on the server
  • easy searching for the server in local network
  • easy extensibility with plugins
  • interactive communication with the server administrator

Final App

Below you can see the resulting chat client. There's the number of unread messages shown next to contacts. In addition, the "typing" indicator appears in the tab when the person is typing a message. If the conversation is longer, a scrollbar appears.

Custom chat client in Java conversation example

Technologies Used

Since this is a course in the Java section, we're going to write the entire application in Java. Gradle will manage the project and dependencies and Google Guice will provide the dependency injection.

Creating the Project

We'll start by setting up the project. I recommend using a reasonable IDE for programming. I will use IntelliJ IDEA throughout the course.

We'll click on the File -> New -> Project ... button in the application menu. In this window, check that you want Gradle to take care of the project. If there's no Gradle option, you need to activate the plugin in the settings: File -> Settings -> Plugins opens the plugin settings window. In the search box enter the name of the plugin - "Gradle", check the checkbox, click the apply and ok buttons. Gradle will be active when the environment restarts. Select Java as the language (should be selected by default). Click Next to continue.

Start a new project in IntelliJ Idea with Gradle

In the next window we need to fill in the GroupId and ArtifactId fields. GroupId is a package that typically represents the business/insti­tution/indivi­dual behind the application. I usually use cz.stechy here. ArtifactId is the name of the application we are trying to create. In this case, we simply enter chat. There's also a Version field. This indicates the version of the application. Leave the field filled with the default value and continue with the Next button.

Set GroupID and ArtifactID with IntelliJ IDEA

The next window contains the Gradle settings. Leave everything by default and check the Use auto-import checkbox. Continue with the Next button.

Setting Gradle in the IntelliJ IDEA

The last window in which you set the project root directory follows. When you are satisfied with the location of the project, click Finish to complete it.

Set the project root directory

As soon as the project is created, Gradle will start initializing.

Project Structure

The structure of our project is shown in the following image:

Basic Java Server project structure

There are two hidden folders in the project directory: .gradle/ and .idea/. There are configuration files for gradle and idea in these folders, ignore them. There are also folders:

  • gradle/, containing a wrapper for Gradle.
  • src/, which is empty.

Do not delete or edit any of these components. We'll not use the src/ folder. The files include:

  • build.gradle, a configuration file containing information about building the main chat module.
  • The settings.gradle file containing the project name information.
  • The gradlew and gradlew.bat files are startup files for Gradle.

However, we aren't satisfied with this structure because we want to create a client-server application. So we'll create modules representing the client, server, and the shared part. We'll right-click on the root folder (chat/) and select New -> Module. We'll see the same window as when creating a new project. Again, we'll choose that we want Gradle to take care of the dependencies. Next, we'll select that we want Java and continue with the Next button.

The next window contains the GroupId and ArtifactId settings. GroupId is already pre-filled and we won't change it. As ArtifactId we'll type the name of the new module. First, we'll create a module for the client, so fill in client and continue with the Next button.

Set ArtifactID of a new module in IntelliJ IDEA

The last window displays the module location settings. We'll leave default values for everything and click Finish to finish creating the first module. Now create the server and share modules using the same approach.

The resulting project structure is shown in the following image:

Resulting project structure with created modules in IntelliJ IDEA

Each module has the src/main/java/ folder into which we're going to write the source code. The resources/ folder is used for any additional files such as images, translations, etc. The test/ folder contains the same folders as main/, but is intended for testing the application.

Setting Dependencies

Now we'll set dependencies between the modules. The share module will contain classes that will be common to both the client and the server.

In the client module, we'll open the build.gradle file and add a dependency on the share module by using the compile project(':share') command at the place where dependencies are set. We'll put the same command into the server module as well.

Individual modules can be compiled with the command:

client: gradlew :client:compileJava
server: gradlew :server:compileJava
share: gradlew :share:compileJava

The commands are executed in the command prompt. There's a terminal plugin in IntelliJ that makes the command line available directly in the environment. If you have the plugin active, you can display the terminal by clicking on the terminal tab at the bottom of the IDE. Otherwise, it's necessary to enable the plugin in the plugin settings in File -> Settings -> Plugins. In the window, enter the name of the terminal plugin in the search box and check the checkbox. After confirming the changes and restarting the IDE, the terminal will be active and ready for use.

Now, if you run the client compilation, the share module will be compiled first and then the client module will.

We'll stick with the client module and build.gradle for a while. To be able to run the client easily, it's necessary to add a plugin that takes care of it. Add the application plugin to the plugins definition at the beginning of the file:

plugins {
    id 'java'
    id 'application'

This plugin also needs to define the name of the main class including all the packages in which the class is located. Therefore, we'll create a new variable that won't be in any block and name it mainClassName:

mainClassName = ''

Let's move to the server module to the build.gradle file again. We'll run the server with parameters in the future. To be able to pass these parameters to the JVM easily, we need to create our own task:

task run (type: JavaExec, dependsOn: classes){

    main = ""
    classpath = sourceSets.main.runtimeClasspath
    jvmArgs = [
    standardInput =

We'll start the client and server as follows:

client: gradlew :client:run
server: gradlew :server:run -Parg=-port=21298

That would be all for the introductory lesson. Next time, in lesson Java Server - Server Parameters, we'll start creating the server part of the chat.


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