3. groovysh, the Groovy shell

3.1. Groovy : Groovy Shell

The Groovy Shell, aka. groovysh is a command-line application which allows easy access to evaluate Groovy expressions, define classes and run simple experiments.

3.1.1. Features

  • No need for go command to execute buffer.

  • Rich cross-platform edit-line editing, history and completion thanks to JLine.

  • ANSI colors (prompt, exception traces, etc).

  • Simple, yet robust, command system with online help, user alias support and more.

  • User profile support

3.1.2. Command-line Options and Arguments

The shell supports several options to control verbosity, ANSI coloring and other features.

./bin/groovysh --help
usage: groovysh [options] [...]
  -C, --color[=FLAG]         Enable or disable use of ANSI colors
  -D, --define=NAME=VALUE    Define a system property
  -T, --terminal=TYPE        Specify the terminal TYPE to use
  -V, --version              Display the version
  -d, --debug                Enable debug output
  -h, --help                 Display this help message
  -q, --quiet                Suppress superfluous output
  -v, --verbose              Enable verbose output

In addition to options, commands or expressions can be given on the command-line which will invoke the shell in non-interactive mode. The commands or expressions will be evaluated and the shell will exit. If no additional arguments are given the shell will startup interactively.

Execute a Command
./bin/groovysh 'show preferences'
No preferences are set
Evaluate an Expression
./bin/groovysh 'System.properties.each { k, v -> println("$k = $v") }'
java.runtime.name = Java(TM) 2 Runtime Environment, Standard Edition
sun.boot.library.path = /System/Library/Frameworks/JavaVM.framework/Versions/1.5.0/Libraries
java.vm.version = 1.5.0_07-87
awt.nativeDoubleBuffering = true
gopherProxySet = false

3.1.3. Evaluating Expressions

Simple Expressions
println "Hello"
Evaluation Result

When a complete expression is found, it is compiled and evaluated. The result of the evaluation is stored into the _ variable.

Multi-line Expressions

Multi-line/complex expressions (like closure or class definitions) may be defined over several lines. When the shell detects that it has a complete expression it will compile and evaluate it.

Define a Class
class Foo {
    def bar() {
        println "baz"
Use the Class
foo = new Foo()

Shell variables are all untyped (ie. no def or other type information).

This will set a shell variable:

foo = "bar"

But, this will evaluate a local variable and will not be saved to the shell’s environment:

def foo = "bar"

Functions can be defined in the shell, and will be saved for later use.

Defining a function is easy:

groovy:000> def hello(name) {
groovy:001> println("Hello $name")
groovy:002> }

And then using it is as one might expect:


Internally the shell creates a closure to encapsulate the function and then binds the closure to a variable. So variables and functions share the same namespace.

3.1.4. Commands

The shell has a number of different commands, which provide rich access to the shell’s environment.

Commands all have a name and a shortcut (which is something like \h). Commands may also have some predefined system aliases. Users may also create their own aliases.

Recognized Commands

Display the list of commands (and aliases) or the help text for specific command.

The Command List

groovy:000> help

For information about Groovy, visit:

Available commands:
  help      (\h ) Display this help message
  ?         (\? ) Alias to: help
  exit      (\x ) Exit the shell
  quit      (\q ) Alias to: exit
  import    (\i ) Import a class into the namespace
  display   (\d ) Display the current buffer
  clear     (\c ) Clear the buffer and reset the prompt counter.
  show      (\S ) Show variables, classes or imports
  inspect   (\n ) Inspect a variable or the last result with the GUI object browser
  purge     (\p ) Purge variables, classes, imports or preferences
  edit      (\e ) Edit the current buffer
  load      (\l ) Load a file or URL into the buffer
  .         (\. ) Alias to: load
  save      (\s ) Save the current buffer to a file
  record    (\r ) Record the current session to a file
  history   (\H ) Display, manage and recall edit-line history
  alias     (\a ) Create an alias
  set       (\= ) Set (or list) preferences
  register  (\rc) Registers a new command with the shell
  doc       (\D ) Opens a browser window displaying the doc for the argument

For help on a specific command type:
    help <command>

Help for a Command

While in the interactive shell, you can ask for help for any command to get more details about its syntax or function. Here is an example of what happens when you ask for help for the help command:

groovy:000> help help

usage: help [<command>]

Display the list of commands or the help text for <command>.

Exit the shell.

This is the only way to exit the shell. Well, you can still CTRL-C, but the shell will complain about an abnormal shutdown of the JVM.


Add a custom import which will be included for all shell evaluations.

This command can be given at any time to add new imports.


Display the contents of the current buffer.

This only displays the buffer of an incomplete expression. Once the expression is complete, the buffer is rest. The prompt will update to show the size of the current buffer as well.


groovy:000> class Foo {
groovy:001> def bar
groovy:002> def baz() {
groovy:003> display
 001> class Foo {
 002> def bar
 003> def baz() {

Clears the current buffer, resetting the prompt counter to 000. Can be used to recover from compilation errors.


Show variables, classes or preferences or imports.

show variables

groovy:000> show variables
  _ = true

show classes

show imports

show preferences

show all


Opens the GUI object browser to inspect a variable or the result of the last evaluation.


Purges objects from the shell.

purge variables

purge classes

purge imports

purge preferences

purge all


Edit the current buffer in an external editor.

Currently only works on UNIX systems which have the EDITOR environment variable set, or have configured the editor preference.


Load one or more files (or urls) into the buffer.


Saves the buffer’s contents to a file.


Record the current session to a file.

record start

record stop

record status


Display, manage and recall edit-line history.

history show

history recall

history flush

history clear


Create an alias.


Opens a browser with documentation for the provided class. For example:

doc java.net.URL

will open two windows (or tabs, depending on your browser):

  • one for the JDK documentation

  • one for the GDK documentation


Set or list preferences.

3.1.5. Preferences

Some of aspects of groovysh behaviors can be customized by setting preferences. Preferences are set using the set command or the \= shortcut.

Recognized Preferences

Set the shell’s verbosity level. Expected to be one of:



  • INFO


Default is INFO.

If this preference is set to an invalid value, then the previous setting will be used, or if there is none, then the preference is removed and the default is used.


Show the last result after an execution.

Default is true.


Sanitize (trim-down/filter) stack traces.

Default is true.


Configures the editor used by the edit command.

Default is the value of the system environment variable EDITOR.

Mac OS XTo use TextEdit, the default text editor on Mac OS X, configure: set editor /Applications/TextEdit.app/Contents/MacOS/TextEdit

Setting a Preference
set verbosity DEBUG
Listing Preferences

To list the current set preferences (and their values):

show preferences

LimitationAt the moment, there is no way to list all of the known/available preferences to be set.

Clearing Preferences (ie. Resetting to Defaults)
purge preferences

3.1.6. User Profile Scripts and State

Profile Scripts

This script, if it exists, is loaded when the shell starts up.


This script, if it exists, is loaded when the shell enters interactive mode.


Edit-line history is stored in this file.

3.1.7. Custom commands

The register command allows you to register custom commands in the shell. For example, writing the following will register the Stats command:

register Stats

where the Stats class is a class extending the org.codehaus.groovy.tools.shell.CommandSupport class. For example:

import org.codehaus.groovy.tools.shell.CommandSupport
import org.codehaus.groovy.tools.shell.Groovysh

class Stats extends CommandSupport {
    protected Stats(final Groovysh shell) {
        super(shell, 'stats', 'T')

    public Object execute(List args) {
        println "Free memory: ${Runtime.runtime.freeMemory()}"


Then the command can be called using:

groovy:000> stats
Free memory: 139474880

Note that the command class must be found on classpath: you cannot define a new command from within the shell.

3.1.8. Screen Shots

These shots have been taken over the development of the new shell, so some of the content might look slightly different. Also, note the yellow colors here are the shell’s bold color, so the colors might look different depending on how the enclosing shell has its colors setup.




3.1.9. Troubleshooting

Please report any problems you run into. Please be sure to mark the JIRA issue with the Groovysh component.

Platform Problems
Problems loading the JLine DLL

On Windows, JLine (which is used for the fancy shell input/history/completion fluff), uses a tiny DLL file to trick the evil Windows faux-shell (CMD.EXE or COMMAND.COM) into providing Java with unbuffered input. In some rare cases, this might fail to load or initialize.

One solution is to disable the frills and use the unsupported terminal instance. You can do that on the command-line using the --terminal flag and set it to one of:

  • none

  • false

  • off

  • jline.UnsupportedTerminal

groovysh --terminal=none
Problems with Cygwin on Windows

as Some people have issues when running groovysh with cygwin. If you have troubles, the following may help:

stty -icanon min 1 -echo
groovysh --terminal=unix
stty icanon echo

3.2. groovyConsole, the Groovy swing console

3.2.1. Groovy : Groovy Console

The Groovy Swing Console allows a user to enter and run Groovy scripts. This page documents the features of this user interface.

3.2.2. Basics


  1. Groovy Console is launched via groovyConsole or groovyConsole.bat, both located in $GROOVY_HOME/bin

  2. The Console has an input area and an output area.

  3. You type a Groovy script in the input area.

  4. When you select Run from the Actions menu, the console compiles the script and runs it.

  5. Anything that would normally be printed on System.out is printed in the output area.

  6. If the script returns a non-null result, that result is printed.

3.2.3. Features

Running Scripts

There are several shortcuts that you can use to run scripts or code snippets:

  • Ctrl+Enter and Ctrl+R are both shortcut keys for Run Script.

  • If you highight just part of the text in the input area, then Groovy runs just that text.

  • The result of a script is the the value of the last expression executed.

  • You can turn the System.out capture on and off by selecting Capture System.out from the Actions menu

Editing Files

You can open any text file, edit it, run it (as a Groovy Script) and then save it again when you are finished.

  • Select File > Open (shortcut key ctrl+O) to open a file

  • Select File > Save (shortcut key ctrl+S) to save a file

  • Select File > New File (shortcut key ctrl+Q) to start again with a blank input area

History and results
  • You can pop-up a gui inspector on the last (non-null) result by selecting Inspect Last from the Actions menu. The inspector is a convenient way to view lists and maps.

  • The console remembers the last ten script runs. You can scroll back and forth through the history by selecting Next and Previous from the Edit menu. Ctrl-N and ctrl-P are convenient shortcut keys.

  • The last (non-null) result is bound to a variable named _ (an underscore).

  • The last result (null and non-null) for every run in the history is bound into a list variable named __ (two underscores). The result of the last run is __[-1], the result of the second to last run is __[-2] and so forth.

Interrupting a script

The Groovy console is a very handy tool to develop scripts. Often, you will find yourself running a script multiple times until it works the way you want it to. However, what if your code takes too long to finish or worse, creates an infinite loop? Interrupting script execution can be acheived by clicking the interrupt button on the small dialog box that pops up when a script is executing or through the interrupt icon in the tool bar.


However, this may not be sufficient to interrupt a script: clicking the button will interrupt the execution thread, but if your code doesn’t handle the interrupt flag, the script is likely to keep running without you being able to effectively stop it. To avoid that, you have to make sure that the Script > Allow interruption menu item is flagged. This will automatically apply an AST transformation to your script which will take care of checking the interrupt flag (@ThreadInterrupt). This way, you guarantee that the script can be interrupted even if you don’t explicitly handle interruption, at the cost of extra execution time.

And more
  • You can change the font size by selecting Smaller Font or Larger Font from the Actions menu

  • The console can be run as an Applet thanks to groovy.ui.ConsoleApplet

  • Code is auto indented when you hit return

  • You can drag’n drop a Groovy script over the text area to open a file

  • You can modify the classpath with which the script in the console is being run by adding a new JAR or a directory to the classpath from the Script menu

  • Error hyperlinking from the output area when a compilation error is expected or when an exception is thrown

3.2.4. Embedding the Console

To embed a Swing console in your application, simply create the Console object,
load some variables, and then launch it. The console can be embedded in either Java or Groovy code.
The Java code for this is:

import groovy.ui.Console;


    Console console = new Console();
    console.setVariable("var1", getValueOfVar1());
    console.setVariable("var2", getValueOfVar2());


Once the console is launched, you can use the variable values in Groovy code.

An example of how to embed either the GroovyConsole or GroovyShell in a Spring Web application can be found at Embedding a Groovy Console in a Java Server Application

3.2.5. Visualizing script output results

You can customize the way script output results are visualized. Let’s see how we can customize this. For example, viewing a map result would show something like this:


What you see here is the usual textual representation of a Map. But, what if we enabled custom visualization of certain results? The Swing console allows you to do just that. First of all, you have to ensure that the visualization option is ticked: View -> Visualize Script Results — for the record, all settings of the Groovy Console are stored and remembered thanks to the Preference API. There are a few result visualizations built-in: if the script returns a java.awt.Image, a javax.swing.Icon, or a java.awt.Component with no parent, the object is displayed instead of its toString() representation. Otherwise, everything else is still just represented as text. Now, create the following Groovy script in ~/.groovy/OutputTransforms.groovy:

import javax.swing.*

transforms << { result ->
    if (result instanceof Map) {
        def table = new JTable(
            result.collect{ k, v ->
                [k, v?.inspect()] as Object[]
            } as Object[][],
            ['Key', 'Value'] as Object[])
        table.preferredViewportSize = table.preferredSize
        return new JScrollPane(table)

The Groovy Swing console will execute that script on startup, injecting a transforms list in the binding of the script, so that you can add your own script results representations. In our case, we transform the Map into a nice-looking Swing JTable. And we’re now able to visualize maps in a friendly and attractive fashion, as the screenshot below shows:


3.2.6. AST browser

Groovy Console can visualize the AST (Abstract Syntax Tree) representing the currently edited script, as shown by the screenshot below. This is particularly handy when you want to develop AST transformations.

AST Browser

3.3. groovydoc, the Groovy & Java documentation generator

GroovyDoc is a tool responsible for generating documentation from your code. It acts like the Javadoc tool in the Java world but is capable of handling both groovy and java files. The distribution comes with two ways of generating documentation: from command line or from Apache Ant. Other build tools like Maven or Gradle also offer wrappers for Groovydoc.

3.3.1. The groovydoc command line tool

The groovydoc command line can be invoked to generate groovydocs:

groovydoc [options] [packagenames] [sourcefiles]

where options must be picked from the following table:

Short version Long version Description

-windowtitle <text>

Browser window title for the documentation


Include @author paragraphs (currently not used)

-charset <charset>

Charset for cross-platform viewing of generated documentation

-classpath, -cp


Specify where to find the class files - must be first argument


--destdir <dir>

Destination directory for output files


Enable debug output

-doctitle <html>

Include title for the overview page

-exclude <pkglist>

Specify a list of packages to exclude (separated by colons for all operating systems)

-fileEncoding <charset>

Charset for generated documentation files

-footer <html>

Include footer text for each page

-header <html>

Include header text for each page



Display help message


Don’t include the implicit public static void main method for scripts


Don’t process Groovy Scripts

-overview <file>

Read overview documentation from HTML file


Show package/protected/public classes and members


Show all classes and members


Show protected/public classes and members (default)


Show only public classes and members


Suppress superfluous output

-sourcepath <pathlist>

Specify where to find source files (dirs separated by platform path separator)

-stylesheetfile <path>

File to change style of the generated documentation


Enable verbose output


Display the version

3.3.2. The groovydoc Ant task

The groovydoc Ant task allows generating groovydocs from an Ant build.

Required taskdef

Assuming groovy-all-2.3.6.jar is in my.classpath you will need to declare this task at some point in the build.xml prior to the groovydoc task being invoked.

<taskdef name         = "groovydoc"
         classname    = "org.codehaus.groovy.ant.Groovydoc"
         classpathref = "my.classpath"/>
<groovydoc> Attributes
Attribute Description Required


Show all classes and members (i.e. including private ones) if set to “true”.



Location to store the class files.



The sourcepath to use.



Comma separated list of package files (with terminating wildcard).



Create class and package usage pages.



Browser window title for the documentation (text).



Include title for the package index(first) page (html-code).



Include header text for each page (html-code).



Include footer text for each page (html-code).



Read overview documentation from HTML file.


<groovydoc> Nested Elements

Create link to groovydoc/javadoc output at the given URL.

Attribute Description Required


Base URL of external site



Comma separated list of package prefixes


Example #1 - <groovydoc> Ant task
<taskdef name           = "groovydoc"
         classname      = "org.codehaus.groovy.ant.Groovydoc"
         classpathref   = "path_to_groovy_all"/>

<groovydoc destdir      = "${docsDirectory}/gapi"
           sourcepath   = "${mainSourceDirectory}"
           packagenames = "**.*"
           use          = "true"
           windowtitle  = "${title}"
           doctitle     = "${title}"
           header       = "${title}"
           footer       = "${docFooter}"
           overview     = "src/main/overview.html"
           private      = "false">
        <link packages="java.,org.xml.,javax.,org.xml." href="http://download.oracle.com/javase/6/docs/api"/>
        <link packages="org.apache.tools.ant."          href="http://evgeny-goldin.org/javadoc/ant/api"/>
        <link packages="org.junit.,junit.framework."    href="http://kentbeck.github.com/junit/javadoc/latest"/>
        <link packages="groovy.,org.codehaus.groovy."   href="http://groovy.codehaus.org/api/"/>
        <link packages="org.codehaus.gmaven."           href="http://evgeny-goldin.org/javadoc/gmaven"/>
Example #2 - Executing <groovydoc> from Groovy
def ant = new AntBuilder()
ant.taskdef(name: "groovydoc", classname: "org.codehaus.groovy.ant.Groovydoc")
    destdir      : "${docsDirectory}/gapi",
    sourcepath   : "${mainSourceDirectory}",
    packagenames : "**.*",
    use          : "true",
    windowtitle  : "${title}",
    doctitle     : "${title}",
    header       : "${title}",
    footer       : "${docFooter}",
    overview     : "src/main/overview.html",
    private      : "false") {
        link(packages:"groovy.,org.codehaus.groovy.",  href:"http://groovy.codehaus.org/api")
        link(packages:"org.apache.tools.ant.",         href:"http://evgeny-goldin.org/javadoc/ant/api")
        link(packages:"org.junit.,junit.framework.",   href:"http://kentbeck.github.com/junit/javadoc/latest")
        link(packages:"org.codehaus.gmaven.",          href:"http://evgeny-goldin.org/javadoc/gmaven")
Custom templates

The groovydoc Ant task supports custom templates, but it requires two steps:

  1. A custom groovydoc class

  2. A new groovydoc task definition

Custom Groovydoc class

The first step requires you to extend the Groovydoc class, like in the following example:

package org.codehaus.groovy.tools.groovydoc;

import org.codehaus.groovy.ant.Groovydoc;

 * Overrides GroovyDoc's default class template - for testing purpose only.
 * @author Andre Steingress
public class CustomGroovyDoc extends Groovydoc {

    protected String[] getClassTemplates() {
        return new String[]{"org/codehaus/groovy/tools/groovydoc/testfiles/classDocName.html"};

You can override the following methods:

  • getClassTemplates for class-level templates

  • getPackageTemplates for package-level templates

  • getDocTemplates for top-level templates

You can find the list of default templates in the org.codehaus.groovy.tools.groovydoc.gstringTemplates.GroovyDocTemplateInfo class.

Using the custom groovydoc task

Once you’ve written the class, using it is just a matter of redefining the groovydoc task:

<taskdef name           = "groovydoc"
         classname      = "org.codehaus.groovy.ant.CustomGroovyDoc"
         classpathref   = "path_to_groovy_all"/>

Please note that template customization is provided as is. APIs are subject to change, so you must consider this as a fragile feature.

3.4. IDE integration

The Groovy language is supported by lots of IDEs and text editors.

Editor Support level Syntax highlighting Code completion Refactoring



Text based


Groovy Eclipse




IntelliJ IDEA








Groovy and Grails Toolsuite




Emacs Groovy Mode