Spring’s CommandLineRunner provides a great mechanism to build command line applications. While this convenience is great, applications that use CommandLineRunner require extra effort in some areas like integration testing. Exit codes are such an area - applications that use command line runners always report their exit code as 0 even if there are exceptions thrown. This blog post explains a way to get to programmable exit codes for such applications.

The following example demonstrates this problem. Here we have a simple implementation of CommandLineRunner that simply throws a RuntimeException when started.

@Component
@Profile("exception")
public class WillThrow implements CommandLineRunner {
    public void run(String... args) throws Exception {
        throw new RuntimeException("This should kill the application");
    }
}

When this application runs, we will see that the exit code is 0, as expected.

$ java -Dspring.profiles.active=exception -jar build/libs/exit-code-demo-1.0-SNAPSHOT.jar >> /dev/null 2&>1
$ echo $?
0

A simple way to propagate the right exit code is to use java.lang.System#exit and specify an error code. The following snippet shows this:

@Component
@Profile("exit")
public class WillExit implements CommandLineRunner {
    public void run(String... args) throws Exception {
        System.exit(3);
    }
}

When run:

$ java -Dspring.profiles.active=exit -jar build/libs/exit-code-demo-1.0-SNAPSHOT.jar >> /dev/null 2&>1
$ echo $?
3

This looks straightforward and easy. However, exiting the application from within the CommandLineRunner makes integration testing of this application difficult. Our tests will simply stop execution at that point without giving us the opportunity to assert anything.

At work, while looking for a solution to this, we stumbled across Spring’s ExitCodeGenerator 1. It is an interface whose implementations Spring uses to look up what exit code to use. There are at least two ways to make use of ExitCodeGenerator - one involves making the application’s Exceptions implement ExitCodeGenerator and the other involves making the command line runners themselves implement ExitCodeGenerator. We will look at the first approach here.

Our new command line runner will be as:

@Component
@Profile("exception")
public class WillThrow implements CommandLineRunner{
    public void run(String... args) throws Exception {
        throw new ExceptionWithExitCode("Hello");
    }
}

And the exception will resemble:

public class ExceptionWithExitCode extends RuntimeException implements ExitCodeGenerator {
    public ExceptionWithExitCode(String message) {
        super(message);
    }

    public int getExitCode() {
        return 13;
    }
}

When the application runs:

$ java -Dspring.profiles.active=exception -jar build/libs/exit-code-demo-1.0-SNAPSHOT.jar >> /dev/null 2&>1
$ echo $?
13

Obviously, this is a rather simple example, but you can see how ExitCodeGenerator allows us to have programmable exit codes. This allows us to have tests for our applications, while giving us the flexibility to control the exit code.

We will take a look at the second approach of using ExitCodeGenerator in another blog post.


  1. ExitCodeGenerator is an “Interface used to generate an ‘exit code’ from a running command line SpringApplication.”. You can find the JavaDocs here. [return]

If you have questions or comments about this blog post, you can get in touch with me on Twitter @sdqali.

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