Shadow is a Gradle plugin for combining dependency classes and resources with a project's into a single output Jar. The combined Jar is often referred to a fat-jar or uber-jar. Shadow utilizes JarInputStream and JarOutputStream to efficiently process dependent libraries into the output jar without incurring the I/O overhead of expanding the jars to disk.

Benefits of Shadow

Shadowing a project output has 2 major use cases:

  1. Creating an executable JAR distribution
  2. Bundling and relocating common dependencies in libraries to avoid classpath conflicts

Executable Distributions

Executable distribution is the main use case for application an be deployed and executed/run in the runtime environment. In the case of Shadow, this is a single uber or fat JAR. The JAR file contains all the application code and dependent libraries to execute (not including the standard JVM libraries). The shadow JAR does not include the JRE itself. It must be available on the target system.

Executable JARs contain a JAR MANIFEST that specifies the application Main Class. This allows the application to be started with a single command:

$ java -jar application-shadow.jar

Library Bundling

Dependency bundling and relocation is the main use case for library authors. The goal of a bundled library is to create a pre-packaged dependency for other libraries or applications to utilize. Often in these scenarios, a library may contain a dependency that a downstream library or application also uses. In some cases, different versions of this common dependency can cause an issue in either the upstream library or the downstream application. These issues often manifest themselves as binary incompatibilities in either the library or application code.

By utilizing Shadow's ability to relocate the package names for dependencies, a library author can ensure that the library's dependencies will not conflict with the same dependency being declared by the downstream application.