Definition

just-in-time compiler (JIT)

In the Java programming language and environment, a just-in-time (JIT) compiler is a program that turns Java bytecode (a program that contains instructions that must be interpreted) into instructions that can be sent directly to the processor. After you've written a Java program, the source language statements are compiled by the Java compiler into bytecode rather than into code that contains instructions that match a particular hardware platform's processor (for example, an Intel Pentium microprocessor or an IBM System/390 processor). The bytecode is platform-independent code that can be sent to any platform and run on that platform.

In the past, most programs written in any language have had to be recompiled, and sometimes, rewritten for each computer platform. One of the biggest advantages of Java is that you only have to write and compile a program once. The Java on any platform will interpret the compiled bytecode into instructions understandable by the particular processor. However, the virtual machine handles one bytecode instruction at a time. Using the Java just-in-time compiler (really a second compiler) at the particular system platform compiles the bytecode into the particular system code (as though the program had been compiled initially on that platform). Once the code has been (re-)compiled by the JIT compiler, it will usually run more quickly in the computer.

The just-in-time compiler comes with the virtual machine and is used optionally. It compiles the bytecode into platform-specific executable code that is immediately executed. Sun Microsystems suggests that it's usually faster to select the JIT compiler option, especially if the method executable is repeatedly reused.

This was last updated in April 2005

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