Java ClassPath is an element contained in the Java Virtual Machine, also called Java compiler.
It is important not to confuse it with the Java Path, since their functions are totally different.
What is Java ClassPath?
The ClassPath is defined as a parameter in the Java Virtual Machine (JVM), and it is controlled by a system or application called ClassLoader.
Its main function is to specify the location of classes and packages which are defined by the user.
This parameter can either be set via the command line or through an environment variable. The ClassPath can indeed specify a list of directories, Jar archives and Zip archives to search for class files.
What is the difference between ClassPath and Path?
The main difference between ClassPath and Path is that the latter is used exclusively for Java tools in programs like Javac, normally used to create and compile code. While ClassPath is controlled by System or Application class loader to find and compile Java bytecodes stored in the original class file.
In other words, Path is used by the computer’s operating system to find executable files, normally designated with .exe, and Java binaries. ClassPath is used by the application class loader to find .class files.
Java ClassPath is considered one of the most important Java concepts, as it is how Java locates files.