For about the third time, I have spent a few hours getting the readline library worked into jython.  (It happens every time I install a new jython and it changes a little bit each time.) You would think this annoying mess would get documented somewhere, but it hasn't, anywhere, correctly, in spite of several halfway attempts to do so.  And much of the documentation is out of date.

So please, guys, make it a New Year's resolution to get this into the official docs, somewhere.  Here is a start, it worked for me:

What you have to do to get Jython and Readline working (These instructions work for GNUReadline on my RedHat Linux system - your mileage may vary):

Note: there is another option called Editline but Bernhard Bablok, the author of gnu java_readline says he couldn't get it working, so I didn't even try.  Nonetheless, Editline is the default in jython according to the source code in  (See item #9 below ) If this is going to be the case, then the jython docs should give more info about it or work it into the standard distribution somehow. 

1.  Download and install the javacc from  You can't build jython without this.

2.  Download the java-readline source from

3.  Make the java_readline jar and backing library using the Makefile supplied.

4.  Deploy these into your system lib directory.  (/usr/lib in my case)

5.  Download the latest Jython sources from SourceForge. 

6.  Create/Modify an file in the same directory as the build.xml for jython and add the property readline.jar giving it the value of a path to the java_readline.jar you deployed in step 3,  as well as the path to javacc and any other optional jars you wish to include.

7.  Build jython and deploy it.

8.  Modify the jython shell script so as to precede the supplied command (java -Dpython.home=...) with 'LD_LIBRARY_PATH="/usr/lib"'

9.  Modify your registry file to add the line


As far as I know this one isn't documented anywhere and if you don't put it in, the system tries to find Editline and throws an exception if it can't. I only pieced it together from reading the source code for jython's ReadlineConsole and for the gnu java readline.

After all that, you finally have a console that recognizes the arrow keys for history when on the last line.  Way too complicated. 

So while I thank the Jython developers and Mr. Bablok for their efforts and for making this possible at all, please, someone, make this easier or at least pull all the documentation into one place.