Full reference for PMD's command-line interface, including options, output formats and supported languages
Table of Contents


The tool comes with a rather extensive help text, simply running with --help!

Option Description Default value Applies to
--rulesets <refs>
-R <refs>
Required Path to a ruleset xml file. The path may reference a resource on the classpath of the application, be a local file system path, or a URL. The option can be repeated, and multiple arguments separated by comma can be provided to a single occurrence of the option.
--dir <path>
-d <path>
Path to a source file, or directory containing source files to analyze. Zip and Jar files are also supported, if they are specified directly (archive files found while exploring a directory are not recursively expanded). This option can be repeated, and multiple arguments can be provided to a single occurrence of the option. One of --dir, --file-list or --uri must be provided.
--format <format>
-f <format>
Output format of the analysis report. The available formats are described here. text
--aux-classpath <cp> Specifies the classpath for libraries used by the source code. This is used to resolve types in source files. The platform specific path delimiter (":" on Linux, ";" on Windows) is used to separate the entries. Alternatively, a single file: URL to a text file containing path elements on consecutive lines can be specified.

See also Providing the auxiliary classpath.

Enables benchmark mode, which outputs a benchmark report upon completion. The report is sent to standard error.
--cache <filepath> Specify the location of the cache file for incremental analysis. This should be the full path to the file, including the desired file name (not just the parent directory). If the file doesn't exist, it will be created on the first run. The file will be overwritten on each run with the most up-to-date rule violations. This can greatly improve analysis performance and is highly recommended.
Debug mode. Prints more log output. See also Logging.
--encoding <charset>
-e <charset>
Specifies the character set encoding of the source code files PMD is reading. The valid values are the standard character sets of java.nio.charset.Charset. UTF-8
--[no-]fail-on-violation Specifies whether PMD exits with non-zero status if violations are found. By default PMD exits with status 4 if violations are found. Disable this feature with --no-fail-on-violation to exit with 0 instead and just output the report.
--file-list <filepath> Path to a file containing a list of files to analyze, one path per line. One of --dir, --file-list or --uri must be provided.
--force-language <lang> Force a language to be used for all input files, irrespective of file names. When using this option, the automatic language selection by extension is disabled and PMD tries to parse all files with the given language <lang>. Parsing errors are ignored and unparsable files are skipped.

Use --use-version to specify the language version to use, if it is not the default.

This option allows to use the xml language for files, that don't use xml as extension. See example below.

--ignore-list <filepath> Path to file containing a list of files to ignore, one path per line. This option overrides files included by any of --dir, --file-list and --uri.
Display help on usage.
--use-version <lang-version> The specific language version PMD should use when parsing source code for a given language.

Values are in the format of language-version.

This option can be repeated to configure several languages for the same run.

Note that this option does not change how languages are assigned to files. It only changes something if the project you analyze contains some files that PMD detects as the given language. Language detection is only influenced by file extensions and the --force-language option.

See also Supported Languages.

--minimum-priority <priority> Rule priority threshold; rules with lower priority than configured here won't be used. Valid values (case insensitive): High, Medium_High, Medium, Medium_Low, Low. An integer between 1 (High) and 5 (Low) is also supported. See Configuring rules on how to override priorities in custom rulesets. Low
--no-ruleset-compatibility Disable automatic fixing of invalid rule references. Without the switch, PMD tries to automatically replace rule references that point to moved or renamed rules with the newer location if possible. Disabling it is not recommended.
--no-cache Explicitly disables incremental analysis. This switch turns off suggestions to use Incremental Analysis, and causes the --cache option to be discarded if it is provided.
--[no-]progress Enables / disable progress bar indicator of live analysis progress. This ie enabled by default.
--property <name>=<value>
-P <name>=<value>
Specifies a property for the report renderer. The option can be specified several times.

Using --help will provide a complete list of supported properties for each report format

--relativize-paths-with <path>
-z <path>
Path relative to which directories are rendered in the report. This option allows shortening directories in the report; without it, paths are rendered as mentioned in the source directory (option "--dir"). The option can be repeated, in which case the shortest relative path will be used. If the root path is mentioned (e.g. "/" or "C:\\"), then the paths will be rendered as absolute.
--report-file <path>
-r <path>
Path to a file to which report output is written. The file is created if it does not exist. If this option is not specified, the report is rendered to standard output.
--show-suppressed Causes the suppressed rule violations to be added to the report.
--suppress-marker <marker> Specifies the comment token that marks lines which PMD should ignore. NOPMD
--threads <num>
-t <num>
Sets the number of threads used by PMD. Set threads to 0 to disable multi-threading processing. 1
--uri <uri>
-u <uri>
Database URI for sources. One of --dir, --file-list or --uri must be provided. PLSQL

Additional Java Runtime Options

PMD is executed via a Java runtime. In some cases, you might need to set additional runtime options, e.g. if you want to analyze a project, that uses one of OpenJDK’s JEP 12: Preview Language Features.

Just set the environment variable PMD_JAVA_OPTS before executing PMD, e.g.

~ $ export PMD_JAVA_OPTS="--enable-preview"
~ $ pmd check -d src/main/java/ -f text -R rulesets/java/quickstart.xml
C:\> set "PMD_JAVA_OPTS=--enable-preview"
C:\> pmd.bat check -d src\main\java\ -f text -R rulesets/java/quickstart.xml

Additional runtime classpath

If you develop custom rules and package them as a jar file, you need to add it to PMD’s runtime classpath. You can either copy the jar file into the lib/ subfolder alongside the other jar files, that are in PMD’s standard distribution.

Or you can set the environment variable CLASSPATH before starting PMD, e.g.

~ $ export CLASSPATH=custom-rule-example.jar
~ $ pmd check -d ../../../src/main/java/ -f text -R myrule.xml
C:\> set CLASSPATH=custom-rule-example.jar
C:\> pmd.bat check -d ..\..\..\src\main\java\ -f text -R myrule.xml

Exit Status

Please note that if PMD detects any violations, it will exit with status 4 (since 5.3). This behavior has been introduced to ease PMD integration into scripts or hooks, such as SVN hooks.

0Everything is fine, no violations found.
1PMD exited with an exception.
2Usage error. Command-line parameters are invalid or missing.
4At least one violation has been detected, unless --no-fail-on-violation is set.


PMD internally uses slf4j and ships with slf4j-simple as the logging implementation. Logging messages are printed to System.err, that’s why you should use --report-file to specify an output for the report and not rely on redirecting the console output.

The configuration for slf4j-simple is in the file conf/simplelogger.properties. There you can enable logging of specific classes if needed. The --debug command line option configures the default log level to be “debug”.

Supported Languages

The language is determined automatically by PMD from the file extensions. Some languages such as “Java” however support multiple versions. The default version will be used, which is usually the latest supported non-preview version. If you want to use an older version, so that e.g. rules that suggest usage of language features that are not available yet won’t be executed, you need to specify a specific version via the --use-version parameter.

The selected language version can also influence which rules are applied. Some rules might be relevant for just a specific version of the language. Such rules are marked with either minimumLanguageVersion or maximumLanguageVersion or both. Most rules apply for all language versions.

These parameters are most of the time irrelevant, if the rules apply for all versions.

The available versions depend on the language. You can get a list of the currently supported language versions via the CLI option --help.


~ $ pmd check -d src/main/java -f text -R rulesets/java/quickstart.xml --use-version java-1.8
C:\> pmd.bat check -d src\main\java -f text -R rulesets/java/quickstart.xml --use-version java-1.8

Available Report Formats

PMD comes with many different renderers. All formats are described at PMD Report formats


Analyze other xml formats

If your xml language doesn’t use xml as file extension, you can still use PMD with --force-language:

~ $ pmd check -d src/xml-file.ext -f text -R ruleset.xml --force-language xml
C:\> pmd.bat check -d src\xml-file.ext -f text -R ruleset.xml --force-language xml

You can also specify a directory instead of a single file. Then all files are analyzed. In that case, parse errors are suppressed in order to reduce irrelevant noise:

~ $ pmd check -d src/ -f text -R ruleset.xml --force-language xml
C:\> pmd.bat check -d src\ -f text -R ruleset.xml --force-language xml

Alternatively, you can create a filelist to only analyze files with a given extension:

~ $ find src/ -name "*.ext" > filelist.txt
~ $ pmd check --file-list filelist.txt -f text -R ruleset.xml --force-language xml
C:\> for /r src\ %i in (*.ext) do echo %i >> filelist.txt
C:\> pmd.bat check --file-list filelist.txt -f text -R ruleset.xml --force-language xml
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