Set Up the JSP Environment

One great thing about learning JavaServer Page technology is that you don't have to spend a bunch of money on software applications. In fact, you can develop a complete online help system using nothing but your preferred HTML editor, a Java Developer Kit (free), and the Tomcat web server (free). While the Tomcat web server isn't used in most production environments, it is used in some, and should more than suffice for your needs in developing JSP-based documentation. Consult with your company's IT staff to determine if it will work for serving your company's documentation, when the time is appropriate.

The following steps assume that you are working with Microsoft Windows. If you need help adapting these instructions for Macintosh, UNIX, Linux, or another platform, please email me.

Step 1. Download and install a Java Developer Kit

If you don't have a JDK installed on your machine, you will need to download and install one.

To download and install the JDK:

  1. Point your web browser at

  2. From this page, download the latest non-beta version of the J2EE SDK.

    At the time of writing, the version you would download is 1.3.1. The file size for this particular download is currently ~17.3MB

  3. Double-click the .exe file you downloaded, and follow the onscreen prompts to install the software developer kit.

  4. Add the path <JDK installation directory>\lib\j2ee.jar to your CLASSPATH setting in your autoexec.bat file.

  5. Add the directory <JDK installation directory>\bin to your PATH setting in your autoexec.bat file.

  6. Reboot your machine.

Step 2. Download and install the Tomcat web server:

If you don't have a JSP-capable web server installed on your machine, you will need to download and install the Tomcat web server.

To download the Tomcat web server:

  1. Point your web browser at

  2. From this page, follow the link to download binaries.

  3. Scroll down to the Release Builds section of the page.

  4. Click the link for the latest release 3 version of Tomcat (at the time of writing, this is 3.3).

  5. A list of files displays. Click on the link to the file that ends in .zip, and which has the text jakarta-tomcat- in it.

    At the time of writing, the file you would click is The file size for this particular file is currently ~4.3MB.

  6. Save the file to the location on your machine that you save downloaded files.

To install the Tomcat web server:

  1. Maintaining the directory structure of the .zip file, unzip the contents to a directory that is off of the root of the drive (that is, that is not a subdirectory of X:/Program Files), that has no spaces, dashes, or other non-alphabetic or non-numeric characters in the directory name, and that is a DOS 8.3 name (if you are running under Windows).

    I unzipped my web server into the directory c:\tomcat.

    Depending on the software you use, you may get a collection of warnings/errors indicating that access to the file '' is denied, and that the file might be corrupted. The best I can figure out is that the .zip file has extra information in it for other platforms that Windows doesn't use. Don't worry about the errors; they shouldn't keep the web server from working. If the errors keep you from extracting the content of the .zip file, see the Troubleshooting page.

  2. When you unzip the contents of the .zip file, a subdirectory will be created within the directory you created. Copy the contents of that directory into the directory you created. Essentially, you are collapsing the directory structure by one level. Show me! (~523KB)

  3. Open your autoexec.bat file.

  4. Add an entry like this:

    SET TOMCAT_HOME=<install directory>

    where <install directory> is the directory into which you extracted the contents of the .zip file.

    Make sure that you do not follow the entry with a concluding slash. Instead of the entry:

    SET TOMCAT_HOME=c:\tomcat\

    make the entry:

    SET TOMCAT_HOME=c:\tomcat

  5. Reboot your machine.

  6. Navigate to the <install directory>/bin directory.

  7. Right-click on the startup.bat file and choose Properties from the pop-up menu.

    The startup.bat Properties dialog box appears.

  8. Set the Initial Environment value to 4096.

  9. Click OK.

  10. Repeat these steps for the shutdown.bat file.

    Two shortcuts are created in the directory, called Startup.pif and Shutdown.pif.

  11. Double-click the Startup.pif file.

  12. A DOS window opens.

    The window provides miscellaneous details about your environment. (Your CLASSPATH values will differ from those displayed in the above screen.)

  13. After this window displays, another DOS window opens, and shows the progress of the Tomcat web server startup process. When the startup process is done, the DOS window will look like this:

  14. You can close the first DOS window that appeared, but you must leave the second window active (though, you can minimize it if you want to).

  15. Test that the web server is working correctly by pointing a web browser to http://localhost:8080.

    You should see a window that looks something like this:

    This is a web page that was served from the web server on your machine.

  16. If you get a Page cannot be displayed error, check that you performed all of the steps on this page. If you determine that you have, then check the Tomcat FAQ for other troubleshooting tips.

Page last modified 06/14/2002