Complete Guide to JFileChooser

The JFileChooser Swing component let’s users explore files on their system. It provides a GUI similar to Windows Explorer found in Windows or Nautilus in Ubuntu. It allows users to navigate through their file system and choose the desired file/directory.
You can use a JFileChooser to open or save files from/to a location which is chosen by the user. Here’s a complete guide explaining the use of JFileChooser and it’s important properties.

Before we begin, one important thing to note is that JFileChooser is a modal dialog. Whenever a modal dialog is displayed the program execution is paused until an action occurs on the user part. For Ex:

System.out.println(“I have to WAIT until an action by the user”);

Let us begin with a simple application scenario where you want to display the user’s picture on your app’s form. Here’s the design view of the sample app we gonna develop.

# First, we let users to select their desired profile picture through our customized JFileChooser.
# Then, we will render the selected image in a JLabel placed within a JPanel.
# Another JLabel will serve as caption/description to the image.
# Finally, users can save the output image (which includes the caption) at their desired location.

Creating a Open Dialog

Create an actionPerformed event for the Upload button. If using NetBeans IDE just double click the button to enter it’s actionPerformed event. Place the below code to show a standard open dialog:

Run this file by pressing Shift + F6. As soon as you click the upload button, an instance of JFileChooser appears as a popup window(modal dialog).
Now, if you select an image and click on Open, your image will be rendered on the picLabel.
Whereas, if you click on cancel you will be greeted by the message “Dialog cancelled by the user” – whether you selected an image or not, it doesn’t matter in this case.

The above code would be sufficient for the required work however it’s not the code you might want to end up with as it contains one major flaw. By default the JFileChooser displays all files and directories so a user doesn’t know which files are actually supported by your app. To provide a hint to the user you could create a file filter with the supported file formats. A file filter provides a description for the ‘Files of Type’ field and displays only that files that are supported by your app. So, let us modify the above code and add a file filter to our chooser.

Setting up a File Filter


The above code when applied will display all directories but only those files which have file format as .png. As our app can support all standard image formats we have no good reason to present only png images. So, let’s edit our code and make our File Filter to support multiple image formats.



As you can see, our chooser now displays jpeg, jpg, gif, png images and “All supported image formats”.

Don’t judge me

Creating a Save Dialog

Now our JDeveloper Badge is ready so let us allow the users to save the badge on their machines. Creating a save dialog is almost similar to the open dialog. Create an actionPerformed event for the Get Badge button. If using NetBeans IDE just double click the button to enter it’s actionPerformed event. But, before getting into save dialog, we have to make the image ready for saving.
For creating the badge we would capture a part of our screen i.e badgePanel and then convert it to a image (learn about screen capturing in java). After that, we will push the save dialog and let users choose their desired saving location. Users can type in their desired file name or choose an already existing file(will be overwritten). Finaaly, users will be greeted with a Message Dialog depending upon the action result.



As we are writing the file as png (why png?), so you would be interested in implementing a FileFilter for .png files.

You may have already figured out two major flaws. The first being – if you don’t type .png yourself at the end, the image is saved in a Unknown File format rather than PNG format. Although the file will be written correctly but your OS(Windows/Mac) will not be able to relate it with an app and thus will provide with ‘Open With…’ Dialog.  To fix this, we would programmatically append .png in the end of file name, if the user doesn’t typed it himself.


The accept method of our file filter will reveal if the File chosen is in png format or not and if not we will append it.

Another major issue is that if you choose an existing file, JFileChooser overwrites the file without asking for a confirmation. Which may get very annoying for some users. To fix this you could create your own boolean logic or override the approveSelection() method of our chooser.


Now if select you select an existing file and click save, JFileChooser will let you confirm your selection. Then if you select ‘Yes’ from the confirmation dialog, the file will be overwritten and finally you’ll be greeted with the message “The Image was Saved Successfully!” as earlier. Whereas, if you chose ‘No’ then the file will not be saved and you’ll be returned to JFileChooser to chose any other file. And if you chose ‘Cancel’ or clicked ‘X’ icon, JFileChooser will close and you’ll be greeted with the message “Dialog cancelled by the user”.

Customizing JFileChooser

As you have noticed the standard JFileChooser has some pre-configured settings like it contains two selection buttons – Open/Save and Cancel – and few extra buttons like Home, ‘New Folder’ and ‘Up one level’ etc. Apart from these there are a lot of settings that can be tweaked.

Setting File Name

As you may noticed in many commercial softwares that when saving a file, the file name field is pre-filled with some text. For example, in Microsoft products the default file name is ‘Untitled-1’. It’s done to provide a hint for the file name or for people in hurry :P. setSelctedFile can be used for this purpose:

chooser.setSelectedFile(new File(“JDeveloper-Badge.png”));

Displaying Directories Only

There are times when you just need to work with folders(directory). For example when installing a new software. You can easily hide files and display only the folders:


Hidden Files

If your developing an administrative app, you might even need to access hidden files on the OS. Hidden files can be made visible in JFileChooser by setting FileHiding to false.


FileFilter Class

If you have a multimedia app, it might support very different kinds of file types and there could also be  multiple JFileChooser for different actions. So keeping re-usability of code in mind it would be better to define different FileFilter class for different categories of file types.


Multiple FileFilters

All FileFilter

When you apply a FileFilter although all the unsupported files get’s hidden but a user can select “All Files” from the “Files of Type” field and all the unsupported files would also become visible. This can be fixed by disabling “All Files” FileFilter:


Default Directory

You can also set a current directory for the JFileChooser, by default it opens user’s default directory.

JFileChooser chooser = new JFileChooser(“C:\Program Files\
My App”);


File curDir = new File(“C:\Program Files\My App”);

As Java is a cross-platform technology your app would be executed in many types OS which may have a different type of File Structure or File Management System. So there could be a possibility that the OS uses a different character as the File Separator. For example, ‘/’ in Unix. Therefore, hard coding ” as the File Separator is strongly not recommended.
Setting user’s ‘My Pictures’ folder as the current directory:
JFileChooser chooser = new JFileChooser(System.getProperty(“user.home”) + System.getProperty(“file.separator”)+ “Pictures”);

If in any case the current directory set by the application isn’t available or couldn’t be found, the JFileChooser will automatically open the default directory (yay!).

Multiple Selection

You can let users choose multiple files in one go by setting the MultiSelectionEnabled to true. Here’s a sample code (only relevant part)


Use CTRL to select multiple files


Custom Dialog Title

By default JFileChooser displays ‘Open’ in the title bar for a open dialog and ‘Save’ for a save dialog. You can set a custom title through the setDialogTitle method.

chooser.setDialogTitle(“Choose a photo”);


Changing Button Text

Similarly we can also customize the text for action Buttons i.e Open and Save.


Note: Above method doesn’t work in conjunction with chooser.showSaveDialog(JFileChooserEx.this); Maybe it’s a issue with NetBeans IDE or a Java bug. Alternatively, you can use:

int res = chooser.showDialog(JFileChooserEx.this, “Save Badge”);

Look and Feel

JFileChooser provides different features in different look and feels(themes). What you have been seeing till now was the NimbusLookAndFeel. Here’s a preview of JFileChooser in some other Look and Feels:

Note: Not all Look and Feel work on every OS. If you’re developing a cross platform app, you can either use the default CrossPlatformLookAndFeel (Metal) or get native SystemLookAndFeel.


Default Metal Theme

You can set a Look and Feel in the main method if you want to change the Look and Feel of all the components including the JFrame. Whereas, if you want to change the L&F for only the JFileChooser component then you can set it before you initialize the chooser and reset it again when done with the chooser:



My very own JDeveloper Badge

And finally this post comes to end :P, though I know there is still a scope for improvement. Share your doubts/feedback in the comments section below, would love to hear from you.

You can download the final result i.e executable jar file from here. If you still have any issues, please consider downloading the whole NetBeans project. All codes are well-explained within comments.

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11 thoughts on “Complete Guide to JFileChooser”

  1. Very useful information thanks………
    I have a query realated to sql . I am not able to install sql server 2005 … I have 32bit operating system and window 7 . Its giving error code 1603. I have tried several times uninstalling and installing but its not working . Later I also installed sql server 2005 service pack3 , the pack has but what to do further???? plz help

  2. Good tutorial it helped me alot but one problem it is stayed remain,i am unable to change the text of the approve button in save dialog there i am getting an error "create class JFileChooserEx in mypack" how to solve it please help me.

  3. HI,
    thanks for your Codes,
    do you know how can i search with JFilechooser through different directories?
    For examples all files in "C://" and All files "E://" .
    with the use of
    JFilechooser chooser=new JFilechooser("C://") , i can add just one Path 🙁
    thanks for any Help or Hints


  4. Hiiiiii,
    1)I am added system file with jtree and checkbox format view like C,D,E,G drives into the Jfile chooser.
    2)when I am click on checkbox there will be display the size of their
    Corresponding folder and also selected folder name can be shows in folder name of file chooser dialog box.

    Can u help me pls Urgentttttttttttt?

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