Understanding Maven Project Structure - Tutorial

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Apache Maven follows a standard project structure that helps organize and manage software projects effectively. In this tutorial, we will explore the Maven project structure and understand the purpose of each directory and file.

Maven Project Structure

A typical Maven project consists of the following directories and files:

  • src/main/java: This directory contains the main Java source code of your project.
  • src/main/resources: This directory contains resources, such as configuration files or property files, used by the project.
  • src/test/java: This directory contains the test source code for your project.
  • src/test/resources: This directory contains test-specific resources.
  • pom.xml: This XML file is the heart of Maven projects and contains the project's configuration, dependencies, build plugins, and more.
  • target: This directory is automatically generated by Maven and contains the output files, such as compiled classes and packaged artifacts.

Here is an example Maven project structure:


├── pom.xml
├── src
│ ├── main
│ │ ├── java
│ │ │ └── com
│ │ │ └── example
│ │ │ └── MyApp.java
│ │ └── resources
│ │ └── my-config.properties
│ └── test
│ ├── java
│ │ └── com
│ │ └── example
│ │ └── MyAppTest.java
│ └── resources
│ └── test-data.txt
└── target
└── my-app.jar
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Directory Structure Explained

Let's take a closer look at each directory and its purpose:


The src/main/java directory contains the main Java source code for your project. It follows the package hierarchy convention and houses the source files that implement the project's functionality.


The src/main/resources directory holds resources used by the project, such as configuration files, property files, or static content. These resources are typically bundled with the project's final artifact.


The src/test/java directory contains the test source code for your project. This is where you write unit tests or integration tests to verify the correctness of your code.


The src/test/resources directory contains test-specific resources. These resources are used during the execution of tests and are not included in the final project artifact.


The pom.xml file is the Project Object Model (POM) file. It is an XML file that defines the project's configuration, dependencies, build plugins, and other project-specific settings. It is the central configuration file for Maven projects.


The target directory is automatically generated by Maven. It contains the output files produced during the build process, such as compiled classes, packaged artifacts (e.g., JAR, WAR), and generated reports. This directory is not checked into version control and can be safely deleted.

Mistakes to Avoid

  • Placing source code or resources in the wrong directories.
  • Modifying the pom.xml file without proper understanding.
  • Forgetting to update the pom.xml file when adding or removing dependencies.
  • Ignoring the conventions and guidelines set by Maven for project structure.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can I customize the Maven project structure?

    Yes, while Maven follows a standard project structure, you can customize it by configuring the build plugins and resources in the pom.xml file. However, it's generally recommended to follow the conventions to maintain project consistency.

  2. Can I have multiple source directories in Maven?

    Yes, Maven allows you to configure multiple source directories using build plugins. You can specify additional source directories in the pom.xml file to accommodate complex project structures.

  3. Where should I place non-Java files in my Maven project?

    If you have non-Java files (e.g., HTML, CSS, JavaScript), you can place them in the src/main/resources directory or create a separate directory structure under src/main based on your project's needs.

  4. What should I do with generated files and directories?

    Generated files and directories, such as those created under the target directory, should not be modified manually. They are automatically generated during the build process and can be safely deleted if needed.

  5. Can I have multiple Maven modules in a project?

    Yes, Maven supports multi-module projects, where you can have multiple Maven modules within a single parent project. Each module can have its own Maven project structure.

  6. What is the purpose of the src/main and src/test directories?

    The src/main directory contains the main source code and resources used in the project, while the src/test directory contains the test source code and test-specific resources for testing the project.

  7. How can I exclude specific files or directories from the build process?

    You can use the Maven excludes configuration in the build plugins to exclude specific files or directories from the build process. Refer to the documentation of the respective plugin for more details.

  8. Can I have additional directories in my Maven project?

    Yes, you can create additional directories in your Maven project to organize resources or files specific to your project's requirements. Just ensure they are properly configured in the pom.xml file.

  9. How can I specify the output directory for compiled classes?

    The output directory for compiled classes is target/classes by default. If you want to change it, you can configure the build section in the pom.xml file to customize the output directory.

  10. Can I modify the Maven project structure for an existing project?

    Modifying the Maven project structure for an existing project is possible but requires careful planning and configuration changes in the pom.xml file. It's recommended to proceed with caution and backup the project before making any structural changes.


Understanding the Maven project structure is crucial for effectively organizing and managing your software projects. By following the conventions and guidelines set by Maven, you can ensure consistency and maintainability. The project structure provides clear separation between main and test code, allows easy resource management, and simplifies the build process. Avoiding common mistakes and following best practices will lead to better project management and smoother collaboration within development teams. Familiarize yourself with the Maven project structure, leverage its benefits, and enjoy the streamlined development experience it offers.