In most modern operating systems, a large body of reusable code is provided to simplify the programmer's job. This code is typically provided as a set of dynamically loadable libraries that applications can call at runtime. Because the Java Platform is not dependent on any specific operating system, applications cannot rely on any of the pre-existing OS libraries. Instead, the Java Platform provides a comprehensive set of its own standard class libraries containing much of the same reusable functions commonly found in modern operating systems.
The Java class libraries serve three purposes within the Java Platform. First, like other standard code libraries, the Java libraries provide the programmer a well-known set of functions to perform common tasks, such as maintaining lists of items or performing complex string parsing. Second, the class libraries provide an abstract interface to tasks that would normally depend heavily on the hardware and operating system. Tasks such as network access and file access are often heavily intertwined with the distinctive implementations of each platform. The Java java.net and java.io libraries implement an abstraction layer in native OS code, then provide a standard interface for the Java applications to perform those tasks. Finally, when some underlying platform does not support all of the features a Java application expects, the class libraries work to gracefully handle the absent components, either by emulation to provide a substitute, or at least by providing a consistent way to check for the presence of a specific feature.