The Minecraft launcher is the login and downloader front-end to the Minecraft client. It is responsible for downloading the main Java packages such as minecraft.jar, which holds the code and resources, and LWJGL. It is possible to use the launcher to run versions of Minecraft from nearly any era, however versions such as Indev, Minecraft 2.0, and any of the Beta 1.9 pre-releases are not available. The current launcher is the fourth launcher for Minecraft, and the first that was built to automatically update itself. A new launcher is in development and being tested for Windows and macOS, with no known release date.
The current release launcher version is 1.6.76. The current beta launcher version is 2.0.757.
The launcher was updated in February 2011 (around the release of Beta 1.3), with a smarter update system and automatic login. It was updated again around 1.3.2 with a demo mode for non-premium users, and the current launcher was released around 1.6.1.
The current launcher has multiple features, including:
- Managing multiple profiles
- Usage of refresh tokens rather than storing the password locally
- Ability to update libraries such as LWJGL
- Offline mode (The first time launch requires an Internet connection to download required resources)
- Currently only available in English
- Crashes are indexed through a database for information on how to fix the issue
- Crashes can be reported to Mojang through Hopper.
- Ability to play old Alpha and Beta versions of the game, as well as snapshots and all release versions