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From "Roger Vaughn" <>
Subject Suggestion: Dynamic or Default Target
Date Tue, 21 Nov 2000 19:21:22 GMT
Here's a suggestion for a new feature in Ant.  I would like to see the capability for a "default"
or dynamic target in Ant.  What this would do is catch all target invocations (or target invocations
based on a pattern) after all explicit targets have been matched.  In other words, any targets
which now error out for "target not found" would instead be caught and processed by the default

This is useful for something I'm experimenting with now - dynamic generation of Ant scripts.
 In my current project, developers are using different sets of app servers, each with not
only different config values, but with totally different config parameters sets.  Each developer
has a different setup, so it is difficult to write a single Ant file to handle them all, and
local changes by each developer can't be effectively version controlled.  (Yes, I know the
flaw in this environment, but I can't control it.)

My experimental solution is to have each developer create a local app server definition file,
which I then apply a set of XSLT sheets to in order to create an Ant script.

Easy enough so far.  The complication comes in when I have a master script to do the XSLT
transforms and then call the generated script.  The way Ant is structured today, the sub-targets
will have to be explicitly coded into the master script in order to have it call the sub-script.
 I can work around this by having the developers call the generated script directly with -buildfile,
but I want to avoid this if possible.

So, my proposed solution goes like this.  Assume we have a build script like this:

<target name="target-1">

<target pattern="target-*">


Then target invocations would match up like this:

"ant target-1" would invoke target-1, since there is an explicit match.
"ant target-2" would invoke target-*, since there is no explicit match, but there is a pattern
"ant my-target" would invoke the default target, since there is no explicit or pattern match.

(Let me point out here that pattern targets and default targets are related, but separate
ideas and don't need to be implemented together.  I think default targets would be the simpler
and more useful to implement first.)

Now I'll show how this relates to my situation.  My master script has a number of generic
targets - the compilation, jars, etc.  But I also want it to be able to pass unknown targets
on to the sub-script for processing there.  So, imagine that my master script looks like this:

<target name="compile"> some stuff...

  <ant antfile="servers.xml" target="${}"/>

where "" is a property set by the default-target class, containing the name of
the target that was invoked (and fell through to the default target).

Now, in my sub-file, I have the following:

<target name="deploy-local">

<target name-"deploy-remote">

So, now, an invocation of "ant deploy-local" will be unsatisfied in the main script and will
fall through to the default target.  This will invoke the sub-script, which has a matching
target.  An invocation of "ant dummy-target" will fall through the first script to the default
target and flow to the sub-script which also has no match, so we get the usual "target not
found" error.

Without this sort of capability today, I have to resort to something like Perl scripts to
straighten out where each target should go.  I would like to have all of this native to Ant
if possible.

For those of you who will answer by saying I shouldn't be generating dynamic scripts - I get
the point, but some situations call for it, and believe me, it's easier than teaching every
developer on the project how to write their own scripts.  (And better than having them spend
expensive time on it...)

Any comments would be appreciated.

Roger Vaughn

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