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From "Xavier Hanin" <>
Subject [DISCUSS] EasyAnt: Ant based pre packaged build system for java projects
Date Thu, 10 Jan 2008 14:25:26 GMT

It's been a long time since I'm thinking about this, and thought it might be
interesting to share with you and see where the idea can go.

I see many developers adopt Maven because they want a build system able to
provide common features with no effort. Most of them don't want to spend
much time writing an Ant script, or have seen or heard that maintaining Ant
build scripts is troublesome. So they choose to use Maven only because it's
easy to use for common use cases: install, write a simple pom of a few lines
or generate it using an archetype, and you're ready to compile, test and
package your new project following the Maven standard structure. They also
get dependency management for free, and with only a few more effort they
have multi module builds, and some nice features like code analysis,
coverage, and a set of report gathered in a web site. That's really nice and
that's what I like about Maven.

But Maven suffers from a lack of flexibility and robustness IMHO. And later
the same people who first adopted Maven because of its perceived ease of use
become frustrated when they need to tweek the system to their own needs or
don't understand how the release plugin work. Then some of them go back to
Ant, first having to go through a sometimes painful road to describe their
whole build system in xml, especially if they aren't Ant experts. Others try
to use new build tools like raven, buildr or others.

I really like Ant, and think it is a very good basis for robust and flexible
build systems. People with enough knowledge of Ant can write very good build
systems, testable, maintainable and adaptable. But you need to get your
hands dirty, and you need to get a good knowledge of some of the mechanisms
which can make an Ant based build system manageable: import, scripts and
scriptdef, macrodef, presetdef, and so on.

Hence I'm wondering if it wouldn't be a good idea to package a set of Ant
build files, providing all the basic features of a build system for java
projects: dependency management, compilation, testing and packaging, plus
maybe some more advanced features like code coverage and code auditing.
Multi module build support would be nice to have too. Then someone needing
only those features could simply have a build file per project mostly
consisting of a single import of the common build file provided. Some
needing more could provide plugins to the build system itself. Some needing
to tweak the system could simply override some target definitions or
properties. Others with very specific needs could simply use the build
scripts as examples or basis.

I guess most people on this list know the benefit of having such a build
system and how well it scales, and most of us already have developed such a
set of build files. But providing the basis of such a good build system well
packaged and documented could improve the Ant community IMO. With some
efforts from our community we could end up with something interesting pretty
easily. Most of us don't have much time, but we probably already have a good
basis from the build files we work with around, and if this can be done in a
community effort it could remain affordable in terms of time required.

So, what do you think? Do you think this would be useful? Would you be
interested in contributing? Do you think a new Ant sub project would be a
good fit?

Xavier Hanin - Independent Java Consultant

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