What is a Build Tool?

A build tool is a programming tool which is used to build a new version of a program. It automates the creation of an executable application from any source code.

What is the Apache Ant Build Tool?

Ant is an acronym for Another Neat Tool. It is an XML based build tool which is a widely used Java-based build tool with the full portability of the pure Java code. For example, it allows developers to adopt agile principles and allows test-driven development. You can use it for all the repetitive tasks. For example, generating documentation.

In this Ant tutorial for beginners, you will learn:

Why use need Build tool like ANT?

Here, are important pros/benefits of using the Build tool:

  • Build tool allows you to automate specific repetitive tasks for like compiling the source code, running software tests, and creating files for the software deployment.
  • Build tools mostly run without a graphical user interface.
  • Helps you to convert source code into executable code
  • Offers an option to recompile a file only if necessary
  • Allows you to compile numbers of files in a relatively short time
  • Two widely popular build tools used by Java developers are Apache Maven and Ant.

History of Apache Ant

Here, are important historical landmarks from the Apache Ant tool:

  • James Duncan Davidson created an Ant on July 2000.
  • It was initially used to build Tomcat and was comes as an in-built product of Tomcat distribution kit.
  • In May 2014, Apache Ant version 1.9.4 released with many advanced features.
  • It's the latest version is 1.10.3 which was released on March 2018.

Features of Apache Ant

Here, are essential features of Apache Ant:

  • It's an open-source project.
  • Allow you to run builds on both Windows and UNIX/Linux systems.
  • You only require JVM as It runs anywhere when JVM is available.
  • Offers an extensive range of predefined tasks
  • Helps you to copy from one location to another.
  • Offers interface to develop custom tasks.
  • Allows you to invoke from the command line which can easily integrate with free and commercial IDEs.
  • Allows you to deploy the binaries to the test server
  • Offers Extensible Architecture
  • Offers Backward Compatibility

Installation and Configuration of Apache Ant

We are assuming that you have already downloaded and installed the Java Development Kit (JDK) into your computer. Make sure that the JAVA_HOME environment variable is set to the folder where your JDK is installed.

Step 1) Download the binaries from https://ant.apache.org/bindownload.cgi

Step 2) Unzip this zip file to a convenient location c:\folder. Using Winzip, WinRAR, 7-zip, or similar tools.

Step 3) Create an environment variable for "ANT_HOME" and assign the value of a variable to the location of the Ant folder.

  1. Right-click on This PC icon.
  2. Click on Properties

Step 4) Click on "Advanced system settings".

Step 5) Click on "Advanced" tab.

Step 6) Click on "Environment variables…" button.

Step 7) Click on "New" to create a new user variable.

Step 8) Enter new user variable details

  1. Enter variable name as ANT_HOME.
  2. Enter variable value as C:\apache-ant-1.9.14-bin\apache-ant-1.9.14\bin.
  3. Click on "OK" button.

Step 9) Click on "OK" button.

Step 10) Click on "OK" to close the screen.

You can verify for the successful Ant installation by typing "ant -version" command in the command prompt.

You will see the following screen:

Example of Apache ANT

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<project>
<target name="hello">
<echo>Hello, World</echo> </target>
</project>

Let's save this as "buildl.xml"

  • Goto CMD and move to the dir where you have put the simplebuild.xml
  • Now write, ant-file buildl.xml Hello_World_Target. This should show us Hello World.

ANT Project Structure

Every build will contain three nodes:

  • Project
  • Target
  • Task

Project:

Everything inside the build file in Apache ANT is under a project.

Attributes:

  • Name The name of a project.
  • Basedir: This the directory from where all the paths will be calculated. This can be overridden by using "basedir" property.
  • Default: Helps you to define the default target for this project. If no target is given, then it will execute the "default."

Target:

Target is a set of tasks, which is defined to get a specific state for the build process.

Attributes:

  • Name: Nate of the target (required)
  • Description: Description of the target
  • Depends: Which target this current target depend upon.
  • If: Executes the target only if a value is set for a target property
  • Unless: Executes the target if the property value is not set

Tasks:

It's a piece of code which can be executed. Task have multiple argument or attributes.

The general method pattern to write task is:

<name attribute1="value" attribute2="value2"…/>

You can either use the build in a task, or you can build your own task.

Best practices of Using Apache Ant

Here, are some best practices to use Apache Ant.

  • You should automate build numbering using property files.
  • Implementing a configurable build with the help of default and build property files. These files allow you to store properties that define the data for your build process, like compiler version and optimization settings, etc.
  • You can reuse prebuilt libraries using library property files.

Advantages of Using Apache Ant

Here, are pros/ benefits of using Apache Ant:

  • It is Ant. It is platform-neutral, so it helps you to manage platform-centric properties such as file separators.
  • Ant allows you to perform platform-specific tasks like modifying the modified time of a file using 'touch' command.
  • Ant scripts are written using plain XML so If you are already familiar with XML, you will able to learn Ant quickly.
  • Ant offers a big list of predefined tasks.
  • It offers an interface to developing customize tasks.
  • You can easily invoke ant from the command line. It allows you to integrate with free and commercial IDEs.
  • You need JVM: It runs anywhere JVM is available.
  • Apache Ant is an open-source library which allows users to access the source code and reproduce it.
  • Apache Ant is a cross-platform tool which allows you to handle Java classpath and file directory structure in an affordable manner.
  • Apache Ant is easily extensible using Java and other programming languages.
  • Apache Ant offers built-in support for J2EE development like EJB compilation and packaging.
  • You can use it for the small personal project which can also be used in a large software project or on their website.

Summary

  • A build tool is a programming tool which is used to build a new version of a program.
  • Ant (an acronym for Another Neat Tool) is an XML based build tool. It is a widely used Java-based build tool with the full portability of the pure Java code.
  • Apache ANT helps you to convert source code into executable code.
  • James Duncan Davidson created ant in July 2000.
  • Apache ANT offers an extensive range of predefined tasks.
  • Every build will contain three nodes: 1) Project 2) Target 3) Task.
  • Everything inside the build file in Apache ANT is under a project.
  • Target is a set of tasks, which is defined to get a specific state for the build process.
  • A task is a piece of code which can be executed. Task have multiple argument or attributes.
  • It is the best practice to automate build numbering using property files in Apache ANT.
  • The biggest advantage of Apache ANT is that it is platform-neutral, so it helps you to manage platform-centric properties such as file separators.

 

YOU MIGHT LIKE: