Apache Ant 1.8.0

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Apache Ant 1.8.0

Apache Ant is a Java-based build tool. In theory, it is kind of like make, without make’s wrinkles.

Why another build tool when there is already make, gnumake, nmake, jam, and others? Because all those tools have limitations that Ant’s original author couldn’t live with when developing software across multiple platforms. Make-like tools are inherently shell-based: they evaluate a set of dependencies, then execute commands not unlike what you would issue on a shell. This means that you can easily extend these tools by using or writing any program for the OS that you are working on; however, this also means that you limit yourself to the OS, or at least the OS type, such as Unix, that you are working on.

Makefiles are inherently evil as well. Anybody who has worked on them for any time has run into the dreaded tab problem. "Is my command not executing because I have a space in front of my tab?!!" said the original author of Ant way too many times. Tools like Jam took care of this to a great degree, but still have yet another format to use and remember.

Ant is different. Instead of a model where it is extended with shell-based commands, Ant is extended using Java classes. Instead of writing shell commands, the configuration files are XML-based, calling out a target tree where various tasks get executed. Each task is run by an object that implements a particular Task interface.

Granted, this removes some of the expressive power that is inherent in being able to construct a shell command such as `find . -name foo -exec rm {}`, but it gives you the ability to be cross-platform–to work anywhere and everywhere. And hey, if you really need to execute a shell command, Ant has an <exec> task that allows different commands to be executed based on the OS it is executing on.

New in Apache Ant 1.8.0:

  • Lexically scoped local properties, i.e. properties that are only defined inside a target, sequential block or similar environment.
  • <import> can now import from any file- or URL-providing resource – this includes <javaresource>.
  • Various improvements to the directory scanning code that help with symbolic link cycles (as can be found on MacOS X Java installations for example) and improve scanning performance. For big directory trees the improvement is dramatic.
  • The way developers can extend Ant’s property expansion algorithm has been rewritten (breaking the older API) to be easier to use and be more powerful.
  • a new top level element extension-point allows build files to be extended with custom targets more easily
  • At the same time the if and unless attributes have been rewritten to do the expected thing if applied to a property expansion (i.e. if="${foo}" will mean "yes, do it" if ${foo} expands to true, in Ant 1.7.1 it would mean "no" unless a property named "true" existed). This adds "testing conditions" as a new use-case to property expansion.
  • Ant now requires Java 1.4 or later
  • new task include provides an alternative to <import> that should be preferred when you don’t want to override any targets
  • numerous bug fixes and improvements as documented in Bugzilla and in WHATSNEW


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