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Subject Re: Questions about Ant
Date Thu, 11 May 2000 13:13:08 GMT

We are using Ant as our doc build tool.  Not your usual build project, but
we have a very large HTML web that we deliver in small components that all
link up together dynamically on the user's desktop at runtime.  For
English, we are managing about 11,000 files.  We also work with 9 other
languages, so we are looking at validating, processing, packaging, and
publishing about 110,000 files.

Ant forms the primary backbone of our build, and we have a number of custom
tasks to manage link checking, translation tools/requirements, and fixes
for little things the current system doesn't do well.  However, the
extensibility of the task model works very well, so you can fix those
problems without having to hack the source and worry about your changes
getting lost in the next upgrade.  For example, the property task can't
handle reading properties from a file that refer to each other.

Take a file build.defaults with contents


There is an ordering dependency there that the current
propery/project/target/task model doesn't handle.  Now, this looks like its
going to be addressed in the next major revision of Ant, but I needed this
now.  So, I created a property_ex task (yes, my Windoze roots are showing)
that figures out if it can't resolve a property to leave it alone.  It then
iterates through the existing properties to determine if it can resolve any
of these values, and resolves what it can.  It keeps doing this till there
is nothing left to resolve, or it can't resolve anything thats left.

I created this fix for the release available in March (sorry, don't know
the version number off the top of my head), I upgraded to the newest
release, and voila, everything works exactly as its supposed to.  Open
source is great for lots of things, but if you aren't comfortable making
changes to it (or you've been bitten in the past by doing so), then Ant
gives you a great alternative with its task model.

I like Ant for all the obvious reasons:

   x-platform - I develop on Windows and build on AIX
   extensible - I make extensive use of custom tasks to do the unusuall
   things I need to do
   java and xml - two bigger buzzwords I haven't seen, but useful ones none
   the less.
   Easy to read/change build files - you don't have to be a java developer
   to maintain the build.

   Hope that helps you out.

   Glenn McAllister
   TID - Developer - VisualAge for Java
   IBM Toronto Lab, (416) 448-3805
   "An approximate answer to the right question is better than the
   right answer to the wrong question." - John W. Tukey

   I'm looking at Ant as a possible build tool. Anyone want to share their
   own stories about using it? Is it recommendable? Does it handle larger
   projects well? How flexible is it? Is there an archive for this list, so
   can catch up?



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