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From "Chris Todd" <chris.t...@home.com>
Subject RE: [ANN] Collecting requirements for Ant2
Date Sat, 10 Mar 2001 01:06:21 GMT
OK, here's my wishlist for Ant 2 (or at least a list of things I would like
to see discussed):

All of these ideas center around making Ant even easier to use for
newbies/converts.  Ant is already pretty darned good in that respect, but I
know it can be even better (IMHO)!  :-)  You may feel free to scoff at these
suggestions, and flame me at will, but at the very least, I would like to
see these issues discussed.  And I apologize in advance for my verbosity.
:-(

1)  Easier install process.  Perhaps a GUI/wizard-type installer (maybe even
using Java Web Start from the Ant homepage)?  I am particularly thinking of
an option that asks the user whether they will be using certain optional
tasks that require external libraries (e.g. FTP, script, JUnit, etc.), and
then offering the user the chance to download them (from CJAN or the ant
website or wherever) during the install.  Something like this could cut down
on the "FTP task isn't working" faqs (of course, good docs don't hurt
either, and the docs have been getting better).  I would even be willing to
bet that such a GUI installer (perhaps integrated with Antidote) could be
made to allow users to "upgrade" their Ant installation when new tasks or
bug fixes as they come out.  For those of you who have used jEdit, I am
thinking along the lines of the plugin manager it uses (translating jEdit
plugin == Ant task).  I think the 'ant task as plugin' analogy could work
quite well.

2)  Make it easier to run ant.  The batch/shell scripts...let's either ditch
them (if possible), and perhaps make an executable jar file, or try to make
them absolutely fool-proof.  Granted, I'm not sure how to access environment
variables with an executable jar file (property files perhaps?), but with
this many clever people around, I'm sure we could figure something out.
There might not be any way around the scripts, but I would at least like to
explore the possibility.

3)  Antidote.  I see three good reasons for really making Antidote integral
to Ant 2.0 (there may be more).  First, builds will be faster, since they'll
be in-process (and one-click).  Second, if Antidote can be constructed such
that property editors can be used for every aspect of the build file, then
newbies might not even need to know any XML at all.  Third, newbies will
simply be more comfortable.  Crucial to this, I believe, is a build-file
wizard/quick start tutorial.  That would also be an excellent opportunity to
lay down 'best practices' for Ant-based builds.  I volunteer to help with
such a wizard.  I am sure what constitutes 'Ant best practices' will be
actively debated.  :-)

4)  A central repository for contributions (user-created tasks, helper
scripts, IDE integration stuff, etc.).  I realize this has been discussed
before, but I wanted to make sure it gets attention.  There have been many
tasks and other contributions that have been sent to ant-dev, and the only
place they are available is via the mailing list archive.  What are the odds
that an Ant newbie who uses Emacs/JDE is actually going to find the
jde-ant.el post from a couple of months back?  Slim, I wager.  Instead,
there should be one central place that everyone can go and find all sorts of
Ant goodies and extras, regardless of who submitted them or whether the Ant
developers approve of them (ala the 'ant as a scripting language' debate
some time back).  This probably can/should be tied in with the plugin idea
above (and/or CJAN).

5)  Better docs.  While this is often a weak point in OSS projects, I have
to admit the Ant manual is quite good, and my kudos go out to everyone that
has made it so.  But I think it can be better, particularly in the area of
helping newbies learn the ropes quickly.  My guess is that some
reorganization of the existing manual would help, as well as the addition of
a quick start tutorial of some kind.  Given that I volunteered to help with
the GUI wizard, I volunteer to help with this as well.  (And I am almost
finished converting the existing manual to XML; I am hoping to have it
available next week).

6)  An RPM task would be cool.

Again, I apologize for my verbosity, and I thank you if you've actually read
down this far. :-)  I look forward to debating these and other Ant 2 issues.

Regards,
Chris Todd
chris.todd@home.com

P.S.  I realize this is pretty trivial, but a nice logo/icon would be cool.
I'm no good with graphics, but I thought perhaps an Ant with a construction
helmet building a brick wall?  I know, I'm a geek...but it could be cute!
:-)


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