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From Jesse Glick <jesse.gl...@sun.com>
Subject Lexicon vs. grammar (was: [POLL] target-groups)
Date Wed, 16 Dec 2009 19:43:34 GMT
Dominique Devienne wrote:
> This allows to release sooner (1.7.1 is 18 months old), without rushing what is admittedly
a more radical change to Ant's target dependency handling.

Agreed. More broadly, I would like to deflate discussions of this kind a bit. How many users
are really clamoring for what I would refer to as grammatical changes in Ant 
- interpretation of targets, property evaluation, and so on - and can also agree on what they
want? Ant's grammar is awkward and often counterintuitive (IMHO), but with 
experience it is possible to write what you need to write. If you need more flexibility and
clarity, you can use <script>, or one of the ever-growing number of Ant-based 
builder tools written in various JVM scripting languages. Changes to the existing grammar
are relatively expensive in terms of design and implementation, and pose a high 
risk of regressions, yet still cannot match the generality of true scripting languages.

In the meantime, the unique value of Ant does not lie in its grammar, but in its library of
tasks, which have been tuned over the years to simplify access to a broad 
variety of Java development tools and other file-manipulation utilities. The reason so many
"alternative" build tools expose Ant tasks as their primary vocabulary is that 
it would be impractical to offer anything as convenient and comprehensive starting from scratch.

I think it is best to be very conservative about the grammar. Focus energy on making standard
tasks reliable, fast, and flexible (in that order).


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