Monday, July 4, 2011

Apache Ant - Tutorial

Ant (originally an acronym for Another Neat Tool), is a build tool with special support for the Java programming language but can be used for just about everything.Ant is platform-independent; it is written purely in Java. Ant is particularly good at automating complicated repetitive tasks e.g. compiling source code, running software tests, creating jar files, javadocs, etc. and thus is well suited for automating standardised build processes.
A build process typically includes:
     -the compilation of the Java source code into Java bytecode
     -creation of the .jar file for the distribution of the code
     -creation of the Javadoc documentation
Ant accepts instructions in the form of XML documents("build.xml") thus is extensible and easy to maintain.


Linux (Ubuntu / Debian)

On Debian /Ubuntu use "apt-get install ant" to install it.

Download Apache Ant from .
Extract the zip file into a directory structure of your choice. Set the "ANT_HOME" environment variable to this location and include the "ANT_HOME/bin" directory in your path.
Make sure that also the JAVA_HOME environment variable is set to the JDK. This is required for running Ant.
Check your installation by opening a command line and typing "ant -version" into the commend line. The system should find the command ant and show the version number of your installed ant.
The documents entitled Configuring A Windows Working Environment andConfiguring A Unix Working Environment are of use to people who need to know more.

A simple Ant example is shown below followed by a set of instructions indicating how to use Ant.

<?xml version="1.0"?>  
<project name="test" default="compile" basedir=".">  

        <property name="src" value="."/>  
        <property name="build" value="build"/>

        <target name="init">  
                <mkdir dir="${build}"/> 

        <target name="compile" depends="init">  
                 <!-- Compile the java code -->

                 <javac srcdir="${src}" destdir="${build}"/>   

1) The document begins with an XML declaration which specifies which version of XML is in use.

2) The root element of an Ant build file is the project element, it has three attributes.
  • name: The name of the project, it can be any combination of alphanumeric characters that constitute valid XML.
  • default: The default target to use when no target is specified, out of these three attributes default is the only required attribute.
  • basedir: The base directory from which any relative directories used within the Ant build file are referenced from. If this is omitted the parent directory of the build file will be used.
3) The property element allows the declaration of properties which are like user-definable variables available for use within an Ant build file. The name attribute specifies the name of the property and the value attribute specifies the desired value of the property. 

4) The target element is used as a wrapper for a sequences of actions. A target has a name, so that it can be referenced from elsewhere, either externally from the command line, or internally via the depends keyword, or through a direct call. The target in the example is called "init" (initiate), it makes a directory using the mkdir element with the name specified by the build property

5) depends allows one to specify other targets that must be executed prior to the execution of this target. In the listing abovedepends="init" is used to indicate that the compile target requires that the target named init be executed prior to executing the body of compile.

6) The example above causes javac to be executed, compiling all files in the directory specified by the src property and placing the resultant .class files in the directory specified by the build property.

Copy the source code into a text editor and save the file as build.xml.Create a test directory and place the file in it. Create some arbitrary .javafile and place it in the same directory as build.xml. For convenience, here is an example .java file: Place the java file in the same directory asbuild.xml.

public class test { 
    public static void main(String[] args) { 
        System.out.println("Hello World!"); 

Type the following at the commandline in the test directory:
ant -v
This will create a directory called build, compile and place the .class file created in the build directory. The -v directs ant to be verbose. This verbosity causes the command to echo lots of information, information that is not really necessary for most normal purposes. Execute the command sequence again. An example output message is shown below:

[javac] omitted as /path/to/temp/build/test.class is up todate

A nice feature of Ant is that by default, only those .java input files that have a more recent timestamp than their corresponding .class output files will be compiled.

For more info: