Putting out feelers

Apache Ant looks to Java 9 with new release

Lucy Carey
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Whilst multitude of users are making first steps towards number 8, Java build tool gets a head start on preparing for next iteration of the platform.

Java library and command-line tool Apache Ant (short for ‘Another Neat Tool’) has reached version 1.9.4 status. Although the paint has barely dried on Java 8, the Ant colony is already marshalling its forces in preparation for Oracle’s next big release with Ant 1.9.4, which provides initial support for Java 1.9.

Along with a multitude of bug fixes and tunings, Apache Ant 1.9.4 also comes with functionality for running JUnit test in multiple threads when they are forked. Ant’s test suite has been refactored, and is now based on JUnit 4.

Due to the extreme flexibility of the tool, Ant doesn’t impose coding conventions or directory layouts to the Java projects utilizing it in their builds. Indeed, one of Ant’s key strengths is the high degree of freedom it gives devs when putting together a build. It can also be linked with Apache Ivy for software initiatives looking for a  solution with a blend of build tool and dependency management.

Originally designed as a basic platform-independent tool for building Tomcat from directives in an XML “build file”, version 1.1 of Ant made its debut as a stand-alone product in 2000. Although it looks a lot like a Java fuelled Make (and it was in fact designed in part to solve the latter’s portability issues), the biggest difference is that Ant uses XML for describing the build process to Make’s respective Makefile format.

Over the years, Ant has attracted a loyal following, and its fans are ‘semi-religious’ in their conviction when the ‘Apache Maven versus Ant’ debate inevitably arises. Whilst Maven is a less complex alternative to the tool, both tend to work best in distinctively different use case scenarios. A nice middle ground is offered by Groovy-based system Gradle, which sits somewhere between the two.

Regardless of your allegiance, if you’re interested in finding out what’s new in Ant, you can find source and binary distributions are on the Apache Ant download pages: http://ant.apache.org/bindownload.cgi and http://ant.apache.org/srcdownload.cgi.

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