What is Ant?

What is building tool and why it is required?
There are plenty of steps required to transform the source code into a deplorable and usable software solution. If one tries to follow these steps manually for building software, he would find it to be boring, error prone and, in most cases, not very repeatable. You might forget to execute one of the desire steps. Such processes are always a source of problems so the best solution is to automate the build process. Such tools are known as build tools.

This tool provides a mechanism to describe the operations and structure of the build process. When the tool is invoked it uses this description, examines steps that need to be executed and their order of execution, and manages the execution of those steps.

Apache Ant

Apache Ant is a Java based build tool from Apache Software Foundation. The main file which is named as “Build.xml” is written in XML language. Due to XML language usage, it is very easy to understand the files. The other aspect of Ant is Java-Based is that the primitive build steps are built in Java. The developers are provided ability to extend Ant by writing new Tasks as these steps can be loaded at run time.

Features of Apache Ant
A) It is written completely in Java
B) Matured and open source.
C) Platform specific tasks can also be performed.
D) Written in XML format.
E) Can handle variety of tasks
F) An interface to develop custom tasks is also provided.
G) Integrated with multiple IDE’s

Definition of ANT Terms

Build Files: Generally, Ant's build file, build.xml should be in the project's base directory. Although one is free to use other file names or place the build file in some other location.

Property Task: Ant uses the property element which allows you to specify properties such as project name & its source. It allows the properties to be changed from one build to another and/or from one environment to another.

Property Files: Setting properties directly in the build file is fine if one is working with a few properties. Specifying properties in a separate file makes sense when one does not know the values for a property. This allows performing the build in other environments where the property value is well-known. There is no rigid rule, but usually the property file is named build.properties and is placed along with the build.xml file. The contents of the build property file are very much similar to the normal java property file.

Common ANT Tasks

Creating JAR files: The next reasonable step after compiling your java source files, is to build the JAR file. Creation of JAR files with Ant is fairly easy with the jar task.

Creating WAR files: Creating WAR files with Ant is exceptionally simple. The WAR task is an expansion to the JAR task. The WAR task is useful to state a particular layout of the WAR file. Since the WAR task is an expansion of the JAR task, all attributes of it apply to the WAR task.

Executing Java code: Ant can be used to execute java code.


  • Ant build files are written strictly in XML. For non-expertize developers, both XML itself and the complex structure of Ant documents can be a barrier to learning. The language of Ant is quite prolix, and the build files of complex and large  projects become hard to manage.
  • When spreading out properties in a text or string  element, undefined properties are not marked as an error, but left as an unexpanded one.
  • Ant has limited exception handling rules, and no persistence of state, so it cannot be used as a tool of workflow for any workflow other than classic building and testing processes.
  • Some rules can be written inline within the make file while creating the similar task in Ant can be more complex.

Author Bio:

My name is Smith Parker. I am a freelance writer who specializes in writing well technology blogger and web content. I have mainly written for leading Java application development company, custom software development and mobile app solutions. I have also written technical articles like for .Net application, database services and enterprise application testing. I hope above mentioned information of What is Ant? will help you constructively.