Apache Ant - Building Simple Java Projects


Apache Ant - Building Simple Java Projects

In this tutorial, we will introduce you to Apache's Ant technology, which is a mean to build java projects.

In this tutorial, we will introduce you to Apache's Ant technology, which is a mean to build java projects.

Apache Ant - Building Simple Java Projects


About the Tutorial

In this tutorial, we will introduce you to Apache's Ant technology, which is a mean to build java projects. Ant is an open source tool that is easy to use and platform independent. This tutorial serves the purposes for both the beginners and experienced individuals. Going through it, a beginner can easily and quickly learn how to use Ant to build his/her own java projects; and if you are already exposed to Ant, then also you will be benefited by this tutorial learning more and advanced features of Ant. Introduction to Ant and its history,  from installing it on your system to how to run and use it - every aspect will be described here with illustration and examples. 

Ant Definition

Apache Ant is an open source, cross-platform based build tool that is used to describe a build  process and its dependencies and implemented in XML scripts using Java classes that ensures its extensibility to any development environment (based on Java) and its  integrity with other build tools.  

Why Ant?

Ant is developed by Apache Foundation specifically to build projects based on java platform. But why to use Ant if there already exists other build tools like make, jam and many. Tool like make uses shell commands that facilitates integration of other tools to extend its functionality on the operating system where it runs. But this limits the functionality of the build tool specific to that OS only, e.g., make is specific to the UNIX platform. Ant has overcome this shortcoming as it uses java classes with XML scripting that makes it portable through cross-platform behavior. Ant is applicable to any integrated development environment based on java technology and therefore easy to use in building java projects across any platform. Ant enables automatic generation of build processes that is more reliable than manual procedures. Ant can also compile source code from version controls and package the compiled code and other resources (JAR, EAR, TAR etc.). 

History of Ant

The development of Ant technology originated as an integral component of Tomcat application server based on Java Servlet and Java Server Faces. Ant, as a part of Apache Jakarta Project is an open source solution based on java platform. With the advent of time, it gained popularity and used widely. Its first independent release as a Jakarta subproject was made in the year 2000. Since then, Ant has been used as a major tool in building java projects and now it has become a top-level Apache project for server-side solutions. The latest release of Ant is version 1.7.1.

Introduction to Apache Ant (Another Neat Tool)

Ant is an open source build technology developed by Apache intended to build processes in Java environment. It is a similar kind of tool like make but it does not use shell commands to extend the functionality. The use of shell commands in make brings about the integrity with other languages too but this also makes it platform specific. In contrast, Ant is based on XML and uses java classes in automatic generation of build processes that makes it platform independent. It is applicable to any integrated development environment (IDE) that uses java. A build file is generally named as build.xml.

The best features of the Ant technology can be summarized as below -

Easy to Use: It is not a programming language, it is an XML based scripting tool, therefore easy to understand and implement.

Portable and Cross-platform based: Uses of Java classes makes it portable, i.e., it can be run on any operating system.

Extended Functionality: Ant is based on java platform, that?s why its functionality can be extended to any development environment based on java. It is easier to implement than any specific IDE because it is automated and ubiquitous.

Build Automation: Ant provides automated build processes that is faster and more efficient than manual procedures and other build tools can also be integrated with it.

Compilation of Source Code: Ant can use and compile source code from a variety of version controls and packaging of the compiled code and resources can also be done.

Handling Dependencies between Targets: An Ant Project describes the target and tasks associated with it and also handles dependencies between various targets and tasks.


In this section, you will learn how to install Ant into your system.

The current version 1.7.1 of Ant was released on 27 June, 2008. It is available for download at http://ant.apache.org/bindownload.cgi. Here, you have to click on the link apache-ant-1.7.1-bin.zip in the .zip archive to download the zip file. After the download completes, unzip this file and install  the apache-ant-1.7.1 folder to the root directory of C:\ drive. Therefore, path for the Ant directory will be C:\apache-ant-1.7.1. Now, we have to set some environment variables. Select the item "System" in the Control Panel of your system and click on the tab named "Advanced". You will see a button named "Environment Variables" appears, click it. Under Environment variables, you will find two user variables, viz., ANT_HOME and CLASS_PATH. Set the path value C:\apache-ant-1.7.1 to ANT_HOME variable and the path value C:\apache-ant-1.7.1\lib; to CLASS_PATH variable. Again in the System Variables, we have to set the value C:\jdk to JAVA_HOME variable and the value C:\apache-ant-1.7.1\bin; to Path variable. 

Now, you have to check whether the installation process is done properly or not. To do this, open the Command Prompt and run the command C:\>ant. If the following message 

appears, then it indicates that your installation is successful; Ant is properly installed in your system..