For a while I have been tempted to stray from the relative safety of Maven and Ant. Every time I fight with these tools, or in the case of maven am stunned and amazed out how simple things can require so much xml, I look over the alternatives wondering if it could be easier.

After quite a bitter fight with ant at work I decided it was time to give one of thes new contenders a try. As I had recently tinkered on a project which used Gradle and found it quite easy to use it seemed like as good a candidate as any.

My road test involved building a multi module project with a sample shared common library, a server library and a REST service. The results of my experiment are located in agent-manager up on github. Overall I found building this project quite enjoyable and using code, albeit groovy which I am not that familiar with, quite refreshing.

After a bit of consideration I would list the pros as follows:

  • Good overall documentation
  • Dependency management was a breeze
  • Great support for generating IDEA projects, and some great options for customising them.
  • Nice terse syntax with the ability to follow the Don’t Repeat Yourself Mantra(DRY).
  • Very flexible build and test configuration, in my example I added a new integration test scope which was completely isolated from the existing unit tests.
  • Very little code required to get a nice project build running.

The cons are as follows:

  • Not a lot of plugins, in my case none of the major web service runtimes have a gradle plugin. To be honest I didn’t find a lot outside of this projects default ones.
  • Some of the syntax errors can be cryptic, especially when you are missing a parameter to a closure.
  • Not a lot of good examples.

So overall quite an interesting exercise, in my case I will keep at it as the cons were well and truly outweighed by the pros. I would be happy to recommend Gradle to anyone who is looking for something new, especially on simple java projects.

If your interested in learning more then have a look over my sample and make sure you checkout the following projects for inspiration.

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