Discussions

News: Virtual Ant - Video Demo for a GUI for Apache Ant

  1. Virtual Ant provides a GUI which provides a full macro recording mechanism for building Ant configuration files. The GUI allows you to specify operations and their orders, and builds the project file based on what you do. The project isn't available yet, but a video demo is - and the project author is asking for feedback. Based on the video, Virtual Ant provides an environment similar to Windows Explorer. Everything you do on it takes place in a virtual file system (VFS) without affecting your real file system. The VFS emulates your real file system, so you can delete files, move them around, archive them, jar them, etc., without worrying about the effects on your real File system. Everything you do is recorded as an Ant task, and the build script is generated in the background. You can even open existing build scripts and play them in Virtual Ant to see what they do. It also allows you to go back and forward in the tasks to see what the actual effect is of each task on the rest of the project. The project author is asking for feedback from developers on it, what they like or dislike about the GUI, what they find missing or confusing. What do you think of the demo? What would you do differently?

    Threaded Messages (20)

  2. Should be useful?[ Go to top ]

    IMHO I do not understand why should I use the Virtual Ant instead of an ide (like JDeveloper) that automatically creates an ant build from my project. I use ant only to compile-jar-war-ear a bundle of source files, and I use Windows Explorer to navigate inside the File System, they are two different purposes and different tools.
  3. Re: Should be useful?[ Go to top ]

    Michele - Ant isn't just for building JAR, WAR, and EAR files. You should use it to automate any manual processes in the deployment process - such as having to open Windows Explorer to move your WAR into your app server. I've only scratched the surface of Ant right now, but I use it to compile my project then deploy it through FTP to my server. I think this will be a great tool, as long as it will be able to handle some of the more complex Ant tasks - since most people are doing more than compiling and moving files around within the same file system. You seem to have this covered though... "With the tools Virtual Ant provides you can have your custom Ant tasks running on Virtual Ant within seconds." I look forward to it's release! - Jon Capcik
  4. Looks promising on a demo. I'd like to try a real application by my own hands though. This tool could help with generation of new Ant scripts and targets from scratch, but the flexibility and the quality of generated script code could be an issue, I'm afraid.
  5. simply amazin'[ Go to top ]

    i think it will a great tool, right that alot of IDEs is great for building and deploying projects like eclipse but sometimes we need ant...
  6. Inaccurate Original Post[ Go to top ]

    The original post is inaccurate in that we dont do any sort of macro recording. In fact Virtual Ant is a highly complex system. For example if you run the 'javac' task on >500 .java files inside Virtual Ant, you will see the resulting .class files instantly. While if you were to do so on the real file system, it would definitely take a few minutes at the least. The speed can also be seen if you move task around or make any changes to the attributes of a task. The rest of the running tasks are affected instantly.
    the flexibility and the quality of generated script code could be an issue, I'm afraid.
    Since Virtual Ant can read your existing build scripts too, I dont see any reason why you would want to take a look at the build script at all. Don't you think it is far easier to play an existing target in Virtual Ant and see and edit the changes rather than having to read all that XML. Its the same as when you use MS Word to create a document. You really dont care about how it stores the document. The same goes for the generated build scripts. The xml should be just the generated file which you should never need to look at. As for the flexibility, the design goal of Virtual Ant from the beginning has been that it allows you to do *anything* that ant does without needing to touch the xml file. There is some stuff which is not shown in the demo, (since it is incomplete), like the dialog for creating filesets, etc which allow all the flexibility that you are talking about, in an easy to use gui. -Prashant
  7. Fantastic tool[ Go to top ]

    I use ant for lot of work like building the ear file ,copying to the server , stopping the server, restarting the server, sending emails to the developer , updating the build status etc etc. so every time i have a issue i need to read through the build.xml understand it and then change it . Now that you got a tool i can modify or update the build process quickly and efficiently .Only thing iam worried is Whether this tool should support the entire ant tasks Good work looks very promising
  8. Re: Fantastic tool[ Go to top ]

    Only thing iam worried is Whether this tool should support the entire ant tasks Yes. all tasks that can be run on ant including your own custom tasks, are supported on Virtual Ant. Free tools will be provided so that you can automatically make Virtual Ant figure out how your custom task should work within the Virtual File System.
  9. Re: Fantastic tool[ Go to top ]

    Sorry bad formatting in the prev post. Here it is again.
    Only thing iam worried is Whether this tool should support the entire ant tasks
    Good work looks very promising
    Yes. all tasks that can be run on ant including your own custom tasks, are supported on Virtual Ant. Free tools will be provided so that you can automatically make Virtual Ant figure out how your custom task should work within the Virtual File System.
  10. Shouldn't it be called Visual Ant?[ Go to top ]

    a tool for the 'Visual' generation (VB, VS, VC, ...), a tool for 'developers' who don't know the command line any more.
  11. Re: Inaccurate Original Post[ Go to top ]

    Since Virtual Ant can read your existing build scripts too, I dont see any reason why you would want to take a look at the build script at all. Don't you think it is far easier to play an existing target in Virtual Ant and see and edit the changes rather than having to read all that XML.
    One of the beauties of software development, is being able to take a plain ol' text editor, vi, textpad or whatever and using it to modify the source or configuration file. It's why unix configuration files are so loved over say, the registry. Yes, you can use a program to modify the file, but sometimes that file is simply not available. It is not a slam against people who prefer to use tools to modify files rather than a text editor. Eclipse, IntelliJ, XDoclet, WSDL2Java, all awesome tools to generate stuff for you, but when you get down to it, there is no dependency to them once stuff has been generated. That said, there's a large value of knowing your target language, and the tools above them. The language is the artifact, the tool simply speeds up your life.
    You really dont care about how it stores the document. The same goes for the generated build scripts. The xml should be just the generated file which you should never need to look at.
    I can think of tonnes of counter examples of why I do care. One day, ant will support something I need, that you don't supply. Let's call it N. What happens when I need N? What if it were something outside the format of the Schema/DTD of ant build scripts. Then what? Of course I care about how it stores it. I may need to tweak it. What if Ant, far in the future, in version 10.0 does something so atrocious, I need to stick with 9.0 of Ant. Your new product does something I need, but outputs 10.0 ant files. Now I would need to post-tweak things as work a work around. Of course I care about the underlying format. As for Word, of course I care about the underlying format. You've heard of the taking a document, blanking it out, and creating a new document bug? It stores the old data. What if I wanted to write a tool to say, scrub my documents for certain pieces of hidden information. I care about the underlying format. I need to be able to do without you when I can, but want the ability to work with you because you make my life fast. Statements like that make me believe you aren't there to work with us, but at us. Please prove me wrong; Say it ain't so.
  12. nice[ Go to top ]

    I like this for the sheer cool factor :)
  13. This looks like a very cool tool. Aside from other uses that have been already discussed, this could also be used as a tool for learning Ant.
  14. Nice tool! We are heavily using ant macros. Will that be supported, too? -- Andreas
  15. Nice tool! We are heavily using ant macros. Will that be supported, too?
    I have this concern as well, and a few others. First of all, Spencer captured a lot of my concerns with this tool, and I'm worried about the response of its author ("you don't need to look at the source"). I really hope this is a simple slip and that Virtual Ant lets me not only look at the generated build script, but lets me modify it as well, because, face it: as of today, close to 100% of ant users edit their build files manually, and nobody will want to give up the ability to do so. Another related concern: one of the main challenges of such visual tool is reverse engineering. If I generate a build script, then edit it to add things the tool doesn't cover (such as comments, private ant tasks, macrodef, etc...), will the tool be able to read the script back without modifying its formatting? Finally, how about reuse? I use macrodef and imports all the time, as well as common build files imported in various builds. I don't want to give up that flexibility. Overall, I get the impression that Virtual Ant wants to be the only tool you use to edit your ant files, and that's clearly unacceptable. Like Spencer said, I want the tool to work with me and not against me. I want to be able to use it when it makes my life easier, but I want to keep control over my build files because ultimately, I still think I will always be smarter at certain things. I would love to see these concerns addressed. -- Cedric http://testng.org
  16. I think it is worth mentioning Antelope project. We at Viewtier mainly use it for various Ant task extensions such as e.t.c, but it also provies a GUI for both editing and executing ant scripts so that you can see task timings. In any case, here is Antelope's front page: http://antelope.tigris.org/ and documentation with screen shots: http://antelope.tigris.org/nonav/docs/manual/index.html Hope this helps. Regards, Slava Imeshev
  17. Is it available only as an Ecplise plugin?
  18. I see that most of the people are concerned about the generated XML stuff. So here it is- I understand that a lot of developers might not be comfortable with using the GUI for everything and might just like to stick to XML for some tasks. Well, here is the good news. Virtual Ant fully supports your editing of the xml. You see that XML tab in the video, if you switch to it you see that the xml has been auto generated for you. But you can edit the xml in that view, and any changes you make to the xml will be reflected when you switch to the Explorer view. So you can go ahead and change attributes, add/remove targets and the Explorer view will synchronize itself with that. Also, since this is a pre release video, the XML view is not fully complete. In the final version, since Virtual Ant will plug into your IDE, the XML view will have the default Ant XML editor for that IDE. So for example, if you are using Virtual Ant from within Eclipse, when you click on the XML tab, you see Eclipse's Ant xml editor. So you get all the functionality of that *plus* Virtual Ant. :)
  19. Looks an absolute cracker!![ Go to top ]

    Looks an absolute cracker of a tool to make life better for people dealing with Ant. About time too!!
  20. IMHO...[ Go to top ]

    I personally feel that it is easier to take an existing Ant file and customize it to your needs rather using a GUI tool. I feel it is much easier and faster. This is what I have done and never felt a need for a tool like this.With IDE support for ANT and XML editors,it is much easier to build Ant files now.
  21. Ant 1.6 stuff?[ Go to top ]

    Looks like a fun tool. I like the benefit of being able to preview the changes in a virtual file system - that seems like a somewhat unique feature I wouldn't expect. How does it handle Ant 1.6 templating, inheritance, etc? For larger, multi-project builds does the tool scale? If the tool is reasonably priced I could see using it to get a quick project up and running and tweak the ant xml from there. I guess for custom ant tasks you'd just stick them in the task stack at the bottom? I think the tool support of showing what the task's parameters are is nice - though something you get from MyEclipse and Intellij when you edit ant xml. Would like to see a demo of some of these more complicated situations but overall it looks pretty slick.