Have you ever seen a perfect build tool? Probably not. There are flaws in all of them, and Maven might be the most-cursed just because it has so many users – around 2/3 of Java developers surveyed use it in some capacity. Perhaps some do simply because they can’t avoid it, but even then it just displays the lack of a certifiably better alternative.

Ant might be the granddaddy of Java build tools and is not far behind Maven, capturing around half of the user base. This shows that both scripted builds (Ant) and declarative builds with dependency management (Maven) have their place, and neither build story will disappear.

What if you want to get rid of XML in your builds? There are SBT and Gradle, both used by around 1/20th of the survey respondents. They are more like Ant than Maven, in that they allow you to easily script custom-built tasks, but using a programming language / DSL instead of the clunky XML. 

Here's what Hans Dockter, Founder of Gradle, is thinking of for 2013:

“We are entering an age of heterogeneity for platforms and languages. Java, Scala, C++, Android, Xcode, Javascript … all of these will be part of the normal enterprise software stack. You need a build system that can treat all those as first class citizens.”

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