Most Java developers these days are using a build tool to manage app compilation and dependencies at the very least, so RebelLabs put together a practical guide to getting started with the top 3 build tools in the Java game today: Maven, Ant + Ivy and Gradle.

It turns out that although these 3 tools all have the same goal in mind—i.e. to be an awesome build tool—they often have very different ways of doing things. Maven and Ant both use good, old, understandable XML, for example, while Gradle is a domain-specific language build tool that uses Groovy code to remove most of the boilerplate. 

In this report, we look at what a build tool is supposed to do, the evolution of build tools since Make in the late 1970s, and how the 3 tools we discuss in this report have grown (or decreased) in popularity since late 2010 using our own primary research.

After that, we go on to cover getting set up with Maven, Gradle and Ant, from installation and build scripts to Spring’s famous Pet Clinic sample application and artifact repositories. For more advanced users, we list our favorite plugins for each tool and how to customize and extend your tool by creating your own plugins.

Finally, give a What Rocks vs. What Lacks matrix for each tool, and introduce what we’ll cover in Java Build Tools - Part 2, where we pull out the claws and dig deeper into 7 different feature categories, ranking each tool’s performance. Look for that in late January 2014. Enjoy the report, and be sure to share it if you think it’s good!