When Mike Clark was writing Pragmatic Project Automation, he and I conspired about a few things. A biggie was build scripts—in particular, the expressiveness and power thereof. We persuaded James Davidson to publicly admit that the choice of an XML format was … well, not a mistake exactly, but ultimately a limiting strategy. And we wanted to demonstrate the usefulness of having a real programming language at your disposal in a build script. A lot of this came from our interest in Ruby and our use of Rake, but in the context of a Java-focused book Mike decided to demonstrate by using Groovy to script Ant. That was cool, but it just touched the surface. Since it wasn’t really the main topic of the book, Mike wisely kept it short.
Today, Martin Fowler blogged an excellent article about the strengths of using Rake. Martin gives it the full treatment, explaining Rake, how it’s similar to both Make and Ant, and how it goes beyond both of those older tools. He demonstrates in several ways how powerful it is to have all of Ruby available in build scripts.
My favorite line: “After all, until we tried it I thought XML would be a good syntax for build files.”