Friday, May 04, 2007

Maven ... and why you should use it (2, not 1)

For the longest time during my developer's journey of discovery while learning how to build web applications, I've come across references to Maven and how it's a build system like Ant, but supposedly better. I've also heard untold numbers of references to it being frustrating and very difficult to use, largely due to shitty documentation. It was for this reason that I avoided learning it and just stuck with my current build process, which is just using Ant, exporting everything with eclipse, then manually uploading things to the server. Or in the case of dealing with a library I've made that I share among various web apps, compiling everything, going through Eclipse's JAR export wizard and copying files around. No more.

I must have came into Maven at the right time because I've found there to be lots of documentation (or at least a sufficient amount for myself) to learn it and get going with it. I've also converted my library from just using Ant to using Maven to build it, test it, package it and deploy it to a central server within my company that will now be the new Maven repository for the library. From now on, my applications can retrieve it from a central repository for me automatically instead of me having to manually export the library, copy it around, and maintain various versions of it in CVS. And I'm thrilled that this is going to make my life easier.

I did however run into a few quirks when getting Maven going. They're as follows:
1) You should really align your project to have the same layout structure as the one recommended by the Maven documentation. It'll get things going faster and you'll have far fewer build problems.

2) If you use Java (1.)5 or greater, you may need to manually insert configuration settings in order to get your (tests in my case, and possibly other) code to compile properly since Maven strives to achieve compatibility by default and will likely try to compile your code for older VMs such as 1.3. To configure Maven to use 1.5 (or whatever) by default, put the following snippets in your pom.xml file :

<project ... >



3) Deploying your library (or other code) to a Maven repository is wicked easy, especially since Maven doesn't require any special software to set one up: a Maven repository is just a folder containing libraries and metadata with a prescribed folder layout and naming convention. The code for deploying to a server is as simple as this :

<!-- This repository depends on the following settings.xml file being in the local maven2 repository
and a .ssh folder being created under ~ (or %HOMEPATH%) in Windows:
<settings xmlns=""

<username>[REPOSITORY USER]</username>
<password>[REPOSITORY PASSWORD]</password>

<name>My Maven2 Repository</name>

Maven has been pretty simple to set up and use so far, once you've read the documentation and you have at least some idea of what you're doing. I also recommend getting the m2eclipse plugin if you're going to be using Maven with Eclipse. My next steps are going to be getting Maven to compile my XMLBeans for me and deploying those as well.

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