Ant, Maven Or Gradle – Which one to choose?

So, you decide to check out some build prerequisites before getting into the real development job, and confused which is the best build tool, right? Well, whenever you approach to choose the build framework, you will often get confused! The debate on which one is a better build tool is heated up these days.


There are a lot of things considered at the time of choosing build tool, such as whether it is an open source tool, commercial or custom solution. However, when we talk about the popular build frameworks under Java, Ant, Maven and Gradle are a few names that will come in our mind! So, what is this Ant, Maven and Gradle is all about and how they differ from each other? Let’s find it out in the later on sections of this article.


The Ant is not the oldest build management system, but it has been one of the standard build systems for the Java projects since more than the past 13 years giving it a huge time span to get mature enough. It is a configuration heavy system, which requires you to define all of its actions explicitly. However, it is having three different files associated with it, such as build.xml, and ivy.xml.

Due to lack of any standard way for things to be set up. The Ant is the one that took the longest time to set up even though most of the actions were pre-defined.


Maven tohas been around us since past 8 years, but it takes a totally different approach than Ant by favoring convention rather than following implementer configuring. As long as your project follows the default conventions, you can easily leverage from the default setup. Moreover, it further states that everything you want can be changed the way you want it with the help of the configuration options defined through plug-ins that is tough to break out of in practice.

Unlike Ant, which defines actions or targets, Maven defines plug-ins and there are mainly three plug-ins that you can utilize on the daily basis – Package, Clean and Test.


Gradle is one of the latest among all the build systems with the version 1 released at the end of February 2011. Unlike Ant and Maven discussed above, which were having a configuration based on xml, is written in Groovy that is scripting language based on the JVM (Java Virtual Machine). With the help of Groovy, Gradle can easily use any existing ant targets, Maven plug-ins or any other Java classes, which makes it one of them most of powerful build tools.

How each one is differ than the other one and which one is better?

  • IDE integration

The Ant build system was around before eclipse and therefore, eclipse lets you create a new project based on the ant target or action. However, the Ivy dependencies are not a part of than ant integration, which has been implemented by eclipse. Moreover, Apache doesn’t have an eclipse plug-in that can help you read that ivy.xml file and pull the dependencies in the project. Therefore, you may need to use plug-ins for dependency management.

On the other hand, in Maven, you can’t leverage from the support from eclipse. However, Maven has an eclipse plug-in that can help you create an eclipse project that can be easily imported as an existing project.Gradle has the same plug-ins available that can help them create the eclipse projects.

  • Deployment time

When it comes to the deployment time or dependencies cached, Any requires 8 seconds as compared to the Maven or Gradle, which requires 13 seconds and 10.671 seconds respectively. So, Ant is faster to deploy compared to the rest of the two build systems.

  • Setup time needed

In terms of setup time required, Maven wins the battle. Maven requires only 1-2 hrs. The second comes Gradle with approximate time of  3-4 hours to set up, and Ant requires the maximum amount of time to set up, almost 6-8 hours.

What about pros and cons of each of the build systems?


Pros –

  • Most mature
  • Faster build time
  • Totally configurable

Cons –

  • Lack of native dependency management
  • Requires a huge set up time
  • Lack of performance


Pros –

  • Largest existing Brain Share, most experience in the company
  • Faster enough for standard items with the help of the conventions
  • A huge bunch of plug-ins available to help you carry out different tasks

Cons –

  • Requires a huge build time
  • It is quite difficult to break out of a convention if required


Pros –

  • Build on Groovy, which means total control
  • Change detection will take place only upon the discovery of task that has changed since last run
  • Smallest configuration
  • Has the advantage of hindsight and enhances on the mistakes made by Ant and Maven

Cons –

  • Lack of information available on it
  • Not so intuitive configuration file format

So, that was all about Ant, Maven and Gradle. Hope this detailed comparison as well as pros and cons associated with each of the build system will help you choose the right one for your Java Development Project. Share your views in the comments…!

Watch this video for Gradlevs Maven:-

About Author:

Boni Satani is Java Technology enthusiast associated with Cygnet Infotech – an offshore J2EE Application Development Company. Connect with him on Google+ or Twitter. He is also the author of a controversial post 5 Reasons Why Enterprises Prefer Java Over .NET

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