Gradle Beyond the Basics: Customizing Next-Generation Builds

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So, while Gradle provides the idea of conventions and a simple and declarative build, it also makes the tool adaptable and developers the ability to extend. It also provides an easy way to customize the default behavior and different hooks to add any third-party features. It has power and flexibility of Ant tool with Maven features such as build life cycle and ease of use. The build tool's response is to add scripting functionality through nonstandard extension mechanisms. You end up mixing scripting code with XML or invoking external scripts from your build logic.

It's easy to imagine that you'll need to add more and more custom code over time. As a result, you inevitably introduce accidental complexity, and maintainability goes out the window. Let's say you want to copy a file to a specific location when you're building the release version of your project.

To identify the version, you check a string in the metadata describing your project. If it matches a specific numbering scheme for example, 1. From an outside perspective, this may sound like a trivial task. If you have to rely on XML, the build language of many traditional tools, expressing this simple logic becomes fairly difficult. Java build logic has to be described in XML. XML is great for describing hierarchical data but falls short on expressing program flow and conditional logic. As a build script grows in complexity, maintaining the building code becomes a nightmare.

In Ant , you make the JAR target depend on the compile target. Ant doesn't give any guidance on how to structure your project. Though it allows for maximum flexibility, Ant makes each build script unique and hard to understand.

Building with Gradle for Android

External libraries required by your project are usually checked into version control because there is no automated mechanism to pull them from a central location. Maven 1 , released in July , tried to ease that process. It provided a standardized project and directory structure, as well as dependency management.

Unfortunately, custom logic is hard to implement. Gradle fits right into that generation of build tools and satisfies many requirements of modern build tools Figure 1. It provides an expressive DSL, a convention over configuration approach, and powerful dependency management. It makes the right move to abandon XML and introduce the dynamic language Groovy to define your build logic. Sounds compelling, doesn't it?

Book Review: Gradle: Beyond the Basics

The default build tool for Android and the new star of build tools on the JVM is designed to ease scripting of complex, multi-language builds. Should you change to it, though, if you're using Ant or Maven?


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The key to unlocking Gradle's power features within your build script lies in discovering and applying its domain model, as shown in below image. Gradle can't know all the requirements specific to your enterprise build. By exposing hooks into lifecycle phases, Gradle allows for monitoring and configuring the build script's execution behavior.

Gradle establishes a vocabulary for its model by exposing a DSL implemented in Groovy.


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When dealing with a complex problem domain, in this case, the task of building software, being able to use a common language to express your logic can be a powerful tool. Another example is the way you can express dependencies to external libraries, a very common problem solved by build tools. Out-of-the-box Gradle provides you with two configuration blocks for your build script that allow you to define the dependencies and repositories that you want to retrieve them from.

If the standard DSL elements don't fit your needs, you can even introduce your own vocabulary through Gradle's extension mechanism. I'm not sure this is Gradle's fault exactly. But the "import from Eclipse project" seems pretty flaky. For all of Gradle's alleged sophistication and the virtues of a build-system, Android Studio just doesn't seem to import the build dependencies or build-process from Eclipse very well.

It doesn't tell you when it's failed to import a complete dependency graph.


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The Android Studio gives no useful help or tips as to how to solve the problem. It doesn't tell you where you can manually look in the Eclipse folders.

Gradle Build Tasks Part-1 Tutorial

It doesn't tell you which library seems to be missing. Or help you search Maven etc. Except with Android. Android Studio is now the only place where I still seem to experience missing-dependency hell. I'm inclined to say this is Google's fault. People whose projects work in Eclipse aren't adapting them to AS presumably because it's a pain for them.

And people trying to use those projects in AS are hitting the same issues. And anyway, if Gradle is this super-powerful build system, why am I still managing a whole lot of other dependencies in the sdk manager? Why can't a project that needs, say, the ndk specify this in its Gradle file so that it gets automatically installed and built-against when needed? Why is NDK special? Similarly for target platforms? Why am I installing them explicitly in the IDE rather than just checking my project against them and having this all sorted for me behind the scenes?

Gradle is an advanced build system as well as an advanced build toolkit allowing to create custom build logic through plugins! By default, the Android plugin automatically sets up the project to build both a debug and a release version of the application. If you have binary archives in your local filesystem that a module depends on, such as JAR files, you can declare these dependencies in the build file for that module. First the repository must be added to the list, and then the dependency must be declared in a way that Maven or Ivy declare their artifacts. Basically, it's Groovy's build tool.

Unlike Ant, it's based on the full Groovy language. You can, for example, write Groovy script code in the Gradle script to do something rather than relying on a specific domain language. I don't know IntelliJ's specific integration, but imagine you could "extend" Groovy such that you could write specific "build" language primitives and they just became part of the Groovy language. Groovy's metaprogramming is a whole discussion unto itself.

Gradle is an automated build toolkit that can integrate into lots of different environments not only for Android projects. Minimal Configuration Required for New Projects because Gradle has defaults configurations for your android studio projects. Dependancy Declaration. You can declare dependency jar files or library files that is hosted in local or remote server. Gradle automatically generates a test directory and a test APK from your project's source.

If you add all the necessary information, such as keyPassword and keyAlias , to your Gradle build file, you can use Gradle to generate signed APKs. Gradle can generate multiple APKs with different package and build configurations from a single module. In Android Studio, Gradle is a custom build tool used to build android packages apk files by managing dependencies and providing custom build logic. Gradle is an advanced build toolkit for android that manages dependencies and allows you to define custom build logic.

Gradle is an extensive build tool and dependency manager for programming projects. It has a domain specific language based on Groovy. Gradle also provides build-by-convention support for many types of projects including Java, Android and Scala.

Gradle is what makes it possible to automate the building of complex Android projects that involve 10s of thousands of lines of code from multiple sources, projects, libraries etc. It can conditionally generate multiple optimised APKs based on a plethora of configuration specifications - if you are interested, the other answers provide more details of this aspect of Gradle.

It is an inscrutable, complex system that effectively obfuscates the Android build process and essentially renders it unavailable to inexperienced developers, ie in order to build a simple entry level Android App the unsuspecting newbie might need to study and understand many things that they didnt bargain for such as:.

All these things are interesting and useful for Android developers to know, but they are far from easy and present a formidable barrier to entry. I suspect that what inspired the OP to ask this question is the feeling of frustration that inevitably hits the neophyte developer after spending way too long trying to get a simple app to build and being continually thwarted by Gradle.

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The problem is perversely exacerbated by the overwhelming quantity of highly technical documentation that is available for all these technologies. Also for a large amount of development needs Gradle is overkill. An alternative is to write a shell script that builds your project by automating the tools available in the android SDK. The virtues of this approach are many, for starters its probably the best way to study and understand the build process and the Android ecosystem, and it allows you to completely control how your app is built. However this approach is more suitable for deeply irredeemable tech-heads than it is to inexperienced noobs trying out android.

What is conspicuous by its absence please inform me if there is such a thing is an entry level, lightweight IDE with a reduced feature set that simultaneously simplifies the build process while not obscuring it so not netbeans or eclipse it could possibly still use Gradle what was wrong with Ant. It should make it easy to generate APKs that conform to a few common configurations and use a project structure that can evolve to a full Android Studio project should you decide to take it that way.