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How To Tidy Up Your Ant build.xml Files

Before I worked at Bigpoint, I built and published my Flash projects the naive way: Just press the right Button in the IDE, and then copy the result from the respective folder. As I learned there, using build scripts like Ant has many advantages over that method though. You can automatize many tasks like

  • deleting unnecessary files from previous builds,
  • copying assets to the target folder or
  • automatically providing libraries your project depends on.

What Annoyed Me About Ant So Far

Now, what bothered me a little bit about the way I used Ant was:

  • When I started a new project that I wanted to build with Ant, one of the first steps for me was: Open another, already working build.xml and copy all the stuff that already works and that I need. Which can be annoying and also means that you will have a lot of duplicate XML markup across a lot of different files.

  • Also, I have made the experience that build.xml files in bigger, complex projects using many different features can become very convoluted and confusing. Once your Ant build script spreads over several screens it can easily give you headaches.

What If I Told You...
Well, I dug a little through Ant's documentation (RTFM). What if I told you that you can make your project specific build.xml only a couple of lines long?
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