Gradle and Maven are two of the best build automation tools available to developers. Learn how these tools differ to find the right DevOps tool for your projects.
Two of the most popular DevOps tools for build automation and management are Gradle and Maven. Both tools offer a wide variety of build tools, including dependency management, debugging, and more to help users get through the entire build process.
Although Maven is an older and well-established tool, Gradle is quickly gaining popularity among developers, especially for Android applications. Here’s what you need to know about each tool and how they compare.
What is Gradle?
Gradle is a build automation tool that supports multilingual development. It is a useful DevOps tool for those who want to build, test and deploy software across platforms. Gradle provides a flexible build model that can support developers throughout the entire development cycle, from compiling and packaging code to publishing the final product online. Gradle works with Java, C/C++ and Groovy. It is also Google’s favorite tool for developing applications for Android.
What is Maven?
Maven is an open-source build automation tool from Apache. Maven offers a unified building system designed to make the building process easier and more effective.
Developers can use Maven to manage dependencies, documentation, reporting, distributions, and software configuration management. Maven is designed for Java projects, but can also be used with other languages, such as Ruby and Scala.
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Feature Comparison: Gradle vs. maven
Head-to-head comparison: Gradle vs. maven
Both Gradle and Maven have built-in tools to manage dependencies of configurable repositories. Users of both systems can use them to cache and download dependencies locally.
With Maven, users are encouraged to use a central repository of JARs and other dependencies. Maven comes with an internal mechanism that allows your project’s clients to download all the JARs needed to build your project from a central JAR repository. This feature is useful for users who want to reuse JARs for different projects. It also encourages communication between projects to ensure backward compatibility issues are addressed. Maven also allows publishers to provide metadata through optional dependencies.
Gradle offers customizable dependency selection and replacement rules that can handle unwanted dependencies in your projects. This mechanism allows developers to use Gradle to build multiple source projects together to create compound builds. Gradle also allows for custom dependency ranges for more efficient builds. Gradle also supports feature variants and optional dependencies.
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The two tools offer many similar features and can often produce similar results. However, they differ quite a bit when it comes to flexibility and customization. Gradle’s build script and dynamic build model provide greater flexibility and capabilities for custom builds.
Maven offers a more rigid model that can make customization challenging. Maven’s stricter project structure and reliance on predefined goals can make builds easier to understand, but limit your ability to set custom goals or conventions. This makes the tool relatively easy to use and ideal for more simple projects, but somewhat restrictive for developers who want to customize their projects more heavily.
Gradle offers a debugging tool called Build Scan. Build Scan is an interactive web-based user interface for debugging and optimizing builds. It allows users to collect build history, perform trend analysis, compare builds for debugging, and optimize build times.
Maven can run in debug mode to identify the source of errors you are experiencing while working in Maven. Maven also offers the Surefire plugin which can be used to debug projects and Eclipse to debug tests run with Maven.
Choosing Gradle vs Maven
Both Gradle and Maven are great open source automation tools with strong functionality. Between the two, Gradle has the higher learning curve, but both are relatively easy to use.
However, there are a few areas where Gradle does significantly better than Maven, including:
- Custom Builds
- Advanced Dependency Management
- Incremental builds
- Metadata resolution
Not all projects need these features, but they do give developers more options. Gradle is also usually faster to build.
Ultimately, either option can work for most projects, although Maven is generally better suited for smaller projects, while Gradle may be a better choice for more complex projects where the advanced features are used more. If you want to create incremental or highly custom builds, Gradle is the best option between the two.