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Visualizing Data: Self-Documenting Ant files : Page 7

Interactive graphical views of your Ant build files give you more information faster, reduce errors, and provide intuitive methods to help you comprehend, modify, and test build targets.

Ant Visualization Wrap-Up
You've seen a variety of techniques for visualizing an Ant build file, each of which provides a unique perspective of your Ant source code. One reason for writing this article was to explain and examine these very practical techniques, but another was to instill the notion that the way you visualize something has a dramatic effect on what you can do with it, how you use it, and indeed, how you even think about it.

The table below lists all the techniques discussed in this article, giving you a side-by-side comparison. No one technique is best so you may end up using a variety.

Ant Visualization Techique Wrap-Up

Characteristic \ TechniqueIEPrettyBuildAnt HelpAntDocAnt2SvgGrand
Shows SourceY  Y Y
Includes Dynamic GUI Y Y Y
Executes Targets Y Y  
Identifies Public Targets  Y  Y
Identifies Default TargetYYY  Y
Shows Target DescriptionsYYYY Y
Shows Connections Y YYY
Shows ConditionsY  Y Y
Shows Task Usage   Y  
Summarizes All Targets on One Page YYYYY
Renders Graphical Output    YY
Links to Ant Documentation   Y  
Supports Filtering     Y
Runs in a BrowserYY Y  

Author's Note: See Wikipedia's entry for Information Graphics for some great general background. Also, I highly recommend this periodic table of visualization categories to see a huge number of visualization samples. You can hover over any one with your mouse to see details.

Michael Sorens is a freelance software engineer, spreading the seeds of good design wherever possible, including through his open-source web site, teaching (University of Phoenix plus community colleges), and writing (contributed to two books plus various articles). With BS and MS degrees in computer science and engineering from Case Western Reserve University, he has worked at Fortune 500 firms and at startups, using C#, SQL, XML, XSL, Java, Perl, C, Lisp, PostScript, and others. His favorite project: designing and implementing the world's smallest word processor, where the medium was silicon, the printer "head" was a laser, and the Declaration of Independence could literally fit on the head of a pin. You can discuss this or any other article by Michael Sorens here.
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