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Software Build Systems: Principles and Experience

Book Review Team

Joined: Feb 15, 2002
Posts: 950
Author/s    : Peter Smith
Publisher   : Addison-Wesley Professional
Category   : Project Management, Process and Best Practices
Review by : Wouter Oet
Rating        : 3 horseshoes

This books promises to explain the principles of a build system and compare the leading build tools.

The author starts by explaining what a build system is. Although useful, this is done is such a basic way that most developers will learn nothing new.

Further into the book the author tries to compare "the five leading build tools": GNU Make, Ant, SCons, CMake and Eclipse's build system. Each tool has its own chapter and an example to build software with that tool is used. These examples can be hard to follow since the syntax of the tool is not adequately explained. I have never used Make but am expected to understand:

%.d: %.c
@$(CC) -MM $ (CPPFLAGS) $< | sed 's #\(.*\)\.o: #\1.o \1.d: #g' > $@

I rather would have seen an abstract explanation of what the tool does and a bigger number of tools. For instance the tool Maven could have got a little more attention than the 1.5 pages it was mentioned in. The book does not contain a table in which the tools where compared to each other which would have been very handy.

The last couple of chapters are about "Advanced topics" and "Scaling up". The advanced topics are about dependencies, testing, installation, version management, build machines and tool management. Most of these topics are contain such basic development skills that I wouldn't call it advanced.

In conclusion I would not recommend this book and just buy a book that is specific for your build tool of choice. If you're looking for a new build tool then just spend a day or 2 trying a couple of them out.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for writing this review on behalf of CodeRanch.

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subject: Software Build Systems: Principles and Experience