Maven and Ant are both Build Tools which are provided by Apache. Build tools are nothing but a set of programs that automatically create executables from your source code. These tools ensure compiling, linking and packaging the code to a ready-to-use form.
When we use interactive IDEs like Netbeans or Eclipse, we are building our project manually. It's not troublesome when working with small projects but when working with a larger project, with more developers involved, it's a big NO. Because in a large project it is not easy to keep track of build sequence and what dependencies are involved at each build stage. Maven or Ant or any other build tool solve this problem for us.
Maven vs. Ant :
If you've ever worked with XML and HTML, you will know that in an HTML document, you have to use predefined tags, like <HTML>, <BODY>, <BR>, etc. and that <BODY> should reside within <HTML> tag. There are many rules and convention to follow.
On the contrary, XML doesn't have any predefined tags or strict convention to follow. You can have your own tags and ordering of these tags isn't important. There are few rules like having a root tag, etc.
We can use this analogy with respect to Maven and Ant. Think of Maven as HTML and Ant as XML. A simple difference between these two will be:
- Maven : More Convention Less Configuration
- Ant : Less Convention More Configuration
Since Ant doesn't follow any formal conventions, we have to explicitly write information regarding the project's structure in an .xml file.
Maven has a Convention to follow, it has predefined directories to place every file according to its type. Project's structural information is stored in a file named pom.xml. (pom stands for Project Object Model)
Ant is procedural, to build a project, you need to specify all the information and dependencies in order. If your order is not correct or you fail to specify each dependency, then build process fails.
Maven on the other hand has a pom.xml file, every dependency is mentioned in it and Maven takes care of the build process.
Since all the configuration is done by us, there is no life cycle in Ant.
Maven has a life-cycle to follow. A default lifecycle has 21 phases starting from validating code, generating source files and ending at installation of application, and deployment.
Ant is more like a tool box. There are many functionalities in it which you can use and totally depends on you how to use them.
Maven is like a framework. It has predefined structure and convention. You cannot just place a file in any folder, you have to work according to Maven.
We write all the project related information in the form of scripts. And these scripts are totally project dependent, which means that you cannot reuse them.
Maven on the other hand use plugins in the project which are written already in the Maven framework. So we can reuse them.