How to set Properties using Apache Ant?

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Setting properties directly in the build file is fine, if you are working with a handful of properties. However, for a large project, it makes sense to store the properties in a separate property file.

Storing the properties in a separate file offers the following benefits:

  • It allows you to reuse the same build file, with different property settings for different execution environment. For example, build properties file can be maintained separately for DEV, TEST, and PROD environments.

  • It is useful when you do not know the values for a property (in a particular environment) up-front. This allows you to perform the build in other environments where the property value is known.

There is no hard and fast rule, but typically the property file is namedbuild.properties and is placed along-side the build.xml file. You could create multiple build properties files based on the deployment environments - such asbuild.properties.dev and build.properties.test.

The contents of the build property file are similar to the normal java property file. They contain one property per line. Each property is represented by a name and a value pair. The name and value pairs are separated by an equals (=) sign. It is highly recommended that the properties are annotated with proper comments. Comments are listed using the hash (#) character.

The following example shows a build.xml file and its associatedbuild.properties file:


<?xml version="1.0"?>
<project name="Hello World Project" default="info">

   <property file="build.properties"/>

   <target name="info">
      <echo>Apache Ant version is ${ant.version} - You are at ${sitename} </echo>



# The Site Name

In the above example, sitename is a custom property which is mapped to the website name. You can declare any number of custom properties in this fashion. Another custom property listed in the above example is the buildversion, which, in this instance refers to the version of the build.

In addition to the above, Ant comes with a number of predefined build properties, which are listed in the previous section, but is represented below once again.

ant.fileThe full location of the build file.
ant.versionThe version of the Apache Ant installation.
basedirThe basedir of the build, as specified in the basedirattribute of the project element.
ant.java.versionThe version of the JDK that is used by Ant.
ant.project.nameThe name of the project, as specified in the nameatrribute of the project element.
ant.project.default-targetThe default target of the current project.
ant.project.invoked-targetsComma separated list of the targets that were invoked in the current project.
ant.core.libThe full location of the Ant jar file.
ant.homeThe home directory of Ant installation.
ant.library.dirThe home directory for Ant library files - typically ANT_HOME/lib folder.

The example presented in this chapter uses the ant.version built-in property.

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