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High-Level build script for doing more complex build tasks

Project description

A wrapper build tool

Release Notes


  • Add target run tracking
    • See issue#27
  • Update dependencies
    • See issue#26


  • Add nvcc wrapper to
  •* target is now required
  • Update Documentation
    • Fix autodoc issues
    • Add/ Update Better dependencies section


  • Add Parameter Passing to
  • Suppress Noisy LaTeX Output
  • Update Documentation


  • pylint ALL THE THINGS
    • properties is now PROPERTIES for build files
  • Fix xntcall function
  • Rewrite Parser/Parsing (again)
    • Like last time, this changes the options again (see below or documentation)
  • Add option for build file specification
  • Add LaTeX Build Module


  • Promote to Beta Status
  • Internal Refactoring
    • Versioning
  • Minor Documentation Changes


  • Rewrite Command Parsing
    • This change does incur some interface change. Namely, --version is now version, --usage is now help
    • All other commands and switches are the same
    • See Package Documentation for more information
  • Rework Return Values
    • Silently succeed, loudly fail (quickly)


  • Add Multi Target Execution
  • Add Optional Flags to (Sub)Build modules (make)
  • Add Exit Code Return


  • Moved to GitHub!
  • Add Parameter Passing to Xnt
  • Combined Build Modules ((N)Ant and make all live in
  • Add Compiler Wrappers (gcc/g++ and javac)


I don’t test everything as well as maybe I would like and, of course, some better integration tests would help. But one area that is seriously lacking testing are the Windows builds. I don’t have the best access to a Windows box and so I may not notice a potentially huge bug for some time.


When writing something such as a build tool, there is always the question: “why?”. Why write yet another build tool?

Well, there are several reasons that are the backing motivation:

First, developing a variety of software, using one and only one build tool for every project is nearly (if not entirely) impossible. There is a desire to have a consistent build step and process when testing and deploying. Given the environment in which the code is written is heterogeneous, having one uniform build tool that wraps itself around the other ones (and has the ability to expand to new ones) is ideal.

Second, short of dropping into the language the build tool was written in, expanding some build steps is very difficult (or at least can be). Further there can be complicated build targets that require some interesting and potentially involved (smelly) procedures to be accomplished, that may or may not be easy to describe in the build file or in the native language. Therefore, having a wrapping build framework/ tool that is written in an easy to read and write language, such as Python, these complicated steps can depend less on some funky new build library (further adding to the dependency tree) and can become just implementation details (assuming, of course, you buy into Xnt first).

Last, and most certainly the least, I wanted to explore the idea. I wanted to write something that made me think about solving some of the problems challenged by such a tool.

What Xnt Is NOT

Calling Xnt simply a build tool is (grossly?) misleading. Xnt is not really a build tool in the traditional sense. Like stated above, it is more a wrapper around existing build tools. I didn’t want to replace what some of these tools already do really well (e.g. being able to describe how to compile an entire large Java program in several lines of code using Ant).

What Xnt IS

Xnt is a wrapping build tool, intended to be used with a multitude of sub-build tools, even in the same project. Regardless of the language the project is written in, Xnt should be able to suite your needs. If your language’s build tool is unable to do something concisely or cleanly, Python should help. [There could be more here… I can’t think of it though.]

Installing and Setting Up Xnt

Using Xnt is fairly simple. All you will need to do is install it, create a file for your project, and invoke it just like any other build tool you have used before (e.g. $ xnt {target}).


There are a few required and optional dependencies to install and run Xnt. Namely, reference the following list:

  • setuptools
  • Ant (Optional)
  • CVS (Optional)
  • Git (Optional)
  • LaTeX (Optional)
  • Make (Optional)
  • Mercurial (Optional)
  • NAnt (Optional)

For developers, there are a few more dependencies.

  • sphinx
  • pylint

Source Install

To install from source, you can download the source tarball or zip file (from either Downloads or Xnt), unpack it into a temporary directory and then, from a shell or command prompt, run:

$ python[2] install [--user]

PyPi/ Pip

To install from PyPi, you will need pip. Once you have pip, you may only run:

$ pip[2] install Xnt [--user]

Linux/ Unix

If you install using the --user option in either source or PyPi installs you may need to add ~/.local/bin/ to your PATH environment variable.

Otherwise, you shall need do nothing more.


If on Windows, after installing you will need edit your PATH environment variable to include the <python_install_dir>\Scripts folder. After which, you will be all set to use Xnt.


Here is a simple

#!/usr/bin/env python

import xnt
from import make
def init():
def build():
def clean():
def rebuild():
def package():
    xnt.create_zip("bin", "")
def default():

As you can see, it really just is a Python script. There really isn’t anything really special happening. We just import some of the Xnt modules, and define some targets. When you call xnt, it will be loading this script and call the target specified by {target} or, if you don’t specify one, it will call the target named default.


Command Usage:

$ xnt [options] [target]*

Where [options] are of the following:

  • -v or --verbose: verbose, turn on logging
  • -b BUILDFILE or --build-file BUILDFILE: Specify build file for Xnt to load

And where [target]* are any target(s) method in your file or, if no target is given, Xnt will attempt to call default.

Other Commands

  • -l or --list-targets: Xnt will print all targets marked by the @target decorator and possibly their docstrings if they are defined
  • --version: Print the current version of Xnt and quit
  • -h or --help: Print summary information about Xnt and command usage

For more information about Xnt and the built in functions, see the Package Documentation.


If you find any issues or would like to request a feature, please visit Issues.

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