NAnt and MSBuild are completely pointless

This post is more than 14 years old.

Posted at 08:00 on 23 March 2010

I mentioned this in passing in a recent blog entry, and I thought I’d expand on it a bit.

I do not like NAnt.

I do not like MSBuild either.

I’ve used both of them, and quite frankly, I don’t see the point of either of them. To be sure, MSBuild allows you to build Visual Studio solutions from the command line, but that’s MSBuild the program. MSBuild the language, on the other hand, is a completely, utterly pointless reinvention of NAnt, which itself is probably the most completely, utterly pointless domain specific language in widespread use that I’ve ever come across.

Neither language does anything that you can’t do in Python. In fact, most of the time, Python does it better, with a cleaner syntax because it isn’t XML-based. XML is fine for some things, but the foundation for a scripting language is not one of them. When you’re using XML as the basis for your scripting language, you’re getting dangerously into “all you have is a hammer, so everything looks like a nail” territory.

Besides, neither of them are used anywhere for anything other than writing build scripts. If you use Python, at least you can leverage your knowledge for other domains, such as web development, game development, OS scripting, and much, much more.

I say Python here purely because I happen to know it. There are other decent, popular, multi-purpose languages that you can use to write build scripts. There’s no reason why you can’t use Ruby, or PowerShell, or even good old fashioned batch files, for instance. But having to learn and use a fiddly, awkward new language solely for the purpose of setting up or changing your build scripts—something that you only do relatively infrequently—simply doesn’t make sense.