Product Reviews

FinalBuilder Manages the Software Build Process

Shorten your development cycle for higher-quality products.

One of the open secrets to building great software is that you have to build it often. That is, even while developers are making changes, you should be compiling the product, updating the help file and documentaion, and "throwing it over the wall" to your test team. The shorter you can make the develop-build-test cycle, the more efficient feedback will be to keep the developers on the right track.

What's not so widely acknowledged is that doing daily (or more frequent) builds can be hard work. It's not unusual for even a medium-sized team to have a person dedicated to compiling all the bits and pieces, moving files around, building setup programs, adding the latest help file to the package, and so on. Small shops sometimes struggle to build their products weekly with batch files and other lashed-together solutions.

FinalBuilder is a product designed to fill this gap. The program's graphical interface is populated with a list of actions. These include such things as:

  • Run a DOS command
  • Copy or move a file
  • Check for file existence
  • Update the timestamp on a file
  • Compile a Delphi or VB project
  • Check in or check out files with VSS
  • Build a Wise or InstallShield project
  • Send email
  • FTP a file
  • Compile a help file
  • Create a zip file
  • Run a testing project

As you add actions to your FinalBuilder project, property sheets prompt you for file locations, target files, compiler flags to set, and so on. Other actions allow you to add looping and conditional activities to a FinalBuilder project. Actions also support scriptable before and after events that allow you to tie in an active scripting language for additional processing.

When you're done, press a single toolbar button and watch FinalBuilder get to work. In my case, building a VB project, building an HTML help project, copying the outputs to another machine, and then building an InstallShield project worked flawlessly. Rather than opening and closing three separate IDEs and moving files around by hand, I got to watch FinalBuilder do all the work. And I must say that I enjoyed it. If you're building software with Delphi, VB, Java, or any compiler that you can drive from a command line, think about how much time you need to save to pay for this project. I'll bet you'll find that the return on investment is darned good.

About the Author

Mike Gunderloy, MCSE, MCSD, MCDBA, is a former MCP columnist and the author of numerous development books.

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