Skip to content

About ant

ant is a rather old build tool. It was originally used to build Java projects, but because of many predefined tasks it can be used for much more. On the other hand, its XML configuration file build.xml is rather old-fashioned and looks overly complicated. However, it's a reliable tool that does its job, and does it well. If you want to dive deeper into it, you can read the online documentation.

For the start, all you need to know is that ant is started with the command ant, which is followed by the name of the target you want to reach. You can even omit the target name to execute the default target called package.


All the targets are defined in the build.xml file, but not all of them are useful for manual invocation. As your project grows, you might want to extend some of the targets, or create new targets that depend on existing ones.

These are the targets provided by the Next Skeleton (the bold printed ones are meant for manual invocation):

  • setup: If the .image directory is missing, a distribution is downloaded and unpacked into a freshly created directory.

  • init: Creates the dist directory if missing. If your project needs other essential initialization tasks, you can extend this target accordingly.

  • sdcard: Generates the dist/image.mmc file if missing.

  • prepare: This target is meant to prepare files that are necessary for the build target. For example, a PNG image could be converted to a ZX Spectrum bitmap here, in order to be included by the assembler.

  • build: This target assembles the main file, which is called like your project with an .asm suffix. The main file is supposed to assemble code, include other code and binaries, and then generate at least one .nex file in the dist/ directory. You can add further build steps here, and store the results in dist/resources/.

  • package: Packages the project. It creates the dist/package/ directory, builds everything, and then collects all the files that need to be put to the SD card.

  • run: Runs the project in the #CSpect emulator.

  • debug: Starts the project in debug mode. The EXIT and BREAK pseudo opcodes are enabled. The system is also marked as emulator in the SpecNext Machine ID register (0x00).

  • release: Releases the project. You will find a zip file in the dist directory that contains all the release files.

  • clean: Deletes all generated files, by deleting the dist directory. Use this target for a fresh build of your project.

  • purge: Like clean, but also deletes the .image directory. Your project is now in a state as if it was freshly checked out.

Remember that ant takes care for dependencies. You can just invoke any target, and ant makes sure that all required other targets are invoked before.


If you open the build.xml file, you will find a few properties at the top.

  • distributionurl: The URL of the distribution ZIP file. You can change this line when there is a newer distribution file available.
  • src: The directory of your source files. Default is src.
  • tools: The directory where build tools are located. Default is tools.
  • dist: The directory for all generated files. Default is dist.
  • resources: Static resources are found in this directory. Default is resources.
  • package: The directory where your release package is assembled. Default is ${dist}/package.
  • image: The directory where the distribution image is unpacked. Default is .image.
  • sdcard: The name of the MMC file. Default is ${dist}/image.mmc.
  • sdsize: The size of the MMC file. Default is 1G.
  • baseasmfile: The assembler file that is assembled by the build target. Default is ${}.asm, which is your project name followed by an .asm suffix.
  • assembler: Path to the sjasmplus assembler. The default is sjasmplus, so the assembler is expected to be found in your PATH.
  • emulator: Path to the cspect emulator. The default is cspect, which is the bash script you was asked to create in the installation chapter.

Except of distributionurl and sdsize, it is very recommended to keep the default values unless you know what you are doing.