18 Best Free and Open Source Build Systems

Build automation is the process of automating the creation of a software build and the associated processes including: compiling computer source code into binary code, packaging binary code, and running automated tests.

This type of software takes as input the interdependencies of files (typically source code and output executables) and orchestrates building them, quickly.

In the beginning, Make was the only build automation tool available beyond home-grown solutions. Make has been around since 1976. Make remains widely used, especially in Unix and Unix-like operating systems. But there are lots of other high quality build systems.

Here’s our verdict captured in a legendary LinuxLinks-style ratings chart. Only free and open source software is eligible for inclusion.

Ratings chart

Let’s explore the 18 build systems. For each title we have compiled its own portal page, a full description with an in-depth analysis of its features, together with links to relevant resources.

Build Systems
gulpToolkit to automate & enhance your workflow
Apache MavenBuild automation tool used primarily for Java projects
BazelBuild and test your multi-language, multi-platform projects
CargoRust package manager
GradleBuild tool with a focus on build automation and support for multi-language
MesonNext-generation build system
GruntJavaScript Task Runner
CMakeFamily of tools designed to build, test and package software
Buck2Encourages the creation of small, reusable modules
LeiningenAutomating Clojure projects
Apache AntTool for automating software build processes
NinjaSmall build system with a focus on speed
xmakeCross-platform build utility based on Lua
SConsSoftware construction tool
PantsScalable build system for monorepos
PHingBuild system based on Apache Ant
Rakemake-like build utility for Ruby
CabalCommon Architecture for Building Applications and Libraries

This article has been revamped in line with our recent announcement.

Best Free and Open Source SoftwareRead our complete collection of recommended free and open source software. Our curated compilation covers all categories of software.

The software collection forms part of our series of informative articles for Linux enthusiasts. There are hundreds of in-depth reviews, open source alternatives to proprietary software from large corporations like Google, Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, IBM, Cisco, Oracle, and Autodesk.

There are also fun things to try, hardware, free programming books and tutorials, and much more.
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1 month ago

Forgot to mention xmake