Introduction to the Build Lifecycle

Build Lifecycle Basics

Maven is based around the central concept of a build lifecycle. What this means is that the process for building and distributing a particular artifact (project) is clearly defined.

For the person building a project, this means that it is only necessary to learn a small set of commands to build any Maven project, and the POM will ensure they get the results they desired.

There are three built-in build lifecycles: default, clean and site. The default lifecycle handles your project deployment, the clean lifecycle handles project cleaning, while the site lifecycle handles the creation of your project's site documentation.

A Build Lifecycle is Made Up of Phases

Each of these build lifecycles is defined by a different list of build phases, wherein a build phase represents a stage in the lifecycle.

For example, the default lifecycle comprises of the following phases (for a complete list of the lifecycle phases, refer to the Lifecycle Reference):

  • validate - validate the project is correct and all necessary information is available
  • compile - compile the source code of the project
  • test - test the compiled source code using a suitable unit testing framework. These tests should not require the code be packaged or deployed
  • package - take the compiled code and package it in its distributable format, such as a JAR.
  • integration-test - process and deploy the package if necessary into an environment where integration tests can be run
  • verify - run any checks to verify the package is valid and meets quality criteria
  • install - install the package into the local repository, for use as a dependency in other projects locally
  • deploy - done in an integration or release environment, copies the final package to the remote repository for sharing with other developers and projects.

These lifecycle phases (plus the other lifecycle phases not shown here) are executed sequentially to complete the default lifecycle. Given the lifecycle phases above, this means that when the default lifecycle is used, Maven will first validate the project, then will try to compile the sources, run those against the tests, package the binaries (e.g. jar), run integration tests against that package, verify the package, install the verifed package to the local repository, then deploy the installed package in a specified environment.

To do all those, you only need to call the last build phase to be executed, in this case, deploy:

mvn deploy

That is because if you call a build phase, it will execute not only that build phase, but also every build phase prior to the called build phase. Thus, doing

mvn integration-test

will do every life cycle phase before it (validate, compile, package, etc.), before executing integration-test.

There are more commands that are part of the lifecycle, which will be discussed in the following sections.

It should also be noted that the same command can be used in a multi-module scenario (i.e. a project with one or more subprojects). For example:

mvn clean install

This command will traverse into all of the subprojects and run clean, then install (including all of the prior steps).

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A Build Phase is Made Up of Plugin Goals

However, even though a build phase is responsible for a specific step in the build lifecycle, the manner in which it carries out those responsibilities may vary. And this is done by declaring the plugin goals bound to those build phases.

A plugin goal represents a specific task (finer than a build phase) which contributes to the building and managing of a project. It may be bound to zero or more build phases. A goal not bound to any build phase could be executed outside of the build lifecycle by direct invocation. The order of execution depends on the order in which the goal(s) and the build phase(s) are invoked. For example, consider the command below. The clean and package arguments are build phases, while the dependency:copy-dependencies is a goal (of a plugin).

mvn clean dependency:copy-dependencies package

If this were to be executed, the clean phase will be executed first (meaning it will run all preceeding phases of the clean lifecycle, plus the clean phase itself), and then the dependency:copy-dependencies goal, before finally executing the package phase (and all its preceeding build phases of the default lifecycle).

Moreover, if a goal is bound to one or more build phases, that goal will be called in all those phases.

Furthermore, a build phase can also have zero or more goals bound to it. If a build phase has no goals bound to it, that build phase will not execute. But if it has one or more goals bound to it, it will execute all those goals

(Note: In Maven 2.0.5 and above, multiple goals bound to a phase are executed in the same order as they are declared in the POM, however multiple instances of the same plugin are not supported. Multiple instances of the same plugin are grouped to execute together and ordered in Maven 2.0.11 and above).

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Setting Up Your Project to Use the Build Lifecycle

The build lifecycle is simple enough to use, but when you are constructing a Maven build for a project, how do you go about assigning tasks to each of those build phases?

Packaging

The first, and most common way, is to set the packaging for your project via the equally named POM element <packaging>. Some of the valid packaging values are jar, war, ear and pom. If no packaging value has been specified, it will default to jar.

Each packaging contains a list of goals to bind to a particular phase. For example, the jar packaging will bind the following goals to build phases of the default lifecycle.

process-resources resources:resources
compile compiler:compile
process-test-resources resources:testResources
test-compile compiler:testCompile
test surefire:test
package jar:jar
install install:install
deploy deploy:deploy

This is an almost standard set of bindings; however, some packagings handle them differently. For example, a project that is purely metadata (packaging value is pom) only binds goals to the install and deploy phases (for a complete list of goal-to-build-phase bindings of some of the packaging types, refer to the Lifecycle Reference).

Note that for some packaging types to be available, you may also need to include a particular plugin in the <build> section of your POM and specify <extensions>true</extensions> for that plugin. One example of a plugin that requires this is the Plexus plugin, which provides a plexus-application and plexus-service packaging.

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Plugins

The second way to add goals to phases is to configure plugins in your project. Plugins are artifacts that provide goals to Maven. Furthermore, a plugin may have one or more goals wherein each goal represents a capability of that plugin. For example, the Compiler plugin has two goals: compile and testCompile. The former compiles the source code of your main code, while the latter compiles the source code of your test code.

As you will see in the later sections, plugins can contain information that indicates which lifecycle phase to bind a goal to. Note that adding the plugin on its own is not enough information - you must also specify the goals you want to run as part of your build.

The goals that are configured will be added to the goals already bound to the lifecycle from the packaging selected. If more than one goal is bound to a particular phase, the order used is that those from the packaging are executed first, followed by those configured in the POM. Note that you can use the <executions> element to gain more control over the order of particular goals.

For example, the Modello plugin binds by default its goal modello:java to the generate-sources phase (Note: The modello:java goal generates Java source codes). So to use the Modello plugin and have it generate sources from a model and incorporate that into the build, you would add the following to your POM in the <plugins> section of <build>:

...
 <plugin>
   <groupId>org.codehaus.modello</groupId>
   <artifactId>modello-maven-plugin</artifactId>
   <version>1.8.1</version>
   <executions>
     <execution>
       <configuration>
         <models>
           <model>src/main/mdo/maven.mdo</model>
         </models>
         <version>4.0.0</version>
       </configuration>
       <goals>
         <goal>java</goal>
       </goals>
     </execution>
   </executions>
 </plugin>
...

You might be wondering why that <executions> element is there. That is so that you can run the same goal multiple times with different configuration if needed. Separate executions can also be given an ID so that during inheritance or the application of profiles you can control whether goal configuration is merged or turned into an additional execution.

When multiple executions are given that match a particular phase, they are executed in the order specified in the POM, with inherited executions running first.

Now, in the case of modello:java, it only makes sense in the generate-sources phase. But some goals can be used in more than one phase, and there may not be a sensible default. For those, you can specify the phase yourself. For example, let's say you have a goal display:time that echos the current time to the commandline, and you want it to run in the process-test-resources phase to indicate when the tests were started. This would be configured like so:

...
 <plugin>
   <groupId>com.mycompany.example</groupId>
   <artifactId>display-maven-plugin</artifactId>
   <version>1.0</version>
   <executions>
     <execution>
       <phase>process-test-resources</phase>
       <goals>
         <goal>time</goal>
       </goals>
     </execution>
   </executions>
 </plugin>
...

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Lifecycle Reference

The following lists all build phases of the default, clean and site lifecycle, which are executed in the order given up to the point of the one specified.

Clean Lifecycle

pre-clean executes processes needed prior to the actual project cleaning
clean remove all files generated by the previous build
post-clean executes processes needed to finalize the project cleaning

Default Lifecycle

validate validate the project is correct and all necessary information is available.
initialize initialize build state, e.g. set properties or create directories.
generate-sources generate any source code for inclusion in compilation.
process-sources process the source code, for example to filter any values.
generate-resources generate resources for inclusion in the package.
process-resources copy and process the resources into the destination directory, ready for packaging.
compile compile the source code of the project.
process-classes post-process the generated files from compilation, for example to do bytecode enhancement on Java classes.
generate-test-sources generate any test source code for inclusion in compilation.
process-test-sources process the test source code, for example to filter any values.
generate-test-resources create resources for testing.
process-test-resources copy and process the resources into the test destination directory.
test-compile compile the test source code into the test destination directory
process-test-classes post-process the generated files from test compilation, for example to do bytecode enhancement on Java classes. For Maven 2.0.5 and above.
test run tests using a suitable unit testing framework. These tests should not require the code be packaged or deployed.
prepare-package perform any operations necessary to prepare a package before the actual packaging. This often results in an unpacked, processed version of the package. (Maven 2.1 and above)
package take the compiled code and package it in its distributable format, such as a JAR.
pre-integration-test perform actions required before integration tests are executed. This may involve things such as setting up the required environment.
integration-test process and deploy the package if necessary into an environment where integration tests can be run.
post-integration-test perform actions required after integration tests have been executed. This may including cleaning up the environment.
verify run any checks to verify the package is valid and meets quality criteria.
install install the package into the local repository, for use as a dependency in other projects locally.
deploy done in an integration or release environment, copies the final package to the remote repository for sharing with other developers and projects.

Site Lifecycle

pre-site executes processes needed prior to the actual project site generation
site generates the project's site documentation
post-site executes processes needed to finalize the site generation, and to prepare for site deployment
site-deploy deploys the generated site documentation to the specified web server

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Built-in Lifecycle Bindings

Some phases have goals bound to them by default. And for the default lifecycle, these bindings depend on the packaging value. Here are some of the goal-to-build-phase bindings.

Clean Lifecycle Bindings

clean clean:clean

Default Lifecycle Bindings - Packaging ejb / ejb3 / jar / par / rar / war

process-resources resources:resources
compile compiler:compile
process-test-resources resources:testResources
test-compile compiler:testCompile
test surefire:test
package ejb:ejb or ejb3:ejb3 or jar:jar or par:par or rar:rar or war:war
install install:install
deploy deploy:deploy

Default Lifecycle Bindings - Packaging ear

generate-resources ear:generate-application-xml
process-resources resources:resources
package ear:ear
install install:install
deploy deploy:deploy

Default Lifecycle Bindings - Packaging maven-plugin

generate-resources plugin:descriptor
process-resources resources:resources
compile compiler:compile
process-test-resources resources:testResources
test-compile compiler:testCompile
test surefire:test
package jar:jar and plugin:addPluginArtifactMetadata
install install:install
deploy deploy:deploy

Default Lifecycle Bindings - Packaging pom

package site:attach-descriptor
install install:install
deploy deploy:deploy

Site Lifecycle Bindings

site site:site
site-deploy site:deploy

References

The full Maven lifecycle is defined by the file components.xml in the module maven-core and viewable from SVN in the branch for Maven 2.2.1 and Git for Maven 3.x.

In Maven 2.x, default lifecycle bindings were included in components.xml, but in Maven 3.x, they are defined in a separate default-bindings.xml descriptor.

See Lifecycles Reference and Plugin Bindings for default Lifecycle Reference for latest documentation taken directly from source code.

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