Review: VisualMake

VisualMake 3.0
Mobi-Sys Software Products Inc.
Richmond, British Columbia
(604) 318-1798

VisualMake is a GUI build tool aimed specifically at people using recent Microsoft development products. Specifically, it supports VB5, VB6, VC++6, VB.NET and C# projects. For source code control, it has built-in support only for Visual SourceSafe (though you can use command-line tasks to interact with any source code control system that has a command-line interface). The user interface gives you several views of your workspace, including a simple list of the projects to be built and a treeview that shows dependencies and other useful information.

If you're working in one of the supported tools, you'll find quite a few useful features here. One that I like is the support for a variety of build types. You can do a full build, an incremental build of what's changed, or a selective build. You can also specify an unattended build with logging, which is ideal for overnight builds.

VisualMake picks up plenty of information from the source code. For example, you .NET solution configurations are automatically available as configurations within VisualMake. There's also a nice system for dealing with project-level properties such as conditional configuration constants. These are automatically inherited from the native projects, but if you like you can choose to override them at the VisualMake level. VisualMake will even pick up and execute pre- and post-build tasks defined by Visual Studio .NET.

VisualMake is designed to be used as either a GUI tool or part of an automated process. Support for the latter includes a command-line interface, text log files, and build status configuration e-mails. You can also choose from a variety of versioning schemes.

Overall, VisualMake is a quite functional build management tool, at its best if you're working with the Microsoft tool chain. It appears to do quite well on sorting out dependencies and even finding missing references, and was easy to use and flexible in my tests.

About the Author

Mike Gunderloy has been developing software for a quarter-century now, and writing about it for nearly as long. He walked away from a .NET development career in 2006 and has been a happy Rails user ever since. Mike blogs at A Fresh Cup.


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