Why Developers Should Use Build Tools
Build tools in software development are mainly used to transform source code into usable forms. Those forms might include desktop apps, libraries to be used in desktop apps, or even web apps. Beyond the primary use of compilation, build tools also allow automation of other tasks involved in software development and deployment. Some examples of other tasks a build tool could perform are:
- Initializing projects
- Minifying css/js files
- Optimizing images
- Renaming files
- Updating manifest files
- Creating/Deploying artifacts
- Generating documentation
In general, if you find yourself repeating a task often, it can probably be integrated into a build process. Automating tasks can increase a developer's efficiency tremendously. Errors can be minimized and time can be saved. Developers can focus more on solving problems. There may be an initial time cost for initially setting up a build process, but it is quickly gained back by the increase in developer productivity. This is expecially true for larger projects but even in smaller projects a build process will be useful to have in place.
There are many different build tools out in the wild. Ant, Msbuild, Grunt, Gulp are a few that I've used.
If you aren't using a build process as part of your software development and deployment strategy you really should consider it.