Maven by Example

1.2. Convention Over Configuration

Convention over configuration is a simple concept. Systems, libraries, and frameworks should assume reasonable defaults. Without requiring unnecessary configuration, systems should "just work". Popular frameworks such as Ruby on Rails and EJB3 have started to adhere to these principles in reaction to the configuration complexity of frameworks such as the initial EJB 2.1 specifications. An illustration of convention over configuration is something like EJB3 persistence: all you need to do to make a particular bean persistent is to annotate that class with @Entity. The framework assumes table and column names based on the name of the class and the names of the properties. Hooks are provided for you to override these default, assumed names if the need arises, but, in most cases, you will find that using the framework-supplied defaults results in a faster project execution.

Maven incorporates this concept by providing sensible default behavior for projects. Without customization, source code is assumed to be in ${basedir}/src/main/java and resources are assumed to be in ${basedir}/src/main/resources. Tests are assumed to be in ${basedir}/src/test, and a project is assumed to produce a JAR file. Maven assumes that you want the compile byte code to ${basedir}/target/classes and then create a distributable JAR file in ${basedir}/target. While this might seem trivial, consider the fact that most Ant-based builds have to define the locations of these directories. Ant doesn’t ship with any built-in idea of where source code or resources might be in a project; you have to supply this information. Maven’s adoption of convention over configuration goes farther than just simple directory locations, Maven’s core plugins apply a common set of conventions for compiling source code, packaging distributions, generating web sites, and many other processes. Maven’s strength comes from the fact that it is "opinionated", it has a defined life-cycle and a set of common plugins that know how to build and assemble software. If you follow the conventions, Maven will require almost zero effort - just put your source in the correct directory, and Maven will take care of the rest.

One side-effect of using systems that follow "convention over configuration" is that end-users might feel that they are forced to use a particular methodology or approach. While it is certainly true that Maven has some core opinions that shouldn’t be challenged, most of the defaults can be customized. For example, the location of a project’s source code and resources can be customized, names of JAR files can be customized, and through the development of custom plugins, almost any behavior can be tailored to your specific environment’s requirements. If you don’t care to follow convention, Maven will allow you to customize defaults in order to adapt to your specific requirements.