Gradle is a DAG

Alex Woods

Alex Woods

May 29, 2019

Recently I wrote about directed acyclic graphs, and how you can derive topological orderings from them. Now let’s look at a more practical example.

Gradle is a build tool. It is built on tasks.

There are dependencies among the tasks (i.e. we can’t build if we haven’t run compileJava). Instead of just storing a linked list type structure in which we do the tasks, Gradle internally stores the dependency graph as a DAG.

To illustrate this example, I have a demo Spring Boot application, with dependencies in Spring MVC & Tomcat (web). I also made it a Kotlin project. Other than that, it’s the standard application the Spring Initializr will generate.

Let’s look at a section of the graph (technically everything needed to run assemble, which is one of the two tasks needed for gradle build to run (the other being test)).

TLDR – a gradle task is a single atomic piece of work for a build, such as compiling classes or generating javadoc.

gradle dag

Now, if we want to get a valid order in which to run the tasks (Gradle does this internally), we need to topologically sort the DAG.

tsort <<EOF
  compileKotlin compileJava
  compileKotlin jar
  compileKotlin bootJar
  compileJava classes
  processResources classes
  classes bootJar
  classes jar
  classes inspectClassesForKotlinIC
  jar assemble
  bootJar assemble

And the result is a valid order in which to run the tasks:


As we said, Gradle has to topologically sort the DAG internally. In order to see it’s linear ordering, run gradle assemble -m.

:compileKotlin SKIPPED
:compileJava SKIPPED
:processResources SKIPPED
:classes SKIPPED
:bootJar SKIPPED
:inspectClassesForKotlinIC SKIPPED
:assemble SKIPPED


It is different, but only slightly. Recall that topological orderings are not unique (there are multiple ways to put your clothes on in the morning).

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