7 min read

In this article by Kevin Pelgrims, the author of the book, Gradle for Android, we will cover a few tips and tricks that will help speed up the Gradle builds.

A lot of Android developers that start using Gradle complain about the prolonged compilation time. Builds can take longer than they do with Ant, because Gradle has three phases in the build lifecycle that it goes through every time you execute a task. This makes the whole process very configurable, but also quite slow. Luckily, there are several ways to speed up Gradle builds.

Gradle properties

One way to tweak the speed of a Gradle build is to change some of the default settings.

You can enable parallel builds by setting a property in a gradle.properties file that is placed in the root of a project. All you need to do is add the following line:


org.gradle.parallel=true

Another easy win is to enable the Gradle daemon, which starts a background process when you run a build the first time. Any subsequent builds will then reuse that background process, thus cutting out the startup cost. The process is kept alive as long as you use Gradle, and is terminated after three hours of idle time. Using the daemon is particularly useful when you use Gradle several times in a short time span. You can enable the daemon in the gradle.properties file like this:

org.gradle.daemon=true

In Android Studio, the Gradle daemon is enabled by default. This means that after the first build from inside the IDE, the next builds are a bit faster. If you build from the command-line interface; however, the Gradle daemon is disabled, unless you enable it in the properties.

To speed up the compilation itself, you can tweak parameters on the Java Virtual Machine (JVM). There is a Gradle property called jvmargs that enables you to set different values for the memory allocation pool for the JVM. The two parameters that have a direct influence on your build speed are Xms and Xmx. The Xms parameter is used to set the initial amount of memory to be used, while the Xmx parameter is used to set a maximum. You can manually set these values in the gradle.properties file like this:

org.gradle.jvmargs=-Xms256m -Xmx1024m

You need to set the desired amount and a unit, which can be k for kilobytes, m for megabytes, and g for gigabytes. By default, the maximum memory allocation (Xmx) is set to 256 MB, and the starting memory allocation (Xms) is not set at all. The optimal settings depend on the capabilities of your computer.

The last property you can configure to influence build speed is org.gradle.configureondemand. This property is particularly useful if you have complex projects with several modules, as it tries to limit the time spent in the configuration phase, by skipping modules that are not required for the task that is being executed. If you set this property to true, Gradle will try to figure out which modules have configuration changes and which ones do not, before it runs the configuration phase. This is a feature that will not be very useful if you only have an Android app and a library in your project. If you have a lot of modules that are loosely coupled, though, this feature can save you a lot of build time.

System-wide Gradle properties

If you want to apply these properties system-wide to all your Gradle-based projects, you can create a gradle.properties file in the .gradle folder in your home directory. On Microsoft Windows, the full path to this directory is %UserProfile%.gradle, on Linux and Mac OS X it is ~/.gradle. It is a good practice to set these properties in your home directory, rather than on the project level. The reason for this is that you usually want to keep memory consumption down on build servers, and the build time is of less importance.

Android Studio

The Gradle properties you can change to speed up the compilation process are also configurable in the Android Studio settings. To find the compiler settings, open the Settings dialog, and then navigate to Build, Execution, Deployment | Compiler. On that screen, you can find settings for parallel builds, JVM options, configure on demand, and so on. These settings only show up for Gradle-based Android modules. Have a look at the following screenshot:

Gradle for Android

Configuring these settings from Android Studio is easier than configuring them manually in the build configuration file, and the settings dialog makes it easy to find properties that influence the build process.

Profiling

If you want to find out which parts of the build are slowing the process down, you can profile the entire build process. You can do this by adding the –profile flag whenever you execute a Gradle task. When you provide this flag, Gradle creates a profiling report, which can tell you which parts of the build process are the most time consuming. Once you know where the bottlenecks are, you can make the necessary changes. The report is saved as an HTML file in your module in build/reports/profile.

This is the report generated after executing the build task on a multimodule project:

Gradle for Android

The profiling report shows an overview of the time spent in each phase while executing the task. Below that summary is an overview of how much time Gradle spent on the configuration phase for each module. There are two more sections in the report that are not shown in the screenshot. The Dependency Resolution section shows how long it took to resolve dependencies, per module. Lastly, the Task Execution section contains an extremely detailed task execution overview. This overview has the timing for every single task, ordered by execution time from high to low.

Jack and Jill

If you are willing to use experimental tools, you can enable Jack and Jill to speed up builds. Jack ( Java Android Compiler Kit) is a new Android build toolchain that compiles Java source code directly to the Android Dalvik executable (dex) format. It has its own .jack library format and takes care of packaging and shrinking as well. Jill (Jack Intermediate Library Linker) is a tool that can convert .aar and .jar files to .jack libraries. These tools are still quite experimental, but they were made to improve build times and to simplify the Android build process. It is not recommended to start using Jack and Jill for production versions of your projects, but they are made available so that you can try them out.

To be able to use Jack and Jill, you need to use build tools version 21.1.1 or higher, and the Android plugin for Gradle version 1.0.0 or higher. Enabling Jack and Jill is as easy as setting one property in the defaultConfig block:

android {
   buildToolsRevision '22.0.1'
   defaultConfig {
     useJack = true
   }
}

You can also enable Jack and Jill on a certain build type or product flavor. This way, you can continue using the regular build toolchain, and have an experimental build on the side:

android {
   productFlavors {
       regular {
           useJack = false
       }

       experimental {
           useJack = true
       }
   }
}

As soon as you set useJack to true, minification and obfuscation will not go through ProGuard anymore, but you can still use the ProGuard rules syntax to specify certain rules and exceptions. Use the same proguardFiles method that we mentioned before, when talking about ProGuard.

Summary

This article helped us lean different ways to speed up builds; we first saw how we can tweak the settings, configure Gradle and the JVM, we saw how to detect parts that are slowing down the process, and then we learned Jack and Jill tool.

Resources for Article:


Further resources on this subject:


LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here