Over the years, I’ve screwed with a lot of build systems. Both in the course of my own projects and other people’s, and I’ve come to a conclusion over the past fourteen years.
At best: you can reimplement make poorly. At worst you can reimplment half of autotools, poorly.
That’s pretty much what I’ve seen. Thus as time has gone on, I see it very hard to do better than good old Make. Especially when the GNU version has about five hundred pages worth of voodoo to appease even the worst masterbaters, and the need for autotools is kind of waning IMHO.
What I’ve generally found with Ninja is that it’s very simple. Like C: the little bit of syntax you need to remember is a small quantity. Opening a build.ninja file is probably enough to grok what’s going on if you’ve ever used an actual build system that involves editing files.
Likewise answers to questions that tend to make it easier to build a wonky, hellish, broken build monstrosity, tend to be “No, you can’t because that would make this slow”. And let’s face it, if you want much more than a relatively simple Makefile, you’re probably building a case for pain.
Based on the past year, I think ninja will be sitting next to vim and dump in my toolkit of loved and trusty computing companions.