In the last couple of years, Gradle has been encouraging developers to work towards modularizing their projects. Of course, when effectively implemented, this approach offers several advantages, with build parallelization being a significant factor.

But splitting your Android project into many modules has a major drawback, at first: you need to write a build file for each of them.

The naive approach

One might be tempted to create “common” Groovy files (also known as “script plugins”) and import them into each module. We can also define some properties in the root project, which can then be used in each subproject.

apply plugin: ''
apply plugin: 'kotlin-android'
apply plugin: 'kotlin-kapt'

// This imports a Gradle file which we can use everywhere
apply from: rootDir.path + '/lib-common.gradle'

android {
    // compileSdkVersion is defined in the root project
    compileSdkVersion rootProject.ext.compileSdkVersion

    defaultConfig {
        minSdkVersion rootProject.ext.minSdkVersion
        targetSdkVersion rootProject.ext.targetSdkVersion

        consumerProguardFiles ''
        testInstrumentationRunner "androidx.test.runner.AndroidJUnitRunner"

    compileOptions {
        sourceCompatibility rootProject.ext.sourceCompatibility
        targetCompatibility rootProject.ext.targetCompatibility

    kotlinOptions {
        jvmTarget = rootProject.ext.kotlinJvmTarget
        freeCompilerArgs += rootProject.ext.kotlinCompilerArgs

dependencies {
    // Dependencies are defined in a map in the root project
    def dep = rootProject.ext.dependencies
    implementation dep.'androidx.core:core-ktx'
    implementation dep.'androidx.paging:paging-runtime-ktx'
    implementation dep.'com.squareup.okhttp3:okhttp'


This is the approach we were using before moving to a better system. These few following drawbacks made it obsolete and not recommended by Gradle maintainers.

  • Script plugins need to be imported individually for each module in your project. This means that your heap will grow a lot, and this approach will scale terribly on a project with many modules.
  • Relying on the rootProject in your modules−or relying on subprojects from your root project, for that matter−will add unwanted dependencies between your modules, which will in turn defeat optimization mechanisms designed by Gradle, such as configuration-on-demand or configuration cache. These are made to help bring down the time Gradle spends configuring your project (i.e. reading the configuration and building the task graph) each time you build; it goes without saying that getting this time to decrease will make for happier and more productive developers.

In addition to these issues, we wanted to start modularizing much of our project. We already had about 150 modules, but we planned on making many more soon, so this would be a good time to find a future-proof architecture. Plus, this was a good opportunity to clear some tech debt: cleaning unused dependencies, moving to a version catalog…

Modern problems call for modern solutions

Centralizing version management

A significant challenge we faced, which is also common in the industry, is managing dependencies and versions across the entire project. Hard-coding the version of okhttp for every module is not recommended, as it can be tedious and error-prone.

There are several known solutions to this problem, such as storing versions in the root project or using a buildSrc script. But not only are some solutions bad for your build performance (see: reliance on the root project), almost all of them share an insoluble issue: tooling support.

There are multiple ways to be informed when your dependencies can be upgraded. You can rely on your IDE to highlight your outdated dependencies, which it does by trying to look for some string that… looks like a Gradle . You can also rely on a tool like Renovate, which does the same thing on your CI. In either case, you probably could use a standard solution, where there is some kind of standard to declare your centralized dependencies, which both humans and machines can rely on consistently.

To solve this problem, Gradle introduced the version catalog:

androidCompileSdk = "33"
androidGradlePlugin = "7.4.2"
jvm = "17"

android-billingclient-core = { module = "", version.ref = "billing" }
android-billingclient-ktx = { module = "", version.ref = "billing" }
android-gradle = { module = "", version.ref = "androidGradlePlugin" }
android-installreferrer = { module = "", version = "2.2" }
android-tools-desugar-jdk-libs = { module = "", version = "1.1.5" }
android-tools-lint-api = { module = "", version.ref = "lint" }

android-app = { id = "", version.ref = "androidGradlePlugin" }
android-library = { id = "", version.ref = "androidGradlePlugin" }

This format has been great, even for a project as big as ours. It’s flexible: you can now store library versions, but plugin versions as well, and even just plain versions, which you can get from your custom plugin later on!

And it’s a standard format, so it works out of the box with tools like Renovate or Android Studio.

Code reuse

The direction of Gradle best practices in our industry is evident, with numerous talks and blog posts from big tech companies and even Gradle itself emphasizing the use of convention plugins.

While the name may sound intimidating, convention plugins are actually pretty straightforward. They are Gradle plugins that can be applied to each module, ensuring consistent configuration across all of them.

Convention plugins offer the advantages of build scripts and the elimination of duplicate configuration, all without the need for a dependency on the root project. The convention plugin is an isolated project, which could be stored in your monorepo, but could very well be stored in a completely different place. Unlike build scripts, it’s compiled and instantiated only once, and is then ×*called** once for each module.

Creating a convention plugin is similar to creating any custom Gradle plugin. If you haven’t had to do this yet, it looks like this:

// settings.gradle
// …
includeBuild 'gradle-plugins/convention-plugin'

This will include your convention plugin alongside your main project at build time, so you will be able to use its result for your main project’s build system.

You’ll need a simple settings.gradle(.kts) file for your plugin. If your plugin is located in your monorepo, it will be very useful to be able to access its Version Catalog, so you can even share your dependency versions in the build files of your plugin.

dependencyResolutionManagement {
    versionCatalogs {
        libs {

    repositories {
} = 'gradle-plugin-convention'

Then, you need a build.gradle(.kts) configuration script for your custom plugin. In order to configure other modules with the Android Gradle Plugin (AGP), for example, you will need access to the AGP’s classpath at build time in your plugin. You might be tempted to apply the AGP as a plugin, but you actually need to import it as an implementation.

group = "com.bedrockstreaming"
version = "1.0-SNAPSHOT"

plugins {
    // This is a Gradle plugin written in Kotlin, import the Gradle Kotlin DSL

java {
    toolchain {
        // This sets the JVM version needed to build this project.
        // Notice that we set this version in the Version Catalog, and we can use it here!

gradlePlugin {
    plugins {
        // Your custom plugin's module can actually contain many plugins.
        // Create as many as you need - if you have multiple application modules, 
        // it might be useful to at least create one for library modules,
        // and one for application modules.

        create("androidMobileAppPlugin") {
            id = ""
            implementationClass = ""

        create("androidLibraryPlugin") {
            id = ""
            implementationClass = ""

        create("jvmLibraryPlugin") {
            id = "com.bedrockstreaming.convention.library.jvm"
            implementationClass = "com.bedrockstreaming.gradle.convention.jvm.JvmLibraryPlugin"

dependencies {
    // Note that we add the AGP and Kotlin plugin as implementations, which is unusual.

Then, you’ll need an extension, which is Gradle speak to describe a configuration interface. Each option you will add to your extension will be usable from your module’s build.gradle(.kts). This is one of the most powerful advantages of custom plugins: you can reuse code and still make it configurable!

abstract class BaseConventionPluginExtension {

    internal abstract val enableCompose: Property<Boolean>

     * Enable Jetpack Compose on this module, and add core libraries.
    fun composeToolkit() {

    // …

Then, it’s time to create the actual plugin class, the entry point for Gradle (specified in implementationClass above).


import org.gradle.api.Plugin
import org.gradle.api.Project
import org.gradle.kotlin.dsl.create

class AndroidLibraryPlugin : Plugin<Project> {

    override fun apply(target: Project) {
        // This is where we declare that our extension will be available in a bedrock {} block.
        val extension = target.extensions.create<AndroidLibraryExtension>("bedrock")
        // …

That’s it for boilerplate! You’re free to architect the internals of your Gradle plugin however you want, but this Plugin::apply method will be the entry point for your configuration code. It will be called for each module on which your plugin has been applied.

For example, here’s how you might apply the plugin to your module, and configure it:

fun apply(target: Project) = with(target) {
    // getPluginId is an extension function that reads the plugin ID from the version catalog
    apply(plugin = getPluginId("android.library"))

    configure<LibraryExtension> {
        compileSdk = getVersion("androidCompileSdk").toInt()

    androidComponents.finalizeDsl {
        configure<LibraryExtension> {
            defaultConfig {
                minSdk = getVersion("androidMinSdk").toInt()

You can reuse this principle and apply it to all your common configuration blocks. You can automatically add dependencies, add some unit testing configuration, set the correct JDK toolchain, build flags, and even configure other third-party plugins with the same mechanism. The sky is the limit!

End result

Remember our old build file, with its included Groovy scripts, referenced root project, custom extension functions? Here’s what it looks like now!

plugins {

bedrock {
    moshi(codegen: true)

dependencies {

Much nicer, isn’t it? 🤩

In summary

The scalability of our project has been significantly improved through the migration from included build scripts and root project dependencies. Although writing custom Gradle plugins can initially pose challenges due to the potential for frustrating errors resulting from a minor misunderstanding of the Gradle API, once you are set up, the maintenance becomes much easier. It feels more rewarding to work in harmony with Gradle, rather than working against the optimizations introduced with each Gradle update, knowing that we can automatically benefit from them. The version catalogs provide a convenient method for organizing dependencies, and the fact that our tooling recognizes the format is a significant advantage.

In conclusion, for developers working on medium-to-large Gradle projects, whether in the Android realm or elsewhere, I highly recommend exploring the use of convention plugins. Mastering them is not as difficult as it may seem, and they provide effective solutions to address real challenges that we all face day-to-day.

Cover image © Isis Petroni