I was going to try and be clever and do a funny riff on this whole subject, but I just can't manage it. Here's the thing. Makefile was a dumb name for a file when Stuart Feldman wrote the make utility in 1977, but you have to forgive him because file systems were quite limited back then and filenames could only be a few characters long. The pattern was
<filename.ext> - 8 chars for the name, 3 for the extension. I guess config.make wouldn't fit, config.mak looked weird, so Makefile it was.
Now we have no excuse. At all.
I respect and adore Jim Weirich, but I hope he feels at least a little shame for inflicting "Rakefile" on us all. That name choice seems to have set the stage for a proliferation of copycats. Now we have an ever-growing assortment of files that helpfully tell us they are files right there in the file name. Because something siting in a directory in the file system might be something else, like maybe a turnip or a bad hair day. Capfile, Gemfile, Assetfile, Vagrantfile, Guardfile...
You may ask: What's the problem? Why should anyone care about a cute little naming convention that continues a tradition going back over 30 years?
It may not be a huge deal, but there are a couple issues with this. All of these file formats are actually a variation on a well-accepted language: Ruby. But with a name that omits the standard
.rb extension, language-aware tools have no chance to help us out. Syntax highlighting? Nope. Will awk search those files for you? No way. Will RubyMine figure out the structure of the code in those files? Forget it. OK, you can add those files to all your tools' configurations, then you're good to go. Until someone creates a new Crapfile and you have to go through and update all those configurations again.
Just because your configuration file's contents are written in a DSL does not mean you should pretend it's not Ruby anymore.
I urge every maintainer of a project that uses a name like Crapfile for the configuration file to move toward using a name that is compatible with language-aware tools. If you can't think of a name yourself, allow me to suggest this:
UPDATE: It has been pointed out to me that RubyMine actually does a pretty good job of dealing with these file names. Not perfect, but pretty good. Anyway, I don't want to come off as bashing RubyMine (I'm spending more time with it now and it's starting to grow on me), so substitute vim or emacs or TextMate or your most-hated editor instead.