Ant: The Definitive Guide Paperback – 30 May 2002
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Ant is a Java build tool, so named because it is a small thing that builds big things, and Ant: The Definitive Guide is a complete handbook and reference. Ant is an open-source tool maintained by the Apache Software Foundation and has rapidly been adopted as the standard Java utility for build management. This title is written with two readerships in mind. For the Ant newcomer, it offers a thorough tutorial, while experts get a complete reference along with tips and insights on how to get the best from Ant. The authors emphasise that to get the best from Ant you must see the buildfile as a design, rather than a series of steps.
The foreword from Ant's creator, James Duncan Davidson is a great starting point, explaining the rationale and original motivation behind Ant. After that the authors offer a jumpstart chapter, walking through a basic example. Next comes an installation guide, followed by a detailed chapter on the heart of Ant, the XML buildfile. There is a description of Ant data types, and two chapters showing how to extend Ant by creating custom tasks and event listeners. The comprehensive reference section is divided into core and optional tasks. Finally, there are two appendices, one looking at Ant futures with a preview of what is coming in Ant 2.0, and the other a handy set of common questions with solutions.
It may seem specialist, but Ant can make Java development significantly faster and more productive. This is a great book for Ant users. --Tim Anderson
"A clear, example-driven exploration of the tools at hand
Tilly and Burke do a good job capturing the spirit of the tool
. -- Peter Wayner, slashdot website, June 14, 2002
A great book! -- Don Denoncourt, Iseries News, Dec 2002
Top customer reviews
The books contents itself is very disappointing. The first portion of the book deals with installing and compiling ANT to run. Something which you would learn if you checked the ANT website.
Secondly the book does not cover anything of ANT1.5 only 1.4.1. People starting off on ANT would want to know this as there are some differences between the versions which can cause problems.
The single biggest disappointment of the book however is that over half of it is just the javadoc from ANT 1.4.1. Which you can download for free. The ANT command documentation gives a lot more information then the javadoc (which is also free to download).
While there are certainly some good bits to the book, they are extremely few and far between. Certainly not enough to justify anything other then 2 stars.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Try the Manning book, "Java Development with Ant", by Steve Loughran and Erik Hatcher. It's better in every respect.
Developers accostomed to using Apache products, java freeware can read thru Ch. 1(jumpstart), skim thru Ch. 3(Buildfile), skim thru Ch. 4 (Ant datatypes) and then dive into ch. 7 (core tasks) where the action is... that is what you'd need to refer to constantly as you write your buildfile... save Ch. 5 (User written tasks) for the last... you probably won't need it unless you're one of those who feel guilty about using a freeware without contributing to it.
This book does a great job of teaching you basic fundamentals and how the pieces work. So as an example the other book which is over 600 pages talks about DataTypes BEFORE talking about properties. This book talks about properties FIRST which is a much better progession of complexity IMHO.
This book has some typos. There was also a typo in the Apendix B on how to create a super zip jar of your open source lib jars. This example does not work nor can I find anything on the publisher's site with a fix. :-(
I can understand mistakes but I'm not a big fan of people being lazy or not supporting their web site with current updates. To help further this point the errate site last changed on 7/21/04 an today is 2/8/05 with no clue how to fix the busted example on page 254.
This book I would recomend as an intro or if you just have a small project you want to use Ant for. If your doing J2EE work with things like ejbdoclet the Manning book is a great reference. Don't expect the Manning book to be a good intro. Ironically the Manning book STATES in chapter 3 where they introduce the key concepts that it CAN NOT be digested in one reading.
So basically treat this book as a good salad an the other one as a steak dinner. There are a LOT of folks who really only want a salad for dinner. :-)
Also the salad is about 1/3 of the pages of the steak dinner so if you have to carry one around the salad will fit easier in a book bag. :-)
I'm not associated with either authors or publishers. I am a software developer by trade and got assigned to fix a year old Ant build that was over 800 lines of text. This book helped me get started down the right path while the Manning book filled in the outer edges. I also managed to reduce our build file down to a little over 100 lines plus it now WORKS but enough about me. :-)
I would recomend it plus I would have given it a 5 star had the publisher shown better diligence on updating the supporting web site.
The book gives a nice overview and motivation for ant, as well as a sample project which will help you get up to speed quickly. There is a comprehensive chapter on data types and a nice example of how to build your own task.
I was happy to see that O'Reilly editing quality remains high which sets it apart from other publishers.
The only complaint I had when I first read the book is that I thought that the codes given to the various task parameters in the task reference were a bit cryptic. The book also mentioned that ant 2.0 was due out in 2002, but here it is 2004 and I only see 1.6. The book also provides installation directions, which should really be an appendix since most folks probably just install the RPM or .deb these days.
But ant does come with an excellent manual, which is up-to-date.
It does appear that the book is not too much more than a cover for this documentation. Unlike the book, the task reference in the bundled manual organizes the tasks by function, which is useful. The list of parameters for each task is better organized: it is in a table, it eschews the ant version for the parameter, and there is a Required column (instead of a cryptic code as in the book).
I'd recommend that you borrow or read this book on safari.oreilly.com for a nice introduction and then use the bundled manual for more examples and a reference.
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