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on 25 November 1997
In UML Distilled, Martin Fowler and Kendall Scott manage what many others have failed to do: present a concise, eminently readable summary of the notation of Object Modeling. This is a relatively short and easily digestable tome. In it, Fowler & Scott walk through the basic notation styles of UML, and give you a good sense of when and where they can be usefully applied.
One of the things that I appreciate about this little gem is that is does not pretend to be more than it is. The Principal author speaks from his experience, states his opinions and provides a solid set of references for more in depth reading. He never claims to have all the answers or even that there is one set of right answers. Given the frequently dogmatic tone of modeling discussions, it was a refreshing change.
This is a quick read (only a couple of hours) yet the material is presented in such a way as to allow it to be easily used as a reference. This book is an excellent example of the 80/20 rule: you will learn 80% of what you need to know in about 20% of the time.
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on 5 April 1999
Fowler (with contributions by Scott) gives quick and concise instructions on using the UML replete with example diagrams and example code. His style is wonderfully engaging and easy to approach. I found myself able to draw use cases, classes, activity diagrams, and more in almost no time.
Fowler sized the book on the small side (under 200 pages), yet gives a complete if sometimes merely cursory introduction to all of the components of the UML. After digesting its contents, I found myself wanting more details, particularly on a process to go with the UML diagramming. Despite the small size, Fowler finds space to include mention on related OOA&D issues, such as CRC cards, design patterns, and design-by-contract.
The book suffers from one drawback, which is more than likely not the fault of its authors: the typesetting is terrible. Sudden font changes in the figures and in the text, the use of prime symbols interchangeably with apostrophes (sometimes in the same paragraph), overlapping lines in figures, and a chapter introduction element (two lines that aren't quite the same length) are examples of some of the problems.
Luckily, it's easy to overlook the poor typesetting and focus on the substantive information that Fowler presents, which is of superior quality.
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on 21 February 1999
Unlike many OO design/methodology books, this volume is an interesting read and covers the most important parts of UML (Unified Modeling Language) instead of every nitpicking detail. Therefore, it is not a reference book nor intended to be.

After having read a few UML books, this is the best introduction to UML I've seen. The author stays very loose and can keep you awake with what is a very boring (abet important) topic. By the end of the book, you will have gotten a feel for all the major types of diagrams and notation. You'll be ready to use UML and know what you need to know to use it efficiently in most cases.

The book has a introduction, an outline of the process of OO design, and the chapters on each major type of diagram. Finally, it closes with an example showing how to move your diagrams over to code.

Of course, there will be times when "UML Distilled" skips over little nitpicking details of UML. For those, you will need to find an advanced book. I highly recommend this book because it was the first understandable book I've read on UML.
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on 4 July 1998
The sign of genius is the ability to write a concise, but inclusive and clear, explanation of a subject. Such books let you quickly start using that knowledge. It is in trying to use that knowledge that you gain your real understanding of the subject. "UML Distilled" is such a book. My company has used it extensively to teach several UML/OO courses for both internal employees and clients. The first group trained with this book, used that knowledge to write an inexpensive UML tool in Java. The comments on UML and OO process sparked countless debates on how to improve our OO software development process using UML. I own dozens of books on OO and UML, but always recommend this as the first to read. The example diagrams are excellent too. Anyone that does OO programming or software design, should know UML. It is the closest thing we have to a standard "schematic" language for OO design. In short, as a teacher and leader of programmers, I've found this book very valuable.
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on 24 May 1999
This book is useful for what it really is: an introduction to the graphical language of UML. It does not really teach one much about modelling, or about methodologies for OOAD. So it poses a strange problem: it is a beginner's book, but unsuitable for total beginners. It is best read by people who already have an understanding of the OOAD process- others may end up rather confused.
For those who are new to UML but not OO, it is a very useful introduction to the notation. I find myself constantly looking things up, and it is pretty complete. Reminds me of the "in a nutshell" books, but more readable.
I like Fowler's style and if I were to complain, I would say that it needs some more down-to-earth techniques (e.g. how would you model a login, or a client-server with sockets, etc.) which would put the notation into a more useful context.
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on 26 August 1997
This book is a great primer on OO development. The writing style in books I have read by Booch
and others tends to be so detailed that the overall picture is lost. Fowler does a good job of providing context for his examples. He also never claims the book is an exhaustive reference so the reader is never deceived. He is also one of the few authors who thankfully separates the modelling language from the process. He provides suggestions as for what diagrams to use with each stage of the process as opposed to the dogmatic approach taken by most authors in this field of expertise. Finally, the bibliography is one of the most useful I have seen since the text of the book provides the strengths and weaknesses of the entries.
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on 24 October 1997
While waiting for the "official" UML books to
be published, you won't find a better book on
the subject. I found the prose to be readable
and approachable, unlike many other software
engineering books. The book's small size
belies the amount of useful information that is
packed into it. I got more out of UML Distilled than
any poring over the UML Notation guide
had gotten me, and Fowler and Scott put in
many informative asides that fill in the whys
and wherefores that many formal reference works
leave out. Heartily recommended for the UML student
and adept alike. Note: Only covers UML 1.0 and not 1.1.
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on 8 November 1998
This book has a very poor sequence of definitions. Tha author even admits this at one point p.33 3rd paragraph from the bottom. For another example, see page 81. Where is the definition of the black diamond? Why read a book if you have to deduce all the material? The author seems to want to establish his place amongst the big boys referencing their work. It is poor form to use terms not defined or poorly defined. I would have to be familiar with the material in which case why would I need the book. I am not affected by the fact that the author may be a big name in OO!
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on 1 August 1997
This is an excellent introduction to the UML notation, with useful comparisons to all prior notations I'm aware of. At no point did I feel like Fowler & Scott went on too long, nor did I ever feel like they left anything out. Very practical and to the point.

It also serves as a brief but good introduction to OOAD: in explaining the diagrams, they show you how and when they are used.

We've ordered copies for all of our developers; those who currently need only read the diagrams will also be educating themselves for doing design in the future.
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on 19 June 1997
If you need to be conversant with UML, or to defend yourself against local UML gunslingers, this is just the book you need. Fowler covers all the major types of UML diagrams, and all the commonly-used widgets. With this book in hand, you can understand all the UML you'll likely ever see, and can more than hold your own in whiteboard discussions.

Even if I were going to be engaged in a project using UML intensively, this book would be the only one I would carry with me.

Highly recommended!
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