I am trying to make sense out of Maven. At the moment I am trying to integrate JSF, Spring and hibernate and I want to know how Maven can help me.
I have a working small test web-app, which already integrates the three frameworks. I downloaded this app from the internet and I managed to import it into eclipse using a maven import project utility. Can I use maven, somehow, in order to start developing a more real app from this test app, taking the integration of the framework components?
My problem is building a web application with the above frameworks, but the integration of them is really hurting me. Can Maven save this pain?
Maven was designed, in fact, precisely to save you this kind of pain.
You can use the special Maven goal "eclipse:eclipse" to have Maven construct the necessary files to make a Maven project eclipse-friendly. There's also an IntelliJ goal for that IDE.
I have some very complex projects. They're built on Spring, Hibernate, JBoss RichFaces, and often include additional subsystems like javamail and Quartz Scheduler. It can occasionally be frustrating, because once you get that much stuff in one app, they can start fighting over conflicts on shared resource versions. But one of the strengths of Maven is that once you find a "magic combination", Maven will lock the project to the specified versions and not break as soon as one of the contributing components gets updated.
Of course, finding the magic combinations is the real challenge. Usually I end up reading other people's blogs. Shared suffering.
One thing that can really help you get started is archetypes. There are quite a few published archetypes for different types of Maven projects. Plus, it's actually pretty easy to define your own. Although a lot of my webapps have been simply cloned from earlier maven projects, occasionally, I'll use an archetype to start a project from scratch.
An IDE is no substitute for an Intelligent Developer.
Maybe I am misunderstanding what you are attempting to accomplish, but it sounds as if you have a project that uses Maven for building, and now you and to extend it or add new functionality. The statement "Can I use maven, somehow, in order to start developing a more real app from this test app" implies that Maven can help you write an app; it can't. What Maven can do is manage your dependencies. But the app itself you have to write. What Maven can help you with is adding new JARs to your app when you need to make use of them (for example, you need the commons math library but it isn't included in the build path yet).
What reading have you done on Maven? Is this your first attempt on working with a Maven project?