"Ant in Action" is really the second edition of "Java Development in Ant." I think the original title was more descriptive as the book focuses more on process, tools and techniques than most Ant books. For example, they introduce continuous integration and why you would want to write unit tests. Not that the Ant coverage isn't good -- it's excellent -- just that the book is so much more.
Like most Ant books the authors don't rehash the excellent online manual and API. For those new to Ant, features are clearly described with good examples and good descriptions of "what happens if _____." The flow diagrams helped visualize concepts nicely.
For those who have been using Ant, there are margin notes about what was added in 1.6/1.7 along with coverage of Ivy. I liked the Java 6/JEE 5 examples. The techniques for writing reusable/maintainable code and extending Ant provided significant value. I was a little disappointed it used JUnit 3.8. The authors explained why and I understand. I still would have liked to see it as this book will still be used when JUnit 4 is in wider use.
Coverage of related tools is also useful. It's good to know what libraries to look into to increase productivity with Ant. I've been using Ant for complex builds for three years and still had a page of take away points from this book. I recommend it for the valuable information and techniques.
Review by : Janeice DelVecchio
Rating : 8 horseshoes
I have to admit, as someone with knowledge of core Java alone and no prior knowledge of build tools, I was overwhelmed by the table of contents of this book. Once I started reading, I realized there was no reason to worry.
Each step of the setup and use of Ant is described in the first couple chapters of the book. There is an appendix for people (like me) who need a little more help starting up. The build file creation process is broken down and built upon over time. I found the examples helpful and the layout of the book intuitive.
The later chapters of Ant in Action go into way more complex things like larger projects, Ant tasks, integrating Ant into Java projects, and enterprise applications. This is a book I expect to use now and grow into later. I am especially excited about the section on working with XML, and adding in optional tasks.
I would not recommend this book to anyone who has less than a solid understanding of core Java and some awareness of XML. There is an XML primer in an appendix which is pretty helpful if you don't know XML.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for writing this review on behalf of JavaRanch.