Ant is the premiere build management tool for use in Java environments. Unlike traditional build management tools such as GNU Make, Ant is itself written in Java, is platform independent, and interfaces well with the utilities in Sun's Java software development kit (SDK). In addition to being platform independent, Ant is also independent of the integrated development environment (IDE) being used. IDE independence is important for open source projects (or other projects) in which the various developers might use different IDEs. Using Ant, Java developers can:
Define build chunks, the results that they must produce, and the dependencies between them
Automatically retrieve source code from source control systems such as PVCS
Build applications by having Ant compile the necessary source files in the proper order
Ant build files are written using XML-a well-established standard-so programmers using Ant are not required to learn yet another scripting language. They will likely already know XML, and will be able to leverage that knowledge. Ant is an open source project, and part of the Jakarta project. Jakarta is Sun's open source reference implementation for the JSP and Servlets specifications, and is part of the Apache group's work
Our look is the result of reader comments, our own experimentation, and feedback from distribution channels. Distinctive covers complement our distinctive approach to technical topics, breathing personality and life into potentially dry subjects. The animal on the cover of Ant: The Definitive Guide is a horned lizard. There are 13 species of the horned lizard in North America. Horned lizards prefer a dry, warm climate, such as the desert or a dry woodland, and they can be found in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and New Mexico. Adults grow to 3-5 inches. They depend on their environment to control their body temperature, and use burrows and shade to prevent overheating. The horned lizard has a wide, flat body ideal for desert camouflage, and a short neck and short legs. It has spines on its body and prominent horns on its head. It is also known as the horny "toad."Despite the horned lizards' fierce appearance, they are not aggressive. Their primary diet consists of ants, although they sometimes eat beetles, grasshoppers, and other insects, which they catch with their long tongues. The horned lizards' first line of defense from predators is their camouflage, but they are also known to hiss and inflate their bodies to appear more intimidating. As a last resort, they have the ability to squirt blood from the corners of their eyes in an attempt to confuse attackers. In Texas and Oklahoma, horned lizards are considered a threatened species. It is illegal to possess a horned lizard without a scientific permit. More information on the conservation of horned lizards is available at http://www.hornedlizards.org. Colleen Gorman was the production editor and proofreader, and Mary Brady was the copyeditor for Ant: The Definitive Guide. Linley Dolby and Jane Ellin provided quality control. Nancy Crumpton wrote the index.Hanna Dyer designed the cover of this book, based on a series design by Edie Freedman. The cover image is a 19th-century engraving from the Dover Pictorial Archive. Emma Colby produced the cover layout with QuarkXPress 4.1 using Adobe's ITC Garamond font. David Futato designed the interior layout. This book was converted into FrameMaker 5.5.6 with a format conversion tool created by Erik Ray, Jason McIntosh, Neil Walls, and Mike Sierra that uses Perl and XML technologies. The text font is Linotype Birka; the heading font is Adobe Myriad Condensed; and the code font is LucasFont's TheSans Mono Condensed. The illustrations that appear in the book were produced by Robert Romano and Jessamyn Read using Macromedia FreeHand 9 and Adobe Photoshop 6. The tip and warning icons were drawn by Christopher Bing. This colophon was written by Colleen Gorman.
When it comes to open source technology, you're on your own as soon as you download and install the product. The most challenging part has to be figuring out how to configure your new toy. There is always that infamous README file, but let's face it, it does not get us as far as we would like to go. Lucky for all of us beginners to Ant, it is self-explanatory, and easy to work with. Not only that, but there are countless examples available on the web, and the book to get us started.
Reading "Ant, The Definitive Guide" by Jesse Tilly & Eric M. Burke, is like having one of them beside you. The book carefully walks you through the steps required to write your first buildfile. From there, more complex ideas and approaches are introduced to the entire build process. Naturally, one should be well adapted to the Unix/DOS command line before jumping into the book. Trying to do it any other way is not as obvious.
The authors build structure is straightforward. First, there is the standard directory structure of BIN/DOC/LIB, and so forth. This consistency with the rest of the industries makes learning the process that much easier. With changes constantly taking place in programming environments, having a buildfile to generate your executables and keeping your documentation up-to-date is quite nice. I started with the authors' samples, and have modified them to fit my working environment. In doing so, I am keeping to the standards in used by the Java community, and I know that is a great plus down the road.
The book is well organized and very intuitive. For the starting Java programmer, this is a tool that will get you far. Don't forget that documentation is key to good programming, and it will save you down the road when you have to figure out what's going on with that line of code.
Unfortunately, there isn't much involved in building an Ant file. Once you have the necessary components in place, it is a matter of renaming them for your next project. The book is short, and it covers enough to get you where you need to be. One half of the book is dedicated to various parameters that can be incorporated into your buildfile. This is handy, but for the beginners, it can be overwhelming. For the most part, you can obtain the instructions provided in the first half of the book by searching the web, but you won't have the step-by-step guidance that is provided by Tilly and Burke.
I thought this book was a decent enough reference for Ant, and there's nothing else like it around, but, like the previous two reviewers, I thought the index left a great deal to be desired.
I'll go further: the index sucked, and there's no getting around it. Almost nothing is in there except for Ant tasks, which are easily locatable without the index--they are listed alphabetically in Chapter 7, Core Tasks.
I'd rather use this book than the online manual, but not by a large margin.
This is the first O'reilly book I have ever purchased that I can't recommend. Although there probably is some good information somewhere in the book, the index is inadequate, and I don't have time to read the entire book each time I need to look something up
This is not a comment about the contents of the book. It contains voluminous and detailed information. However, it is a real challenge to find the answer to a specific question. I suggest that any first-time reader use plenty of post-it tags, because you probably won't be able to find some interesting tidbit again in the index.
Try to find the "unless" attribute in the index. You can't. What about a treatment of platform differences. No mention in the index. I hoped to find the various system properties described. Nope.
How about reissuing this book soon with a better index?