This book is exactly what it's title says: a *guide* to using Apache Ant, particularly for Java development. Note, though, that it is *not* a *reference*. It does not describe each Ant task in detail, nor does it document all the allowable Ant XML elements.
That's why I was disappointed with this book, and only gave it three stars. O'Reilly has an unfortunate habit of giving the same type of title to any of its books on a subject, regardless of their real content. Thus, "HTML and XHTML: The Definitive Guide" is a both a *guide* and a *reference*, and pretty much the only HTML book you need.
"Ant", on the other hand, really needs a companion reference for more experienced Ant users. Anyone who uses Ant soon realizes that the online documentation is less than stellar.
This book is a necessary starting point for Ant; now we need more! Ant, after all, is worth documenting, since it's *much* better than any alternative out there.
If you've never used Ant before, this is the book for you. It covers basic Ant concepts and enough of Ant usage so that you know where to look when you need more help. When you're done with this book you'll know how to set up basic builds, run unit tests and integrate with various environments such as Eclipse.
That said, I find the book frustrating because of its guide nature. Nothing in the book is laid out in a way that makes it easy to use as a reference. Even when you go to a chapter on a particular topic, the information you need quickly is presented in the right form. Now that I'm familiar with Ant I find using online references adequate for just about everything.
I have the first edition, which is more of a "how to use ant" book. The second edition is a "how to make ant useful" book. In that way, the second edition is completely different from the first. The chapters are "task" oriented as opposed to descriptions of Ant APIs. For example, "Deploying Builds" covers various Ant tasks and properties that will help you put together an Ant build.xml to deploy a build. An easy way to see if the book will work for you is to check the chapter headings.
Well written and pretty comprehensive - whether you're already comfortable with ant or new to ant, this is definately a great book to pick up.
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