Apache OFBiz Development (book review)

5 02 2009

Book cover
Apache OFBiz Development: The Beginner’s Tutorial, by Jonathon Wong and Rupert Howell, aims to fill a niche that was completely empty until this book was published. The Apache OFBiz project is an Open Source framework for building enterprise automation applications on the Java platform. OFBiz has been used to build many business applications, but until now there wasn’t a comprehensive beginner’s tutorial for developers wanting to use the platform. As with many Open Source projects, freely available OFBiz documentation tends to be incomplete and not very well organized, so a book that can be read cover-to-cover and provides a good developer’s tutorial is certainly welcome.

Unfortunately, this book fulfills this promise only partially. As a disclaimer, let me start by saying that I am not an OFBiz expert, having only had a passing acquaintance with its Persistence Engine, so I am not equipped to judge whether the content of this book is accurate and reasonably complete. I am indeed a beginner with respect to OFBiz, so I should be exactly the right kind of public for this book.

As the beginner that I am, I started reading the book, but soon found it very hard to keep on reading. For one thing, the text does not seem to follow a smooth, linear narrative. Its flow is continuously broken up by the use of very short sections with a big, bold title. Personally, I’d have saved on the ink and paper and coalesced small sections into bigger ones.

Another problem, at least in the early chapters, is the tendency to present simple concepts and examples, together with a promise to explain more in the rest of the chapters. I understand that you cannot present very detailed explanations right at the beginning, but this book goes just a bit overboard in leaving the reader hanging on.

The net effect of this approach is that it makes reading very difficult, after a while. This problem could be overcome by a reader with enough patience and determination, but in my case I soon started to skip sections and to peek ahead to see if there was something more interesting for me.

Sampling around, I came upon Chapter 9, “The Events” and was very perplexed. This s a short chapter which only uses the “event” word twice in the first page, without even explaining what an event is in the context of OFBiz, copies some text from page 117, then switches completely to the topics of security and access control, and of localization, none of which seems particularly event-driven to me. Maybe I am completely missing the meaning of “event” in OFBiz, but this is just one more reason to explain it properly in a beginner’s tutorial.

Another aspect of the book that I was uncomfortable with is that, most of the time, the reader is treated not just as an absolute beginner with OFBiz, but as a beginner with the whole concept of developing Java web applications, to the point of showing him how to download and install the JDK. I would just state that a certain level of knowledge and past experience with the whole platform is a requirement in the preface. Showing how to install the JDK is not going to help anyone here.

To sum it up, my opinion of this book is not very good. Still, all is not bad, and I think it can be a decent tutorial for most parts of OFBiz. Since such a tutorial was definitely needed, it’s a shame “Apache OFBiz Development” succeeds only partially.

Update: “Chapter 10: the Service Engine” is freely available from the publisher’s website.

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5 responses

7 02 2009
Book Reviews

Interesting Review, Thanks.

15 04 2009
Jacques Le Roux

Hi Ugo,

Thanks for your comments. I put a link back from “In the News” on OFBiz site (http://ofbiz.apache.org/).

I was a reviewer of this book, and I mostly agree with what you think. However, as you said, despite its shortcomings, I think this book can help beginners to grasp OFBiz. At least for release 4.0, and even if Release 9.04 (following now Ubuntu numbering style) will come soon, most things still apply.

Jacques Le Roux

1 05 2009
Codbase

After reading 5 chapters and skimming through the rest!! this book is a waste of time!

The authors tried to simplify the architecture of the rather complicated ofbiz but they end up leading you blindly into carrying out some copy-paste operations!!! they even refer to line numbers in the code files of the framework without telling you why did you add the new code or changed the existing!

seriously it is a time vampire — not for beginners nor pros!!

4 10 2009
csnow

The book got me started with developing ofbiz. There was still a lot to learn after reading the book, but you have got to start somewhere…

2 01 2010
selvakumar

I want to learn ofbiz

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