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One of the questions I always get from people when they find out I am an author is “Why did you get into writing?” While it is fundamentally a simple question to ask, the answer is not so clear or concise. If I had to summarize into one sentence why I wrote this book, it would have to be for one reason and one reason alone: I love technology and I love building things with it. I have been coding since I was 12 years old.
I have worked with dozens of technologies, and for the last four years I have had the opportunity to build enterprise-level software using several different open source projects. I have been consistently blown away with the quality and functionality these technologies bring to the table. One of my favorite open source technologies is the Apache Group’s Struts development framework. The Struts framework is a powerful Java development framework that really allows Java web developers to focus on building applications and not infrastructure.
When I worked on the first edition of this book, I had two goals in mind: First, I wanted to write a book that would introduce readers to the Struts development framework, but would not overwhelm them with all of the nitty-gritty details associated with writing Struts applications. I personally think most people, even advanced developers, learn best by doing and seeing rather than reading through tons of details. Second, I wanted people to see how Struts could be used to solve everyday problems they encounter in building their own web applications.
That is why there is such a focus throughout the book on the concept of identifying common design mistakes (aka antipatterns) and looking at how Struts can be used to solve these problems. However, this book always sticks to the core tenet that a framework never absolves the developer of the responsibility of designing an application. The Struts framework, like any framework, is a tool, and like any tool can be used inappropriately. That is why this book emphasizes the importance of good design even when using a framework like Struts.
Good code is never something that unexpectedly appears. It is something that evolves from forethought and clean design. This book has been designed with both the intermediate and advanced developer in mind. The application being built in this book is very simple and easy to follow, so anyone with a basic understanding of JSPs and servlets should be able to very quickly follow along. However, at every point my coauthor and I always try to call out how simple design decisions and design patterns can have a significant impact on the long-term health of extensibility.
In the second edition of this book, we have updated all of the material to Struts 1.1. We have included entire chapters on many of the new Struts 1.1 features (like the Tiles and Validator frameworks). In addition, we explore a host of other open source technologies, like ObjectRelationalBridge, Lucene, and Velocity, that when used in tandem with Struts can significantly reduce the amount of time and effort it takes to build common pieces of application functionality. I guess in the end, I do not consider this book a one-way narrative where you read my thoughts on a particular topic.