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5.0 out of 5 stars : Good introductory book that covers the basics well
A good mixture of UML, new additions to UML and how UML integrates into software processes. The topics are at a high level and only get skin deep, so this book is good for practically anyone interested in UML: developers needing to know the new additions to UML, managers with little time that want to learn UML to be able to talk to their developers, and even marketing...
Published on May 7 2004 by Amazon Customer

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2.0 out of 5 stars UML 2, but not as we know it!
I disappointed by this, the third edition of UML Distilled. The first edition of this book was clearly rushed out to meet the release of the UML specification and so contained many inaccuracies. However, this is now the third edition and it still has many problems.
The biggest issue is that the author has too many non-standard diagrams. These are helpfully labelled...
Published on Oct. 30 2003


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4.0 out of 5 stars Good introduction, May 25 2004
By 
wiredweird "wiredweird" (Earth, or somewhere nearby) - See all my reviews
This review is from: UML Distilled: A Brief Guide to the Standard Object Modeling Language (3rd Edition) (Paperback)
Fowler has done a very good job of introducing UML - this is the book I recommend to beginners. He goes over all the main categories of UML diagrams showing what they mean and usually how they relate to actual code.
This is, by intent, a very brief book about a very large topic. Part of its value is in giving the quick tour without dragging the reader through the thousands of pages of OMG specifications. That means a lack of rigor, reinforced by the informal writing style - all very approriate to an introduction.
The UML can be intimidating in its mass and in the level of detail it prescribes. Fowler cuts through all that very well. Best of all, he keeps a slightly skeptical tone. The UML is a tool, meant to serve the developer. It is not intended to take over the development process, so don't let it.
There are just two things I wish this book decribed better. First is the unification problem. The UML offers dozen or so different representations of different aspects of a program's structure and behavior. The question is, how do I get all those representations to relate to each other so it's clear that they describe the same thing? The complete answer may be too long for this book, but this isn't a book about complete answers. A few more clues would have strengthened the discussion.
Second is the discussion of state diagrams. It's a concept that beginners seem to stumble over: what do states really model? The best answer I know is that it describes situations where one input elicits different responses at different times, in different operating modes. The number keys on an ATM keypad are an example: first they represent the PIN, then they choose the banking operation to perform, then they may represent the numeric dollar amount of a transaction. Fowler just says to use state diagrams for "interesting behavior."
It's a good intro to UML with a good (though aging) bibliography. It should not be your only book on UML, but never meant to be. Beginners get a gentle start to a tough topic. Seasoned users can jog their memories on fine points of notations they haven't used in a while. This book really is for everyone.
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5.0 out of 5 stars : Good introductory book that covers the basics well, May 7 2004
By 
Amazon Customer (Old Bethpage, NY United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: UML Distilled: A Brief Guide to the Standard Object Modeling Language (3rd Edition) (Paperback)
A good mixture of UML, new additions to UML and how UML integrates into software processes. The topics are at a high level and only get skin deep, so this book is good for practically anyone interested in UML: developers needing to know the new additions to UML, managers with little time that want to learn UML to be able to talk to their developers, and even marketing staff wanting to communicate the needs of their customers with the engineers and product managers.
Martin Fowler has done it again with the third edition of the UML Distilled book. Informative, well organized, quick read and more importantly an easy read. He starts with a background on UML and where it came from, and where it is currently heading. He continues with the introduction with going over what a software process is and why it's needed. The importance and the benefits of how UML can assist the software process during all the phases of the process sets the stage for UML throughout the rest of the book. If you are unfamiliar with software processes such as the Rational Unified Process, Fowler's introduction goes a long way and clear things up.
"... the creators of the UML see the [UML] diagrams as a secondary; the essence of the UML is the meta model. Diagrams are simply a presentation of the meta-model."
Probably the best explanation of UML you can find anywhere. Folwer, from the get go tries to set the stage straight and clear up some of the misconceptions that UML. At the beginning, he focuses on the fact that UML is not the solution to everything a development team faces during a project, but rather a starting point, and "you shouldn't hesitate to use a non-UML diagram if no UML diagram suits your purpose."
Starting with the basics of UML, such as class diagrams and sequence diagrams, Fowler delves into the basics of UML and mainly the critical components on UML 1.0. A very controversial topic in UML and mainly the class diagrams are the notion of Aggregation and Composition. Aggregation being the part-of relationship and composition being an object with only one owner are depicted well thru a number of examples. For simplicity, Fowler suggests the aggregation be entirely dropped from diagrams.
Associations versus class Properties are another unclear point that is covered well. If you have been working with UML for a while, you have certainly realized that anything that can be presented via Associations can also be presented via the use of Properties. This point of ambiguity could mean the difference between a clean and clear class diagram and a clotted diagram that looks like a web of coupled classes. The author clears the point between the two notions up by specifying a rule of thumb: use attributes for small things such as dates and Boolean types, and use associations between large object types with clear dependencies between the objects. This rule can certainly help when you are trying to do round-trip-engineering, and your reversed engineered class diagram is totally not what you were expecting! Has that ever happened to you?
Object Diagrams, Use Cases, State Machines and Activity diagrams mark some of the UML tools that have been around since the earlier versions of UML.
Composite Structures, Interaction Overview and Timing Diagrams are new to the UML 2.0. Composite Structures enable the internal structure of a class to be decomposed. It clearly defines and marks what the interfaces are, and what the required external interfaces are for each of the interfaces shown. Interaction Overview diagrams graft together activity diagrams and sequence diagrams. The author does however mention that he has no interest in using the Interaction Overview diagram due to the fact that they are too busy. I agree!
Overall, Martin Fowler's UML Distilled book provides a clear, concise and brief but sweet introduction to UML. Each topic is short and gets to the point. Main pitfall of UML are explained well, and the reader upon reading this book can "speak" the UML language.
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1.0 out of 5 stars drive-by publishing is full of errors and misinformation, April 23 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: UML Distilled: A Brief Guide to the Standard Object Modeling Language (3rd Edition) (Paperback)
As one other reviewed noted, it's understandable that the first edition was rushed, but it's not acceptable that the 3rd edition is still so full of errors. The only reason I bought the 3rd edition was because I thought that it would be better than the 2nd, but it is not much better.
The author's informal style glosses over the numerous errors in the book. This is not standard UML (1 or 2). Often the most important concepts of UML are shown in only a single diagram and discussed very briefly, while the author's pet peeves and non-standard adaptations of UML are elaborated for pages.
There are several outright errors. E.g., just try to find figure 5.1, it is not there!
This book seems to be part of an effort to cast UML as being defined by celebraties, specifically Fowler, Booch, Jacobson, Rumbaugh, and some of the XP advocates. Repeatedly, individual preferences are shown to superceed the standard. UML is not a cult of personality, it *is* a standard notation. The whole point of UML is to have one notation that students, professionals, and tool vendors can agree on.
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2.0 out of 5 stars UML 2, but not as we know it!, Oct. 30 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: UML Distilled: A Brief Guide to the Standard Object Modeling Language (3rd Edition) (Paperback)
I disappointed by this, the third edition of UML Distilled. The first edition of this book was clearly rushed out to meet the release of the UML specification and so contained many inaccuracies. However, this is now the third edition and it still has many problems.
The biggest issue is that the author has too many non-standard diagrams. These are helpfully labelled "non-normative", and are an odd mix of UML 1, UML 2 and some other bits and pieces that the author likes. Now what is the point of this? These diagrams won't be supported by UML 1 tools, or by UML 2 tools, so how is one to draw them? Also, the non-normative diagrams do not have a metamodel or any well-defined semantics, so even if one were to build a tool to support their syntax, their semantics would still be open to debate.
The next issue is that many of the UML 2 diagrams are syntactically incorrect (e.g. the use of dependencies rather than connectors in composite structures). Perhaps this is because the author was writing the book while the UML 2 specification was still being developed. Personally, I would rather he had waited a bit rather than give us something only partially baked.
The discussion of UML syntax implies that UML as a visual language is much less powerful and complete than it actually is. For example the very brief discussion of sequence diagrams misses out most of their important new features. You don't learn about combined fragments, references, gates or parameters (although some of these are mentioned in passing). Yet these are the things that make UML 2 sequence diagrams so much more powerful and useable than they were in UML 1. In fact, the sequence diagrams in this book look like they have been translated directly from UML 1 sequence diagrams without applying any of the new features.
The discussion of UML semantics is generally disappointing. UML 2 has tied UML semantics down very tightly - it has had to do this because of MDA. However, in this book you get the impression that much of it is still quite vague and open to interpretation - hence the "non-normative" diagrams.
On the whole, the level of detail is, in many cases, too low to be useful even in a "distilled presentation". For example, you get 2 pages on interaction overview diagrams, and in this you lean that the author hasn't really worked out how to use them effectively and doesn't really care for them anyway. Yet these diagrams are important. They give us, for the first time, the ability to string together isolated interactions into workflows in a precise way.
On the whole, I can't recommend this book. Try "UML 2 for Dummies" instead.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Much Improved 3rd Edition, Oct. 13 2003
By 
Paul M. Dubuc (Columbus, OH USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: UML Distilled: A Brief Guide to the Standard Object Modeling Language (3rd Edition) (Paperback)
Previous editions of this book were very useful but contained some obvious flaws. The 1st edition was hastily put together when UML was new and the 2nd edition was a relatively minor update to keep up with changes to the UML Standard. This 3rd edition is a major overhaul of the book and is a significant improvement. Lot's of new material has been added to bring the book up-to-date with UML 2.0. Most of the chapters have been rewritten and reorganized into a more useful sequence. The rewrite benefits from Martin Fowler's recent experience teaching classes on UML. I'm glad to see that chapter 11 "UML and Programming" in the 2nd edition has been removed. It was the least useful part of the book and the space has been better utilized in the 3rd edition by focusing on more specifically on UML and the added material for UML 2.0. This book is worth the price to "upgrade" from previous editions.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A readable and informative introduction to UML, July 15 2004
By 
Devkl "David" (Orange County, CA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: UML Distilled: A Brief Guide to the Standard Object Modeling Language (3rd Edition) (Paperback)
Readable! Excellent intro. On the inside covers, nice quick reference. As a web developer with no UML experience looking for a clearer way to pre-visualize my projects, this book got me going fast and offered perspective on best usage of the UML. The author's experience-driven opinions helped me learn faster. The book is honest about itself in that it admits it doesn't try to offer rare details of the UML that you'll rarely use. It keeps to what you'll use MOST of the time. It delivered 100% of what I was looking for. If you're already using the UML, I still think this is a great read for you.
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5.0 out of 5 stars exactly what I wanted, May 1 2004
By 
Nishant Agarwal (Simi Valley, CA, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: UML Distilled: A Brief Guide to the Standard Object Modeling Language (3rd Edition) (Paperback)
Now this is what I am talking about. It really follows the 20-80 rule. I am sick and tired of reading books which start from the basics as if I am a complete idiot and then form the story in a roundabout manner. You can always get the basics of anything from the internet for free, and as engineers, as most of us are, I presume, we can pick up any new technology fast. So what we need is this kind of books. The author has done a great job. He shows us the 20 percent of what we will use for 80 percent of the time. Only suggestion: give and illustrate more examples.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The figure 5.1, June 19 2004
By 
This review is from: UML Distilled: A Brief Guide to the Standard Object Modeling Language (3rd Edition) (Paperback)
I've read a review here, which says that "UML Distilled" 3rd edition has a lot of errors and mention missing figure 5.1 as an example. So I bought "UML Weekend Crash Course" instead, and was very disappointed with it. Then I finally bought this book, and I love it. It describes everything in a clear and simple way. And, by the way, the figure 5.1 is there on page 67, exactly where it should be.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great at beginning but sloppy at the end, Sept. 11 2005
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This review is from: UML Distilled: A Brief Guide to the Standard Object Modeling Language (3rd Edition) (Paperback)
Fowler is one of my favorite writers. This book is a great book that is a must on the bookshelf of any serious developers. However, in spite of its power, which you can read in other reviews, it has some minor problems/mistakes.
Fowler, in this book, reminds me of a good instructor who starts a course very well, but at the end of the semester he just wants to finish all the topics carelessly.
The first eleven chapters are great and very well done, but the problem starts at chapter twelve, specifically when he tries to explain the "Composite Structure Diagram" and the usage of Ball-and-Socket notation in Component Diagram. He fails to do the job, however later on in his blog he tries to justify some of his mistakes. you can find the discussion under Ball-And-Socket post.
Another minor mistake is on page 89, when he confuses the concept of the namespace in .Net. I have seen that most of the people with Java background are confusing the "namespace" concept in .Net with "package" in java. Namespaces in .Net have nothing to do with access modifiers. I believe the more equivalent of packages in java are assemblies in .Net and for the Package diagram in UML one should consider an assembly as an equivalent to a package in the diagram.
The first two editions of the book were very successful, and after releasing the UML 2.0 a new edition, which covers the new elements in UML 2.0, was needed, but it seems Fowler was very busy at the time and he just wanted to upgrade the book in two or three days.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To the point, Feb. 14 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: UML Distilled: A Brief Guide to the Standard Object Modeling Language (3rd Edition) (Paperback)
Nice book. To the point. Beginners will appreciate it and experts will find it as a good reference. It's nice to see a well written tech book now and then. Another book that's pretty awesome that techies will certainly love is The System by Roy Valentine. Another well written book.
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