Review ‘Activiti 5.x Business Process Management’ by Zakir Laliwala and Irshad Mansuri

I’ve been contacted by the people of Packt Publishing to review their recent book release of the ‘Activiti 5.x Business Process Management”, written by Dr. Zakir Laliwala and Irshad Mansuri. For an open source project, books are a good thing. They indicate that a project is popular, and often people prefer books over gathering all the information from bits all over the internet. Don’t expect any insight into use cases, process modeling best practices or how to fit Activiti architecturally though, this is a hands-on description on how you get started technically with Activiti.

The book, as is clear from the cover, clearly aims to people who want to get started with Activiti and have no prior knowledge of it:

7065OS_Activiti 5.x Business Process Management Beginner's Guide


So, before going into more details, I’m happy to report that the book does exactly that. It introduces Activiti and its concepts gently and with a lot of screenshots of installing components but also when executing certain code. For people who are well advanced in Activiti certain things are a given, but I can imagine for people that have to start from zero these steps help to get bootstrapped quicker and with a lot less pain during learning.

In the past, I’ve read (and reviewed) books from Packt where the English wasn’t good to a point where it hindered reading it. However, the English in this book is really well-written and understandable. Absolutely no complaints here.

Some of the remarks I noted down some small remarks while reading the book:

  • The XML formatting of the process XML is often not readable due to lack of indentation and formatting. Probably a problem in general for printed books, but it’s very hard to understand the processes without structure.
  • I liked the fact that many concepts in the book were accompanied with a unit test, something I definitely support!
  • The bit about reporting had a bad screenshot, which kinda defeats the purpose of showing reporting
  • In chapter 5, it seems to hint that the activiti.cfg.xml way of configuring the engine is ‘Spring-only’, but actually this can be used outside of spring (only relying on spring-beans to have the parsing)
  • Chapter 6 about the services was really good: clearly explained and always with a short example/unit test. Also explains how to do debugging of processes. Many people will find this chapter useful
  • Chapter 7 was the same, but now for REST. Decent explanation of rest client install *and* unit testing with an http client. Nice.
  • Chapter 8 (integration with Liferay/Drools/OSGI) felt a bit ‘off’. It’s something I would have placed at the end of the book, and I definitely would have placed chapter 9 (advanced Activiti constructs) before as it fits better. Also, it doesn’t really go deep, it’s more about how Activiti is integrated with those technologies, accompanied with screenshots of the installation process. No insight into use cases or how it would be used in reality (granted, which is probably not the goal of this book).

So in summary: I cheer for everything being written about Activiti, so I really like the fact that this book was written. But more-so, I think it targets the beginners audience well. It has one goal: get a technical someone going with Activiti quickly and teaching the basics. I believe  people who are in the dark about Activiti and need to get started will be able to get going quickly with this book.

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