After reading Jim Crossley's blog "Hating Maven less than Ant" I did a little thinking and reminiscing . . . . . Ant is almost certainly no longer in the ascendant with Maven making more in-roads but I still see more Ant than Maven in industry.
I fell in love with Ant back in 2002 when I found I could very quickly and easily plug in other tools such as Checkstyle, PMD, JUnit etc. especially with the help of one of my favorite books "Java Development with Ant"
Let me also address a few points from Jim's blog
1) "XML, which should never be used as a programming language "
Ant is really a souped up version of "make" which was declarative in nature - so is XML - prescribing "what" to do, not "how". But for most folks, it's true, eventually we end up writing "how" stuff (procedural things) for the more complex things - but still XML is not too bad as most ant tasks should be pretty small / modular and reusable.
2) "Ant allows you to describe your build however you please, but you must effectively do it from scratch for each project"
That's not necessarily true, back in '03 I created a re-usable ant library for all the basic things you need to run (clean, compile, test, checkstyle, create reports, email files etc.) and it's configurable via a property file. Hey if you keep the same basic project folder structure (standardization is not a bad thing) then you could re-use it only changing one property - the name of the project since all paths were relative.
But yes, in general, Maven is apparently more easily re-usable. I haven't really used Maven enough to know - I tried in '04 to follow a Maven tutorial and found it so complex (compared to Ant) that it scared me off and I haven't been back. Now that I see the Maven 2 snippet in Jim's blog I think complexity just went up even further. Hopefully I'm wrong - more competition in this space isn't a bad thing.
Furthermore until Eclipse integration with Ant improved I didn't make the jump to Eclipse and stuck with my company's prescribed IDE (JBuilder / WSAD).
Anyway this is a note to say, I guess, that my love for Ant is still strong - it has made my life as a developer and architect easier for many years now and, although showing her age a little, it is still the "little engine that could". I contrast that with Eclipse - so many dependencies to resolve yourself - bugs preventing me from easily upgrading. A great tool and getting better but not without it's cost in time and effort configuring, recovering workspaces etc.
For those of you using Ant already I can't stress enough how useful the book "Java Development with Ant" has been and continues to be. For those not using Ant or Maven you really are missing out on some powerful tools? Are there any alternatives I should know about?