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Jess in Action: Java Rule-Based Systems

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A practical handbook for anyone interested in programming rule-based systems and written by the creator of the popular Java rule engine, Jess, this book is structured around a series of large, fully developed practical examples of rule-based programming in Java. After the topic of rule-based systems is introduced, software developers and architects are shown the Jess rule programming language in an accessible, tutorial style. Demonstrated is how to quickly progress from building freestanding interactive applications to rule-based Web and Enterprise software. Specific issues covered in this process include designing the application, embedding Jess in Java applications, and using a rule engine in the J2EE environment.

Text introduces rule programming concepts and teaches the Jess language. Progresses through a series of fully-developed applications chosen to expose the reader to practical rule-based development. Includes examples of a tax forms advisor, diagnostic assistant, fuzzy logic controller, Web agent, and J2EE applications.

This book was originally conceived in August 2001. As I write these words now in May 2003, I feel like I’ve stayed quite close to the original concept for the book. Then, as now, despite the still-growing prominence of rule-based systems in nearly every field of software development, the few available books on the topic were heavily theoretical and lacking in real-world examples. With this book, I set out to change that pattern. The book you’re holding is structured around a series of large, fully developed, and eminently practical examples of rule-based programming in Java.

This book can be used in several ways. First, it is a general introduction to rulebased systems. If you’ve never encountered rule-based systems before, you’ll want to read part 1 closely. This first section of the book introduces the concepts behind rule-based systems, discusses their applications, and shows some first examples of rule-based programs written with Jess. Part 1 also discusses what’s involved in adopting a rule-based solution at your company. Although the programming examples in later chapters use Jess as a vehicle, the concepts presented will transfer to other rule engines easily.

Second, this book is a programmer’s manual for the Jess rule language. Part 2 is part Jess language reference and part tutorial. It first introduces you to the language, and how the language is integrated with Java. Later chapters in this part discuss rules and working memory elements—the data that rules operate on. There’s also a chapter describing some of the theory behind Jess and what makes it run fast.

This book includes listings of code in both the Jess and Java languages. It also contains transcripts of interactive sessions at the Jess prompt. All of these are set in monospace type. Keywords, function names, variable names, and symbols in any language are also set in monospace when they occur in the main text. It is generally clear from context whether I’m talking about Jess code or Java code, because the two don’t look much alike.
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