(In fact, most of the early entries in this blog are about various obscure -- and now superfluous -- uses of this feature. For example, all those blog entries about starting JBoss from Ant scripts is now, of course, not necessary anymore.) On the other hand, I was not alone in thinking this cool feature was gone -- click here for evidence of another confused soul.
So, anyway, it's all good. In fact, it's even better than it used to be -- check out the Navigator with all my favorite targets (it would be nice, though, if I could organize my targets into folders):
They're now more visible than they used to be, in a separate window, the Navigator. You can right-click a target and run it or create a shortcut for it, as before. Note that in the screenshot above, the Ant targets belong to an Ant script that isn't part of a NetBeans project. So, if you have an Ant script anywhere on your system, why not just use the Favorites window to access it and the Navigator to run (and create shortcuts for) its targets?
By the way, if you're developing NetBeans plug-in modules or if you're building an application on top of the NetBeans Platform, the build.xml file is available in the Projects window (so you don't need to look around in the Files window to find it). Instead, all you've got to do is expand the Important Files node. I'm looking forward to this node also being available for other projects types.