This article will focus on practical ideas and habits that, when consistently applied, will allow you to develop and create better ColdFusion Applications – regardless of which CF version you use, the hardware you run on, or the methodology you employ – as well as make your development easier.

-> Know the Database

Many ColdFusion developers do not take advantage of the power and features of their database, often trying to solve problems in ColdFusion that are better solved through the use of SQL and or specific features in their database.

The main reason for this is that many CF developers feel the need for more than an understanding of SQL syntax and basic relational database theory. As a CF developer you need to understand that each RDBMS has specific strengths and weaknesses, and powerful tools and features that can make your life easier and your application more scalable and robust. The database may also have features that, if not understood, can make development more difficult.

Make sure you have read up on your particular DB and are at least aware of what it can do for your application. For example, many developers try to port code developed for MS SQL to Oracle, and find their join statements throw exceptions, never realizing that while their SQL is correct in the generic sense, Oracle does not support the Join statement and requires you to use the symbolic representation for a join rather than the literal statement.

When building applications, try to build your data model and data access routines independently of your application code. In Web application projects, it can be impractical to totally abstract the data layer from your code, but even in smaller projects you can write many of your queries independently of your ColdFusion code and use literals in the place of variables. In larger applications, and depending on your architecture, creating CFCs, CF custom tags, or templates that you later include into other code that contains your data access and manipulation code, makes a lot of sense. It allows you to test your SQL, reducing the amount of redundant code written, and increasing code reuse. Finally, it also allows you to use database tools to help analyze your SQL to increase performance and find bottlenecks.

-> Style, Code Standards, and Readability

Developers tend to think about how to solve a particular problem in the most efficient or interesting way. They tend to forget that the most important thing in building an application that will be used and supported is maintainability.
The first thing you should always do when building any app is select or create style and coding guidelines. If you do not have one, Macromedia’s internal Web development group has published their ColdFusion Coding Guidelines at Regardless of what you choose, you need to make sure everyone in your development team adheres to it. Also remember that nothing ever stays in stasis and at times it makes sense to change your guidelines. When you do, be extra rigorous to make sure that people switch to the new guidelines.

Creating clean and understandable code is an art in itself and in most Web applications is far more important than creating the most efficient code. The reason for this is that with almost all Web applications, performance problems can be dealt with at a hardware and networking level, as long as your code and database are reasonably well designed (also, in my experience most performance issues reside at the database level). It is almost always easier to solve performance issues with more hardware than it is to try to rewrite your code to be more efficient. Also, hardware is a fixed capital cost, but labor isn’t. In almost every project, labor associated with development is the single largest expense.

Furthermore, as applications grow and change over time, the underlying code often needs to be changed. Having code that does not conform to a documented standard makes it harder to collaborate and support any system regardless if it’s ColdFusion or COBOL. While rigorous documentation can add to your development time, sometimes it actually speeds up development dramatically in that you actually know what you need to do when you sit down in front of your computer. Regardless, it's more than worth the effort to document your system to make it easier to support in the future.

-> Think Before You Code

Before you ever write a line of code you should have a clear understanding of what you’re about to do. There are many approaches to creating requirements, modeling systems, developing methodologies, etc. However, CF allows for such ease of development that many people start coding without clearly thinking about what the application needs to do. What’s worse they tend to come back at a later date and slap on more code to create new features, without planning or thinking through what effects those changes will have on the system as a whole.

Before you start to work on your application you should create wireframe diagrams, logical flowcharts, and plainly written descriptions of what the application needs to do. You also need to document what your user is expected or required to do at each point in the processes that require user interaction. There is a large variety of methodologies for describing software systems, and some are very intense and demanding, such as the Universal Modeling Language and Unified Process. Others are much more flexible and easy to use, such as those described as Extreme Programming. Regardless of what you use, you should adopt some method of designing and describing your application and follow it all the time.

Most important, don't reinvent the wheel. If you're working on a problem and think it's something that people must have run into before, you're probably right. Make sure to use the tag libraries, your local user group e-mail list, and resources like,,, Macromedia Dev Center, etc. Good programmers will always use or reuse good code when possible so they can focus on developing the application as a whole.

-> Exception Handling

People have different definitions of what exception handling is, and often make it synonymous with error trapping. In this article I will differentiate between simple trapping errors with CFTRY/CATCH blocks versus actually dealing with unexpected or unforeseen events, and creating a process to deal with those events. You can break down exception handling into several distinct categories: trapping, notification, and logging.

This is what most people confuse with exception handling, which is the catching or trapping of errors, usually through a CFTRY/CFCATCH block and/or a CFTHROW command. You should use CFTRY/CFCATCH blocks in your code where an error or exception may occur, such as a CFQUERY, in that numerous unexpected things can happen in a query from a query failure to the database being down. Once you have trapped your error, you need to do something with it. The first thing you need to do is logically decide if the error needs to be dealt with in some way such as attempting to retry the failing process or notifying a system administrator.

Notifying a user of an error or a problem is often a good idea, but sometimes it can be a bad one. Many developers use e-mail to notify administrators of every exception that happens in an application – a classic mistake of beginning developers. In your planning stage you should think through what exceptions you need to notify a user about, or if you need to notify a user based on a threshold.

For example, you may have implemented a site-wide error-trapping system that e-mails a user whenever there is an exception. One day some new code is integrated that causes an exception every time a user comes to the site. Imagine if you have 70,000 users in an hour. You can easily see how this might bring your mail server to its knees, cause huge performance slowdowns in your server, and generally annoy everyone who is on the receiving end of the notification e-mail.

This is why you need to think through your notification and exception-handling strategy, and in this particular case, you may want to implement a threshold strategy where notification is sent based on severity and frequency. In addition, many errors should first be handled by the system and, if possible, the user should never know a problem has occurred. At the very minimum you can define site-wide error handling in the ColdFusion administrator and refer the user back to the home page. Users should never see a "raw" error message not only because it makes them uncomfortable, but also because it can expose information about the system that then creates a security risk. Many "crackers" purposely try to create exceptions in Web applications so that they can try to gather information that they can exploit to get access to the system.

Many CF developers confuse logging with notification and assume that since CF logs errors, and they have been notified by an error, that is all they need to do. In general, you want to think about what kind of exceptions the system might generate and what you are concerned about, and then log them when they are created. This can help you go back and reduce bottlenecks in your application and find hard-to-reproduce bugs, as well as look for hack attempts at your system. CFMX now makes use of CFLOG, which allows you to easily log your own information about any event you like and is a great way to log additional information about an exception when you trap it.

-> Testing Your Code

Most ColdFusion Developers never really test their code, but would rather build their applications and work on a trial-and-error basis until the users are happy. This often leads to never-ending development cycles as well as bugs that appear after the project has been completed. Testing is a lot more than just making sure that the code runs, or changing features until the client is happy. Good testing can actually allow you to increase the speed with which you develop applications, reduce your frustration level, and increase the long-term maintainability of an application.

Testing forces you to think about the application and what you want your code to do beforehand, by forcing you to write your tests before or in parallel to your application code. If you cannot create a test for your code it often means you don’t have enough information about what you need to develop, and should revisit your design and documentation.

Recently, the concept of unit testing and "test to code" practices have become more popular with ColdFusion, and now there are several useful tools. One of these is CFUnit, which is based on JUnit. It’s available on the Macromedia DevNet Resource Kit (DRK) Volume 3, Also, Steve Nelson of Fusebox fame has developed a testing harness for Fusebox developers at Finally, there’s an open source ColdFusion testing initiative called ColdUnit, which shows great promise:

-> Keep Learning

No matter what your level, you need to keep learning and pushing the envelope of your knowledge. Paradigms and practices in software development are always changing just like in any other discipline, and it’s up to you to keep pace. Good programmers are always monitoring best practices, discussing problems with their peers, and learning new programming languages and technologies. One of the great things about ColdFusion is how easy it is to integrate Java, .NET, and XML. Other technologies and many problems that are extremely difficult to deal with using ColdFusion only are trivial when you use another language, but you won’t know that if all you do is focus on ColdFusion. Another great way to learn is to contribute to online discussions, and better yet, to contribute to your local ColdFusion or Macromedia user groups. If you want to learn a topic or really see if you know it, try teaching it to others.

-> Always Use Source Control

Most ColdFusion Developers never use source control – even on large projects! While most ColdFusion developers may not think they need to use source control because their project is small, using source control can save you development time, allow you to track your work efforts, provide valuable backups, and allow you to easily manage many similar projects. This also applies to projects that you’re doing yourself or at home. You’ll save yourself a huge amount of frustration knowing that you can always revert to an earlier version of your code; also, the best time to build these habits is when you’re working on your own. There’s no good reason not to use source control and once you get into the habit, you’ll find it takes no more time to use it than to not use it.

There are many excellent source control products out there, like Borland’s StarTeam product, which is also a great tool for collaborative project development. Make sure to look also at Concurrent Version Control, which is the standard for concurrent version control and is available as a free open source tool from Windows versions are also available. If you’re not using source control or version control, start now!

Probably the most important point of this whole article, and what differentiates good programmers from average ones, is that good programmers make all the above strategies habits! Many of us apply some or all of the techniques described above in a haphazard manner, and use them when it’s convenient or when there is no pressure. Really good ColdFusion Programmers do them as a matter of habit no matter what the pressures or time constraints are. The best way to improve as a developer is to always apply the same standards in development no matter the size of the project, even if you’re just coding for fun.

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Semaphore SoftwareSemaphore Software has been developing ColdFusion applications — e-commerce websites and online content management solutions. There has not been even a single instance of project failure during this triumphant phase of ColdFusion web development. But why web development with ColdFusion and not with some other programming or scripting language such as PHP, Ruby on rails or Python? ColdFusion is so fast, Sometimes it seems like magic. It is a language specifically evolved for enterprise level solutions, although it can be easily used — without resorting to an overkill — for smaller websites and applications too. In fact you can use ColdFusion for static web sites too but it is rarely done. It can be easily integrated with any platform from Java to .Net and it supports all Web 2.0 web development features and enhancements such as Ajax and user generated content management. Most of the online content and document management applications are developed using ColdFusion because of its unmatched features.

The web development methodologies at Semaphore Software are time-tested as well as innovative; sometimes we strictly follow the rules and sometimes we define our own rules in order to deliver the maximum benefit to our clients. As a first step towards delivering world-class online application solutions we have only been focusing on programming in ColdFusion. Other than that our strict quality control mechanism is a self-regulatory system that is set in motion as soon as a new project initiates.

We employ highly modular web development techniques while developing solutions for our customers. Due to a very high efficiency level we are able to minimize the time spent on web development and maximize the output and hence charge a very reasonable rate from our clients. Of course ColdFusion has a great part in it because when you work in ColdFusion coding efficiency is handled by its environment automatically.

Our web development activities are mostly centered around developing highly advanced e-commerce and online content publishing solutions for our clients from all over the world. You can easily say that when it comes to developing e-commerce and online publishing applications we have developed an incomparable expertise. We have left no stone unturned trying to understand all the aspects of this great niche.

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Today, outsourcing has almost become the order of the day. So why are global organizations choosing outsourcing to India ? More and more global companies are choosing to outsource today for a number of reasons, such as, cost-effective services, increased efficiency, increased productivity, shared risks, reduced operating costs, increased quality, better services and more time to focus on core competencies.

ColdFusion is the hottest way to create dynamic webpages that link to just about any database. ColdFusion is a programming language based on standard HTML that is used to write dynamic webpages.

ColdFusion is an application development language of choice. ColdFusion is a web application server and software development framework. ColdFusion lets you create pages on the fly. Creating an application with ColdFusion is as straightforward as creating a static Web site.

The main unique feature of ColdFusion is that web pages have the server–side ColdFusion Markup Language (CFML) in addition to HTML. CFML gives you the ability to control the behavior of your applications, integrate a wide range of server technologies, and dynamically generate the content that is returned to the Web browser.

If you have Coldfusion project to be developed and have limited budget and cannot compromise on quality, then you can Outsource ColdFusion development to India.

Outsourcing to India can give your organization a competitive edge. The following are a list of reasons why companies outsource to India.

1. Cost-effective services
2. High-quality services
3. Time Zone Advantages
4. India’s stable government
5. Global organizations’ most preferred choice

At present, India is emerging as one of the popular offshore outsourcing locations to offer cost effective software solutions. The contribution of India in Software Outsourcing India is remarkable. As stated above, the prime reason for choosing India, as an offshore development partner in offshore IT Outsourcing business is the availability of enormous pool of educated manpower combined with world-class quality offerings. Beside this, India has many speakers of English language, which further aids them to work with or for any part of the world.

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I had been meaning to publish this for a while but I decided to sit on it and wait for some of the dust to settle. I was eager to see exactly how many people would join the new Broadchoice Railo.

Now that Railo has finally opened up I think it is high time we take stock in the CFML landscape. What follows is how I view it with (of course) my personal twist/insight in each engine. I've tried to keep my personal commentary to a minimum, or at least hold it off till the end.

Open BlueDragon is GPLv3. It is the most open system with the most open development, though I think we could improve some. Anything that comes from OpenBD is GPLv3 or compatible. It is extensible but currently does not offer any store or other automated mechanism to add the extensions to the engine (though it is not hard and it is documented). So long as a commercial extension does not try to package and distribute the entire engine there are not problems with commercial extensions. Open BlueDragon is backed by a AW2, not New Atlanta. AW2's business model does not rely (primarily) on the CFML engine, though they do leverage it in some of their work from what I understand. When OpenBD was announced the project tried to gain confidence from the community by include some high profile names in the project steering committee (personal observation: BlueDragon had a bad name due to some old NA bad blood with Adobe and many were skeptical).

Railo is LGPL (sorry I can not remember the version I think 2 but maybe 3). It is mostly open. The core offers compelling compatibility and an astounding set of functionality. It is extensible via an app store type model where modules can be added onto the engine (I have not done enough looking to see if this is still manual or automated through the admin). Railo itself plans to make some functionality for pay. Railo the engine is backed by Railo the company and the business model s structure entirely around the Railo engine (services and product sales). Railo has positioned themselves inside the CF community as a competitor to Adobe by sponsoring CF centric events and hiring prominent figures in the CFML community.

ColdFusion is currently the most closed (in terms of source and openness to talk about what is being worked on). It is commercial and when you pay you get the whole kit and caboodle. ColdFusion can be extended through a couple of different means but not quite as tightly integrated as Railo or OpenBD at this point (the main extension point at the Java level is through CFX tags). ColdFusion is the original engine to use CFML and has gone through 2 acuisitions. It's a steady income for Adobe, they care about the CF community and do their part to keep it alive and happy (it is after all steady income for them).

To Adam Lehman's credit I think the information about CF9 has been much more open than previous releases. Don't take this comment too lightly this is a large shift for a large corporation. This comes from some one involved in many previous releases of ColdFusion and I personally see a huge difference in this release. The last couple of releases of ColdFusion have been driven heavily by the community. This is good but at the same time, the community is not full of big thinkers and typically we ask for functionality we need right now. This has resulted in stagnation of the ColdFusion platform, sure it has kept up but it has not PUSH forward much. Let's face it while Adobe (and Macromedia before them) have done a stellar job developing a great product the whole platform itself has sort of dwindled as they have focused on the language too much (not saying the platform has not grown it has but more evolutionary than revolutionary). The innovation seems to have slipped away and as a direct result we have multiple engines available to us now.

Ok now that I got my little side bar tangent out, which engine is right for you? I'm not going to make that decision for you, what is important (in Open BlueDragon team's eyes) is you have an option. We see that as possibly the most important part of being available, you have options. Each engine has compelling reasons to consider it for use. For me personally, in my development, I like the fact that I have complete control over the source code if I need/want it. I like that and that drives me towards OpenBD. For my company, we like a solid platform backed by a single entity and ColdFusion offers that to us.

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