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Unlocking the Secrets of ColdFusion: Going Beyond Static HTML Pages

written by: Sheila Robinson•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 6/30/2011

New and even veteran web designers may find themselves wondering, "What is ColdFusion?" Well, worry no more, the answer is here. Read this article to find out more details about what it can do for web design and development.

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    About ColdFusion

    What is ColdFusion? ColdFusion is two distinct technologies: CFML language and a ColdFusion Application Server. It enables you to create dynamic web pages that improve connectivity for data collection/processing, generating reports, email interaction and user interfaces.

    ColdFusion allows you to write web based applications without scripting or development programming languages (CFML). It is also a web application server that resides on the same computer as your web server. Although it is not a traditional programming language, it supports them. To run and process its applications, ColdFusion can be used in a standalone mode with an integrated web server, or utilize an existing web server.

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    What are Dynamic Web Pages?

    Unlike standard HTML pages that simply have text and hyperlinks, a dynamic web page pulls information from other applications (little text), and then communicate with a database to extract information. They allow you to query database applications for data, enhance standard HTML form capabilities with data validation. It can also customize display of dates, times, currency values in a formatted display and create printable content.

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    ColdFusion Markup Language (CFML)

    What is ColdFusion CFML? This markup language extends standard HTML files with a high level of formatting, functions, conditional operators and database commands. It is easy to test and run. Most common functions are built-in, but custom functions can be created. CFML files can be written into any web editor that accepts plain text (except MS Word) and does not need to be compiled or linked (unlike traditional programming languages). However, it is built on Java architecture and can work with Intranet/Internet/Extranet and portal environments. ColdFusion files have .cfm or .cfml file extensions.

    CFML can read data to and from databases and tables. It can create dynamic data driven pages, process form submissions, populate forms with live data, work with HTTP/FTP functions, provide credit card verification/authorization, generate and retrieve email messages, as well as read/write client side cookies. It can also retrieve/update data in applications including: corporate databases, spreadsheets, XML data, ASCII-delimited files, .NET classes and assemblies, web services, and contact management software.

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    About the ColdFusion Application Server

    The ColdFusion application server is the program that reads and compiles, processes any supplied CFML instructions. It is a complete J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) server that runs on top of the Java platform. CFML instructions are passed to ColdFusion using templates that have special “CF” tags or “#” functions. When ColdFusion processes its CFM/CFML pages, it creates Java source code and compiles it into Java byte code automatically. Then the processed instructions are then sent to the web server. The web server then sends the results back to the client browser.

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    Final Thoughts

    If this article is used as a guideline, you will have a basic understanding of what is ColdFusion and how it can be applied to web design and development. While standard and static HTML pages are useful for text and simple displays, the dynamic capabilities that ColdFusion provides open the door to live, interactive pages that will capture your web audience.