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RIA & Ajax: Article

ColdFusion 8 Makes Developers' Lives Easier

A high-level overview

On May 30, Adobe released the public beta of ColdFusion 8, which means that we at CFDJ can now begin writing and talking publicly about all the great new features.

I’ll add a disclaimer to that statement: CF 8 is currently in public beta and things, though not likely, can change between the public beta and the final release – so the CF 8 specific content in CFDJ will be kept light to null in order to ensure that the content we deliver is accurate for the final release. That said, the features included in CF 8 are unlikely to change between now and the official release, so this month I thought I’d give a high-level overview of some significant new features and why developers and companies should be interested in ColdFusion 8.

The first thing to know about what’s new in CF 8 is performance. Not that we didn’t have good performance prior to this release, but based on Adobe’s test results, developers are likely to see anywhere from a 20–500% performance increase when they run the same code on CF 8 that they’re running on CF 7. That, by itself, is a very compelling reason to plan an upgrade/migration to CF 8 when it’s released. An additional feature in CF 8 also allows developers to write code that is much more efficient with regards to performance: the ability to programmatically create and control threading (using a new CFTHREAD tag). Oh, but there’s so much more.

ColdFusion 8 makes developers’ lives easier. There are two significant new features that make administration and troubleshooting easier to do, ultimately making developers more productive. The first is a new Eclipse plug-in that allows developers to debug their applications (think “break points,” “stepping through code,” “watch expressions,” etc.). The second feature is a series of CF Administrator enhancements that includes, among other things, a server/multi-server monitor for tracking real-time information, the ability to tune request performance and threading, and the ability to turn the data type-checking on and off in CFCs. An additional nice new CF Admin feature is the ability to define multiple user accounts for the administrator and to restrict CF Admin access by account.

You may be thinking to yourself, “performance and productivity enhancements are great, but what’s new?” The actual new features are far too numerous to list here, but I’ll mention the ones that I consider extremely significant.

Many new features are all about integration:

  • ColdFusion 8 has tighter integration with LiveCycle Data Services (formerly Flex Data Services) and can be installed with it.
  • Support for Flex/CF interaction has been improved in several ways, including the ability for CF Assembler CFCs to return queries or structures rather than DTOs and the ability for CF to notify Flex applications of data changes on the server.
  • ColdFusion now has support for interaction with Microsoft Exchange Server – you can control connections to the server and programmatically work with Exchange calendars, contacts, and mail services.
  • ColdFusion 8 has a new Event Gateway that allows CF to interact with Flash Media Servers and their Shared Objects.
  • ColdFusion 8 has native support for .NET – you can now work with .NET assemblies as you would other objects.

In addition to integration with other products, ColdFusion 8 has new and enhanced support for other file formats and technologies:

  • ColdFusion 8 has a ton of AJAX support.
    • Developers can programmatically create an AJAX Proxy that allows AJAX client applications to interact with CFC methods.
    • CF now has native support for JSON serialization/deserialization for passing data back and forth with JavaScript applications.
    • There are dozens of enhancements to CFFORM and CFFORM controls that allow developers to easily build AJAX client applications and more rich user interfaces.
  • CF 8 introduces native support for publishing and consuming content in RSS 2.0 and Atom RSS feed formats.
  • There is native support for creating and manipulating images in CFML with ColdFusion 8.
  • ColdFusion 8 now supports the ZIP file format – you can create, open, and manipulate ZIP and JAR files using CFML.
  • ColdFusion 8 includes a lot of improved PDF support and developers now have the ability to programmatically manipulate existing PDF documents and PDF Forms

Two very significant enhancements were made to ColdFusion Components. One new feature is support for interfaces – a feature that is extremely useful for architects and one that takes CFCs one more step toward having complete support for all of the features you’d expect in an object-oriented language. The other CFC enhancement, one that for me is ranked in the top three of all the new features in CF 8, is that CFCs are now serializable. This means that ColdFusion Component instances in the session scope will replicate between servers in a cluster – a feature essential when developing true enterprise ColdFusion applications.

There are numerous other language and feature enhancements in ColdFusion 8 including a much enhanced report builder and report functionality, enhancements to the Application.cfc-based application framework, the ability to create online presentations (slide shows), new JDBC drivers, a new Verity version, new encryption functionality, JBoss support, support for JDK 1.6, Apache Derby database support, database driver logging support, the ability to programmatically access information about data sources, and CFML language enhancements that include implicit array and structure creation and JavaScript operator support in expressions.

There are many additional features that I didn’t mention and so much more that I could say about each and every one of the features I’ve described here, but I’ve tried to touch on all of the significant enhancements and additions that ColdFusion 8 brings to an organization. If you haven’t downloaded the ColdFusion 8 beta or looked at the documentation, both are available on the Adobe Labs site at http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/coldfusion8/. In addition, in upcoming months keep your eye on upcoming issues of CFDJ, the Adobe ColdFusion, Labs, and DevNet sites, and developer blogs for more on the benefits of moving to ColdFusion 8.

More Stories By Simon Horwith

Simon Horwith is the CIO at AboutWeb, LLC, a Washington, DC based company specializing in staff augmentation, consulting, and training. Simon is a Macromedia Certified Master Instructor and is a member of Team Macromedia. He has been using ColdFusion since version 1.5 and specializes in ColdFusion application architecture, including architecting applications that integrate with Java, Flash, Flex, and a myriad of other technologies. In addition to presenting at CFUGs and conferences around the world, he has also been a contributing author of several books and technical papers.

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