ColdFusion Introduction and Resources
What is ColdFusion?
ColdFusion is a rapid web development platform designed to be expressive and powerful. The ColdFusion platform is based on Java and uses the Apache Tomcat J2EE container. ColdFusion runs on Windows, Linux, Mac OS, and Solaris operating systems.
ColdFusion's integrated development environment (IDE), called Adobe ColdFusion Builder, is also available for purchase from Adobe Systems.
ColdFusion was first developed by the Allaire Corporation, specifically by brothers Joseph and Jeremy Allaire, with the intent of simplifying the process of connecting simple HTML web pages to a database. ColdFusion was first released in July 1995, written in Microsoft Visual C++ and limited to running on Microsoft Windows operating systems.
ColdFusion version 3.1, released in January 1998, introduced a port to the Sun Solaris operating system.
The Allaire Corporation announced a merger with Macromedia in January 2001. ColdFusion version 5 is the first release from Macromedia after the acquisition of Allaire Corporation, and the last ColdFusion release written in C++ and coded for a specific platform.
ColdFusion MX version 6, released in June 2002 was based on the Java EE platform and completely rebuilt from the ground up. ColdFusion MX 7 added support for web forms based on Flash and a report builder with output to Adobe PDF, FlashPaper, RTF, and MS Excel formats.
Macromedia was acquired by Adobe Systems Inc in 2005, so the next release of ColdFusion was rebranded to Adobe ColdFusion 8 and released in July 2007. This release introduced several new features, including integration with Adobe Acrobat forms, Microsoft .Net, and Exchange server.
More releases of Adobe ColdFusion followed, up to the currently available Adobe ColdFusion 2016 release, available since February 2016. Adobe's ColdFusion IDE, the Adobe ColdFusion Builder is currently available in version 3, released at the end of April 2014.
ColdFusion is an easy to use rapid development environment that enables users to create powerful server-side web applications very quickly. Creating web applications with ColdFusion requires less code than using similar technologies like ASP or PHP. ColdFusion is normally used for creating data-driven websites and intranets.
It provides many useful features, like simple database access, client-side code generation, conversion from HTML to PDF, and data retrieval from enterprise systems like Active Directory, LDAP, SMTP, POP, HTTP, FTP, and Microsoft Exchange Server. Also supported by ColdFusion is XML parsing, validation, and transformation, in addition to server clustering, task scheduling, graphing, and reporting.
Adobe ColdFusion release 2016 also features a security code analyzer that automatically detects vulnerabilities by scanning the application code. It also brings huge performance improvements to the ColdFusion engine that runs existing code up to 30% faster compared to the earlier release.
Adobe ColdFusion Builder 3 also introduces features like CFML based mobile app development, on-device debugging, multi-device inspection, and Linux support.
Getting Started with ColdFusion
If you have prior experience in working with integrated development environments (IDEs), setting up and using ColdFusion should not be too difficult.
Your ColdFusion Development Environment
Before you can start using ColdFusion, you'll need to get your development environment set up. You have two easy options for this:
- The first option is to download Adobe ColdFusion Developer Edition. This is a free and fully functional version of ColdFusion for local host development. The only limitation is that it can be accessed from only two remote IP addresses. Detailed installation instructions are available at the Adobe website.
- If you just want to check out ColdFusion, you can also download ColdFusion Express edition, but keep in mind that it is not meant for production deployment and does not have the full functionality of ColdFusion. ColdFusion Express is not installed, you just unzip the archive and start it. Detailed instructions are available at the Adobe website. Features not supported by ColdFusion Express are SOLR service, Microsoft .NET platform, remote administration, and PDF creation.
While ColdFusion is losing appeal, you should still have no trouble finding useful tutorials, ebooks, and interactive online courses. We singled out a few of them:
Free Interactive Courses
Free interactive courses provide a good starting point to learning the basics of ColdFusion web development:
- Learn CF in a Week is a detailed online course with a number of ColdFusion tutorials, and it is free.
- Lynda.com also has a nice selection of ColdFusion tutorials.
- After Hours Programming is a beginner's tutorial for ColdFusion, taking you through the basics of CF development.
- Nafis's Classroom YouTube Channel has 25 video tutorials and lessons covering ColdFusion, so if you prefer video lessons, check them out.
Tutorials and references with code examples can be very useful, and many developers prefer to use resources with plenty of sample code. Here are some of the most comprehensive and detailed resources on ColdFusion:
- Adobe ColdFusion User Manual provides links to many useful resources, like the official CFML reference, installation guide, administration guide, and so on.
- Adobe ColdFusion Developer Center has a nice "learn the basics of ColdFusion" section, with details about what ColdFusion is, how it works, what you can do with it, and other useful resources.
- Adobe ColdFusion Tutorial and Articles is an extensive collection of official tutorials and interesting ColdFusion articles.
There are a lot of books on the many versions of ColdFusion, but we have decided to highlight just two of them:
- Fast Track to ColdFusion 10/11 by Steven Drucker and David Gallerizzo provides experienced web developers with the knowledge and hands-on practice they need to start building and maintaining dynamic and interactive web applications using the ColdFusion application server.
- Adobe ColdFusion 9 Web Application Construction Kit, Volume 1: Getting Started by Ben Forta is the best-selling ColdFusion series of all time — the book that most ColdFusion developers used to learn the product.
Further Reading and Resources
We have more guides, tutorials, and infographics related to web development:
- How to Make a Website: there are lots of ways to build a website, and this article lays out your options.
- HTML for Beginners — Ultimate Guide: if you want to learn how to hand-code HTML, this really is the ultimate guide.
- CSS3 — Intro, Guides & Resources: learn the details of webpage layout with this introduction and detailed list of resources.
Ultimate Guide to Web Hosting
If you are going to be creating websites, you are going to need to host them somewhere. Check out our Ultimate Guide to Web Hosting. It will explain everything you need to know in order to make an informed choice.