You will be redirected in 30 seconds or close now.

ColdFusion Authors: Yakov Fain, Jeremy Geelan, Maureen O'Gara, Nancy Y. Nee, Tad Anderson

Related Topics: ColdFusion

ColdFusion: Article

Taking a First Look at FusionDebug

The first interactive debugger for ColdFusion MX

I remember a particularly long weekend sitting in a computer lab for 12 hours and trying to write an assembler program on a VAX machine that would read and write files. (A VAX is a big archaic mainframe computer.)

It took many days, but I was finally able to provide successful results. Sometimes, I think we take for granted that ColdFusion makes our lives extremely easy. (Even a novice CF developer should be able to figure out how to read and write files in under five minutes.) One tool that was integral to my success in the project was the use of an interactive debugger. In my professional career, I've used one for writing Pascal and Lotus Notes, but, moving to the Web world, debuggers were noticeably vacant. That is until now. The folks who brought us Fusion Reactor have now brought us FusionDebug, the first interactive debugger for ColdFusion MX.

Why Do You Need an Interactive Debugger?
What is an interactive debugger? It is a tool that allows you to view the results of your code, line by line. You can see the value of variables, queries, CFC Instances, and change the values of variables on the fly. If you slip back into the old days of your memory, you probably remember a product called ColdFusion Studio, right? Before CFEclipse, ColdFusion Studio was the tool that (almost) everyone used for creating ColdFusion applications. A little known (and even lesser used) feature in CF Studio was the availability of an interactive debugger. Unfortunately, the product was hard to configure and even harder to use, so it never became a staple of the ColdFusion developer's toolbox. Today, the landscape of ColdFusion development is much different than it was in the CF Studio days. In the old days, most templates did multiple things and business logic code was implemented right next to display logic. There was little thought of code encapsulation, and templates were written the same way they were processed (start at the top and work your way down). Although CFML custom tags and User-Defined Functions provided facilities for encapsulating code, it wasn't until ColdFusion Components were introduced that people started to apply advanced programming principles to their ColdFusion applications. Business logic is now put inside of CFCs. Frameworks such as Model-Glue and Mach-II help us separate business logic and presentation code. When a single ColdFusion page loads, it may be performing actions where the code is located across multiple files. It isn't always easy to find the root of your errors. FusionDebug is a tool that will help you find and correct your troublesome code.

I thought a good place to start might be to offer a definition of debugging concepts and definitions:

  • Breakpoint: A breakpoint is a spot in your code where you want the debugger to stop, and can be any line with CFML code (tags, variables, and so on). After starting a debug session in FusionDebug, you'll load the page you want to debug in the browser and FusionDebug will intercept it at your first breakpoint. (It can also intercept requests from pages and CFCs called from Flex, AJAX, Flash Remoting, and Web services.) If there are no breakpoints, the page will run as normal. Breakpoints do not have to be in the page you request, they can be located in CFCs, custom tags, includes, or UDFs.
  • Variables: You already know what a variable is and how to use them. (If not, read "Creating Variables in CFML" from CFDJ, Vol. 6, issue 2 [http://coldfusion.sys-con.com/read/43790.htm]). The variable list of FusionDebug shows all of the variables currently available to the template you are in, at the point where you're debugging. It will display local variables (the variables scope), URL, Form, request, CGI, and cookie variables, as well as shared-scope variables like session and application, and more.
  • Expressions: In the past I've always referred to these as "watch variables." Expressions, in its simplistic form, are variables that you want to keep tabs on. However, the expression pane of FusionDebug will support any ColdFusion expression. Perhaps you want to keep tabs on what the first item of a list is, or the last element in an array? You can do that with the Expression tab.
  • Debug: The debug command means to starts a debugging session. In other software I've seen this described as "run" or "execute."
  • Step Into: A step is how you move from one line of code to the next. There are three variations of the Step depending on what you want to do. Step Into is probably what you'll use most of the time. It means to step over this line of code, but jump into any functions, custom tags, or CFC method calls that are called from the line of code you're on. FusionDebug will open the file that you step into and stop at the first line of CFML code.
  • Step Over: Step Over is the exact opposite of Step Into. It will execute the code in any function, custom tag, or CFC Method without opening it. It moves right onto the next line. It's a good idea to favor Step Over even on tags and expressions that wouldn't open a file, for reasons I'll explain later.
  • Step Return: Step Return is used when you're inside a file that you stepped into. It will execute the rest of the file, and put you back to the place where the file was initially stepped into
  • Resume: Resume means to continue execution of code until you run out of code, or find another breakpoint.
  • Terminate: Terminate will end the debugging session without completing your code's execution. Usually I try to avoid using this.
These definitions should give you a good understanding of what features the debugger offers. I'll move on to the FusionDebug install, and then an example.

Installing FusionDebug
FusionDebug is created as an eclipse plug in. and you'll need Eclipse to install it. If you're already using CFEclipse or FlexBuilder, you must already have Eclipse installed. If not, you can download Eclipse from www.eclipse.org/. It's as simple as extracting a zip file and running the Eclipse command. There's no installer.

Speaking of CFEclipse, which is another plug-in for editing CFML code, while you don't need to use it with FusionDebug, if you want to try it, I strongly recommend reading the ACME (Apache, ColdFusion, MySQL, Eclipse) guide for detailed instructions (www.stephencollins.org/acme/) on the install. Even if you don't use Apache or MySQL look at just the final chapter on CFEclipse. It's the best place to find detailed installation instructions on CFEclipse. There are two ways to install FusionDebug: using a manual process or an automated one. The automated process uses the "Find and Install Updates" feature built into Eclipse. This is documented in the FusionDebug user guide, which (at the time of this writing) is available at www.fusion-reactor.com/fusiondebug/helpDocs/FusionDebug_User_Guide.pdf. I'm going to step you through the process of the manual install, so while you're at it you may as well download the files for a manual install. The zip archive includes the PDF documentation at "plugins\com.intergral.fusionreactor.debug.core_1.0.0\FusionDebug - User manual.pdf". No matter which way you install, I recommend reading through the guide. Plugins for Eclipse are located in a subdirectory of your Eclipse installation named plugins. You can unzip the download to the plugins directory if you wish. Restart Eclipse so the plugin is found. If you don't wish to extract into your Eclipse directory, unzip somewhere else, and copy the directories manually. There are two directories you need to put in "eclipseinstall\plugins": "com.intergral.fusionreactor.debug.core_1.0.0" and "com.intergral.fusionreactor.debug.ui_1.0.0". Restart Eclipse and you should be good to go. Yes, the install really is as easy as copying files.

More Stories By Jeffry Houser

Jeffry is a technical entrepreneur with over 10 years of making the web work for you. Lately Jeffry has been cooped up in his cave building the first in a line of easy to use interface components for Flex Developers at www.flextras.com . He has a Computer Science degree from the days before business met the Internet and owns DotComIt, an Adobe Solutions Partner specializing in Rich Internet Applications. Jeffry is an Adobe Community Expert and produces The Flex Show, a podcast that includes expert interviews and screencast tutorials. Jeffry is also co-manager of the Hartford CT Adobe User Group, author of three ColdFusion books and over 30 articles, and has spoken at various events all over the US. In his spare time he is a musician, old school adventure game aficionado, and recording engineer. He also owns a Wii. You can read his blog at www.jeffryhouser.com, check out his podcast at www.theflexshow.com or check out his company at www.dot-com-it.com.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

IoT & Smart Cities Stories
The challenges of aggregating data from consumer-oriented devices, such as wearable technologies and smart thermostats, are fairly well-understood. However, there are a new set of challenges for IoT devices that generate megabytes or gigabytes of data per second. Certainly, the infrastructure will have to change, as those volumes of data will likely overwhelm the available bandwidth for aggregating the data into a central repository. Ochandarena discusses a whole new way to think about your next...
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that Big Data Federation to Exhibit at the 22nd International CloudEXPO, colocated with DevOpsSUMMIT and DXWorldEXPO, November 12-13, 2018 in New York City. Big Data Federation, Inc. develops and applies artificial intelligence to predict financial and economic events that matter. The company uncovers patterns and precise drivers of performance and outcomes with the aid of machine-learning algorithms, big data, and fundamental analysis. Their products are deployed...
Dynatrace is an application performance management software company with products for the information technology departments and digital business owners of medium and large businesses. Building the Future of Monitoring with Artificial Intelligence. Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more busine...
All in Mobile is a place where we continually maximize their impact by fostering understanding, empathy, insights, creativity and joy. They believe that a truly useful and desirable mobile app doesn't need the brightest idea or the most advanced technology. A great product begins with understanding people. It's easy to think that customers will love your app, but can you justify it? They make sure your final app is something that users truly want and need. The only way to do this is by ...
CloudEXPO | DevOpsSUMMIT | DXWorldEXPO are the world's most influential, independent events where Cloud Computing was coined and where technology buyers and vendors meet to experience and discuss the big picture of Digital Transformation and all of the strategies, tactics, and tools they need to realize their goals. Sponsors of DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO benefit from unmatched branding, profile building and lead generation opportunities.
Digital Transformation and Disruption, Amazon Style - What You Can Learn. Chris Kocher is a co-founder of Grey Heron, a management and strategic marketing consulting firm. He has 25+ years in both strategic and hands-on operating experience helping executives and investors build revenues and shareholder value. He has consulted with over 130 companies on innovating with new business models, product strategies and monetization. Chris has held management positions at HP and Symantec in addition to ...
Cell networks have the advantage of long-range communications, reaching an estimated 90% of the world. But cell networks such as 2G, 3G and LTE consume lots of power and were designed for connecting people. They are not optimized for low- or battery-powered devices or for IoT applications with infrequently transmitted data. Cell IoT modules that support narrow-band IoT and 4G cell networks will enable cell connectivity, device management, and app enablement for low-power wide-area network IoT. B...
The hierarchical architecture that distributes "compute" within the network specially at the edge can enable new services by harnessing emerging technologies. But Edge-Compute comes at increased cost that needs to be managed and potentially augmented by creative architecture solutions as there will always a catching-up with the capacity demands. Processing power in smartphones has enhanced YoY and there is increasingly spare compute capacity that can be potentially pooled. Uber has successfully ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CrowdReviews.com has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5–7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CrowdReviews.com is a transparent online platform for determining which products and services are the best based on the opinion of the crowd. The crowd consists of Internet users that have experienced products and services first-hand and have an interest in letting other potential buye...
When talking IoT we often focus on the devices, the sensors, the hardware itself. The new smart appliances, the new smart or self-driving cars (which are amalgamations of many ‘things'). When we are looking at the world of IoT, we should take a step back, look at the big picture. What value are these devices providing. IoT is not about the devices, its about the data consumed and generated. The devices are tools, mechanisms, conduits. This paper discusses the considerations when dealing with the...