Click here to close now.


You will be redirected in 30 seconds or close now.

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

Related Topics: ColdFusion

ColdFusion: Article

Five Cool Things I've Done with ColdFusion

Mailing labels, bar codes, credit cards, and graphing

I'm at my best when I'm challenged. In my consulting business I tend to gravitate towards small businesses with delusions of grandeur. I want to be the one to help them realize their vision and turn their delusion into reality. Looking back, this has been an interesting week. I thought I'd share some of the interesting things I've done and how ColdFusion helped make them possible.

Monday: Bar Codes
I've been working over the past year to Web enable an MS Access based scheduling system. One item of the application generates attendance cards with a bar code on it for all users. When a user shows up for a class, that user will scan in, and the information is used to track attendance. The client wanted to be able to generate the attendance cards (with bar codes) from the Web. How do you do that?

First, you have to realize what bar codes are. They are just text, or data of some sort, that looks like a bunch of parallel lines. If you don't know what I mean, just flip over your copy of ColdFusion: The Complete Reference, and you'll find one. (Or you can look at any book or CD). These bar codes are generated using a special font. The client provided me with the font, named "3 of 9 Barcode." A simple Web search will reveal many places where you can get this font. I recommend downloading it straight from the source at

Now you're probably thinking that since you have the font name, you can just use the HTML font tag like this: <font name="3 of 9 Barcode">My Bar Code</font>

And you don't even have to use ColdFusion, right? Well, you're on the right track, but things aren't that simple. The first mistake is that you need to put an asterisk (*) before and after the text you want to be able to scan as a bar code. Even with that tidbit of information, you still aren't in the clear. For this approach to work, the bar code font must be installed on the client computer.

When you use a font in HTML like that, that font must be installed on the client computer (not the server), or else a default font is used. The resulting bar code won't scan if it's generated using Helvetica or Times New Roman. (You can trust me on that one.) This font is not a standard font installed on most users computers. Expecting it to be isn't a realistic expectation for Web development. Most people don't have uses for Bar Code fonts in their daily activities. Getting the bar code font installed on all relevant clients of your system would bring you back to the old days of client/server technology where you have to walk through a big dark office building with fluorescent lighting and spend months installing things so the requirements change by the time you're finished with the roll out. There must be a better way, right? Yes!

The answer is to use the ColdFusion Report Builder to generate the attendance cards with bar codes. First, install the bar code font on your development machine and on your production (and/or testing) server. Then, create a new report (or open an existing report). Create a field and give it an expression something like this:

"*" & barcodedata & "*"

In the properties dialog, you should see the 3 of 9 Barcode font listed in the Font name list, as shown in Figure 1. Select that font and your field will look like a bar code. Above the font selection, there is another option for "embedded font." Be sure to select true for this option. Normally, you wouldn't want to embed fonts in a PDF because it makes the overall file size larger, but then you have to ensure that the client computer has the font installed, or it will default itself. Since we don't want to make sure that the client computer has the bar code font installed (for reasons discussed earlier), we embedded it here.

To test the bar codes, you have to scan them. I used a CueCat. The CueCat company has a long disastrous history which results in CueCat scanners being an extremely cheap buy on eBay. Perform a Web search for all the gory details; they are beyond the scope of this article.

Tuesday: Mailing Labels
The mid-week point brought another challenge from above. A client wanted to be able to generate mailing labels. Doing this sort of task with HTML is grueling, tedious, and prone to errors. Especially since different browsers can display the same HTML code in different ways. HTML is not designed for print, and forcing what is on screen to line up with what is on your label sheet is going to be the cause some serious headaches. So, what are the options?

I turned once again to my new best friend, the CF Report Builder. The nice man, Dean, at (no last name is known, but I get the impression he works for Adobe) has created a label wizard for the ColdFusion Report Builder. You can download the wizard at You'll need to have at least 7.01 of the Report Builder installed (and I recommend getting the 7.02 update). In my case, I already had the wizard installed. Since I don't remember installing it, it may have been included in the 7.02 update of the Report Builder. Check your install and you may not have to worry about manually downloading and installing the wizard.

You can find out if you have the label wizard installed by selecting File ‡ New. You should see the Label Creation Wizard as an option in the new dialog, as shown in Figure 2. Select the label creator wizard and click next.

You'll see the first step in the Label Creation Wizard, as shown in Figure 3. Select the label template you want to use. Most labels are based on some form of Avery label template (My client asked for 5160). Select that and click next.

Now you have to define the query fields you want to use to display information on your label, as shown in Figure 4. I manually entered them (The query builder button didn't work for me). Click the next button

The final step in the report builder is to define the layout of your label. Double-click the elements in the left window, and they'll be entered in the right window. The right window is an expression window, but you don't have to worry about writing an expression, because when you click the finish button, text (such as commas) will automatically be escaped when creating the finished template. Save your template and you're good to go.

The last step in the Report Builder is just to run the report using the cfreport tag. Your template will look something like this:

<cfquery name="Getusers" datasource="myDSN">
select firstName, LastName, State, City,. Zip
from users

<cfreport format="PDF" template="LabelReport.cfr" query="Getusers">

Your query will most likely be different, depending on the information you want to print on a label, but you should be able to apply these concepts to your own development.

Wednesday: Credit Card Swipes
One of my clients runs an e-commerce business, and the site implementation is about as classic as an on-line shopping cart can come. The client is in the process of opening up a retail store, and I spent some time modifying the shopping cart to accommodate retail transactions. The biggest difference between retail transactions and Web-based transactions is that you have a credit card to swipe. Swiped cards get a much better merchant rate than Internet or phone orders received, so that is an added benefit of the retail store vs. the Internet store.

The client provided me with a USB credit card swiper so that I could test the process. As far as the computer is concerned, the swiper is not much different than a keyboard; you just get a bunch of data in one scan instead of having to type it out manually. The scanned data is sent to the active program running on your machine. This can be notepad (which is great for testing) or the active form field on a Web browser. I used the latter to integrate into their Web based shopping cart.

The data contained on a credit card consists of the card number, some bank routing information, the customer's name, and other miscellaneous information. More details on the specifics of the credit card swipe data are at To process the credit card data you don't need to know the specifics of what it is. The PayFlow Pro Web API has a field for sending swipe data, so it's easy to send it off the transaction and receive information back just as you would a normal Web transaction. I would expect that most payment processors have a similar option.

Thursday: Processing Bar Codes and Credit Card Swipes
Now that the bar codes were generated, the client wanted to be able to process scanned bar codes in the Web browser. The CueCat, like other bar code readers, operates in the same manner that the credit card scanner does. When you swipe a card or scan a bar code, the scanned (or swiped) information goes to the active screen. If you have a Web browser open, it will go to the selected form field. To start the input page, first we'll need the form:

<form action="BarCodeSCanner.cfm" method="post" name="BarCodeScanner" id="BarCodeScanner">
Scanned Info: <input type="text" name="ScannedInfo">

This is a form that will submit back onto itself. The form has one input field, with no submit button. For attendance purposes in the scheduling system, the scan had to be as painless as possible without any user interaction, so the form is submitted through JavaScript.

How does the browser know we've scanned something? How do we know when to submit? The answer is through the use of a JavaScript timer. The timer is a JavaScript that counts down from some number to 0. When it reaches 0, it checks whether there is data in the ScannedInfo field (or not) and then submits the form if there is.

I used the JavaScript code located at as a base for this. (Much thanks to Paul McFedries' for his assistance). For space reasons, I'll refrain from copying the full script here. There are four variables to take into account:

  • Secs: The secs variable specifies how many clock ticks until the timer reaches 0. This will count down from the initial value to 0.
  • Delay: This is the amount of milliseconds before the timer checks its next status. 1000 milliseconds are equal to one second, so that is the default.
  • TimerID: The timerID is a variable internal to the script. It specifies when the next clock tick will occur.
  • TimerRunning: The timerRunning variable is a Boolean value that tells us whether the timer is running or not. For all intents and purposes, it is internal to the script and you don't need to worry about it.

    There are three functions that make up the timer:

  • InitializeTimer: The initialize timer function sets the secs variable, stops the timer (if currently running), and then starts the timer.
  • StopTheClock: The stop the clock function runs some script to prevent the clock from running.
  • StartTheTimer: The StartTheTimer function is the meat of the execution. It counts down from the clock tick and executes certain code if the count down is done, or moves onto the next clock tick. Of these three functions, it is the StartTheTimer function that needs a more in depth examination.
function StartTheTimer(){
   if (secs==0){
    if (document.BarCodeScanner.ScannedInfo.value != ''){
     } else {

    }else {
     secs = secs - 1
     timerRunning = true
      timerID = self.setTimeout("StartTheTimer()", delay)

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 . 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, check out his podcast at or check out his company at

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.

@ThingsExpo Stories
Scott Guthrie's keynote presentation "Journey to the intelligent cloud" is a must view video. This is from AzureCon 2015, September 29, 2015 I have reproduced some screen shots in case you are unable to view this long video for one reason or another. One of the highlights is 3 datacenters coming on line in India.
SYS-CON Events announced today that HPM Networks will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For 20 years, HPM Networks has been integrating technology solutions that solve complex business challenges. HPM Networks has designed solutions for both SMB and enterprise customers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
When it comes to IoT in the enterprise, namely the commercial building and hospitality markets, a benefit not getting the attention it deserves is energy efficiency, and IoT’s direct impact on a cleaner, greener environment when installed in smart buildings. Until now clean technology was offered piecemeal and led with point solutions that require significant systems integration to orchestrate and deploy. There didn't exist a 'top down' approach that can manage and monitor the way a Smart Building actually breathes - immediately flagging overheating in a closet or over cooling in unoccupied ho...
The enterprise is being consumerized, and the consumer is being enterprised. Moore's Law does not matter anymore, the future belongs to business virtualization powered by invisible service architecture, powered by hyperscale and hyperconvergence, and facilitated by vertical streaming and horizontal scaling and consolidation. Both buyers and sellers want instant results, and from paperwork to paperless to mindless is the ultimate goal for any seamless transaction. The sweetest sweet spot in innovation is automation. The most painful pain point for any business is the mismatch between supplies a...
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tony Shan, Chief Architect at CTS, will explore the synergy of Big Data and IoT. First he will take a closer look at the Internet of Things and Big Data individually, in terms of what, which, why, where, when, who, how and how much. Then he will explore the relationship between IoT and Big Data. Specifically, he will drill down to how the 4Vs aspects intersect with IoT: Volume, Variety, Velocity and Value. In turn, Tony will analyze how the key components of IoT influence Big Data: Device, Connectivity, Context, and Intelligence. He will dive deep to the matrix...
The broad selection of hardware, the rapid evolution of operating systems and the time-to-market for mobile apps has been so rapid that new challenges for developers and engineers arise every day. Security, testing, hosting, and other metrics have to be considered through the process. In his session at Big Data Expo, Walter Maguire, Chief Field Technologist, HP Big Data Group, at Hewlett-Packard, will discuss the challenges faced by developers and a composite Big Data applications builder, focusing on how to help solve the problems that developers are continuously battling.
SYS-CON Events announced today that IBM Cloud Data Services has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. IBM Cloud Data Services offers a portfolio of integrated, best-of-breed cloud data services for developers focused on mobile computing and analytics use cases.
Mobile messaging has been a popular communication channel for more than 20 years. Finnish engineer Matti Makkonen invented the idea for SMS (Short Message Service) in 1984, making his vision a reality on December 3, 1992 by sending the first message ("Happy Christmas") from a PC to a cell phone. Since then, the technology has evolved immensely, from both a technology standpoint, and in our everyday uses for it. Originally used for person-to-person (P2P) communication, i.e., Sally sends a text message to Betty – mobile messaging now offers tremendous value to businesses for customer and empl...
SYS-CON Events announced today that ProfitBricks, the provider of painless cloud infrastructure, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. ProfitBricks is the IaaS provider that offers a painless cloud experience for all IT users, with no learning curve. ProfitBricks boasts flexible cloud servers and networking, an integrated Data Center Designer tool for visual control over the cloud and the best price/performance value available. ProfitBricks was named one of the coolest Clo...
Organizations already struggle with the simple collection of data resulting from the proliferation of IoT, lacking the right infrastructure to manage it. They can't only rely on the cloud to collect and utilize this data because many applications still require dedicated infrastructure for security, redundancy, performance, etc. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Emil Sayegh, CEO of Codero Hosting, will discuss how in order to resolve the inherent issues, companies need to combine dedicated and cloud solutions through hybrid hosting – a sustainable solution for the data required to manage I...
“The Internet of Things transforms the way organizations leverage machine data and gain insights from it,” noted Splunk’s CTO Snehal Antani, as Splunk announced accelerated momentum in Industrial Data and the IoT. The trend is driven by Splunk’s continued investment in its products and partner ecosystem as well as the creativity of customers and the flexibility to deploy Splunk IoT solutions as software, cloud services or in a hybrid environment. Customers are using Splunk® solutions to collect and correlate data from control systems, sensors, mobile devices and IT systems for a variety of Ind...
You have your devices and your data, but what about the rest of your Internet of Things story? Two popular classes of technologies that nicely handle the Big Data analytics for Internet of Things are Apache Hadoop and NoSQL. Hadoop is designed for parallelizing analytical work across many servers and is ideal for the massive data volumes you create with IoT devices. NoSQL databases such as Apache HBase are ideal for storing and retrieving IoT data as “time series data.”
Clearly the way forward is to move to cloud be it bare metal, VMs or containers. One aspect of the current public clouds that is slowing this cloud migration is cloud lock-in. Every cloud vendor is trying to make it very difficult to move out once a customer has chosen their cloud. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Naveen Nimmu, CEO of Clouber, Inc., will advocate that making the inter-cloud migration as simple as changing airlines would help the entire industry to quickly adopt the cloud without worrying about any lock-in fears. In fact by having standard APIs for IaaS would help PaaS expl...
As more and more data is generated from a variety of connected devices, the need to get insights from this data and predict future behavior and trends is increasingly essential for businesses. Real-time stream processing is needed in a variety of different industries such as Manufacturing, Oil and Gas, Automobile, Finance, Online Retail, Smart Grids, and Healthcare. Azure Stream Analytics is a fully managed distributed stream computation service that provides low latency, scalable processing of streaming data in the cloud with an enterprise grade SLA. It features built-in integration with Azur...
Apps and devices shouldn't stop working when there's limited or no network connectivity. Learn how to bring data stored in a cloud database to the edge of the network (and back again) whenever an Internet connection is available. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bradley Holt, Developer Advocate at IBM Cloud Data Services, will demonstrate techniques for replicating cloud databases with devices in order to build offline-first mobile or Internet of Things (IoT) apps that can provide a better, faster user experience, both offline and online. The focus of this talk will be on IBM Cloudant, Apa...
As enterprises capture more and more data of all types – structured, semi-structured, and unstructured – data discovery requirements for business intelligence (BI), Big Data, and predictive analytics initiatives grow more complex. A company’s ability to become data-driven and compete on analytics depends on the speed with which it can provision their analytics applications with all relevant information. The task of finding data has traditionally resided with IT, but now organizations increasingly turn towards data source discovery tools to find the right data, in context, for business users, d...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MobiDev, a software development company, will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MobiDev is a software development company with representative offices in Atlanta (US), Sheffield (UK) and Würzburg (Germany); and development centers in Ukraine. Since 2009 it has grown from a small group of passionate engineers and business managers to a full-scale mobile software company with over 150 developers, designers, quality assurance engineers, project manage...
Learn how IoT, cloud, social networks and last but not least, humans, can be integrated into a seamless integration of cooperative organisms both cybernetic and biological. This has been enabled by recent advances in IoT device capabilities, messaging frameworks, presence and collaboration services, where devices can share information and make independent and human assisted decisions based upon social status from other entities. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Heydt, founder of Seamless Thingies, will discuss and demonstrate how devices and humans can be integrated from a simple clust...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloud Raxak has been named “Media & Session Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Raxak Protect automates security compliance across private and public clouds. Using the SaaS tool or managed service, developers can deploy cloud apps quickly, cost-effectively, and without error.
Who are you? How do you introduce yourself? Do you use a name, or do you greet a friend by the last four digits of his social security number? Assuming you don’t, why are we content to associate our identity with 10 random digits assigned by our phone company? Identity is an issue that affects everyone, but as individuals we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ben Klang, Founder & President of Mojo Lingo, will discuss the impact of technology on identity. Should we federate, or not? How should identity be secured? Who owns the identity? How is identity ...