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, Adobe Flex

ColdFusion: Article

Use Flash Forms and Flex To Give Applications New Life

A webmaster's view

I must say that using a datagrid greatly simplified and facilitated my development efforts. First, the datagrid made it possible to display both a "master" list of records and a "record details" section on the same page. When the user selects an item in the datagrid, the details of the selected record appear in the various Flash Form controls on the page. This eliminates the need for separate "master" and "details" templates in the application. The second benefit of using a datagrid is that the amount of code that I had to write was substantially reduced. Numerous HTML and CFML tags were replaced with just three tags: <CFGRID>, <CFGRIDCOLUMN>, and <CFINPUT>. All right, it's really four tags if you count the <CFTEXTAREA> tag. Another benefit of using a datagrid is fewer calls to the database and better performance since the master-detail interface in the Flash Form uses the query data stored in the datagrid, not the database, to populate the form controls.

I soon realized, however, that I had another problem. The "Title" and "Summary" text areas contained large amounts of text and consumed too much vertical space in the form. This made the page too big to see without vertical scrolling. Once again it was Flash Forms to the rescue, this time via the Tab Navigator layout container. The code in Listing 3 shows how I used a Tab Navigator container to distribute the text areas (and other content) among three distinct "tabbed" sections in the form. The content in any of these tabs could be accessed simply by selecting the appropriate tab.

Now, with the Tab Navigator container dividing the content evenly among three tabbed sections in the form, there was plenty of room for all of the form controls, including the two large text areas.

Once I had figured out how to bind the text areas and text input controls to the datagrid, the remaining development work went quickly. I had to consult the Real Estate Sample Application article once more to figure out how to bind checkboxes to the datagrid, but that wasn't too difficult. By now the application was almost ready and I began testing it to ensure cross-browser compatibility. One of the greatest benefits of Flash is its ability to render consistently across a variety of different platforms and browsers. This alone is sufficient reason to consider using Flash Forms for your next ColdFusion project.

Next, I added two <CFSELECT> list menus above the datagrid to let users filter records in the datagrid. The first of these menus filters salient issues according to their confidential status, e.g., Enforcement Confidential, Business Confidential, etc. The other menu allows selection of salient issues that are one, two, three or four weeks old for display in the datagrid. By setting up the page so that the Flash Form submits to itself, I was able to keep it all to a single page. However, in the interest of giving users a "print version" option, I created two "print version" templates that use several URL variables (passed from the main page) to display detailed information on any salient issue in FlashPaper, Acrobat, or HTML format. In the third tab of the tabbed section in the main page (see Listing 3) I employed three <CFFORMITEM> tags with the Type="html" attribute to create three dynamic HTML links. Thanks to the <CFFORMITEM> "bind" attribute, the URL parameters in these links change according to the record that's selected in the datagrid. These links pass the necessary parameters to the "print version" templates, allowing the latter to query the correct salient issues database and retrieve data on the desired record. The code for this is shown in Listing 4

Any salient issue displayed in the datagrid could now be printed in HTML, Acrobat, or FlashPaper format by clicking on the appropriate link in the third tab of the Tab Navigator.

Figure 1 shows the completed Flash UI for the application. I added some fictitious records so that it would look similar to the actual application. By using a Flash Form to handle the data presentation, I had more time to focus on the database queries and other application logic. Frankly, I was amazed that such a sophisticated interface could be implemented so easily and with so little code. But then I remembered that this was ColdFusion, and we all know how ColdFusion excels at making even the most complex tasks seem trivial. Indeed, that's what I like most about ColdFusion, its unique ability to make quick work of complex programming chores so that developers can get real work done. Now, whenever I start a new ColdFusion project I ask myself, "Will Flash Forms work here?" I strongly encourage you to do the same because Flash Forms can save you precious time, simplify your code, and deliver a compelling user experience.

Beyond Flash Forms: Flex 2
As you may have guessed, over the past few months I've been on a mission to "Flash-enable" my applications, and I didn't want that mission to end with Flash Forms. So I began experimenting with Flex 2. My experience with Flash forms made working with Flex much easier. Flash Forms and Flex are quite similar and have much in common such as the controls (e.g., datagrid), data binding, Actionscript, compiled .SWF file output, etc. Therefore, many of the things I learned while using Flash Forms could be applied to my Flex development. Once again I decided to start slow and tackle a relatively simple project. The project I chose was to convert one of our existing ColdFusion-generated permit pages (www.epa.gov/reg3artd/permitting/petitions2.htm) to a Flex page. I say "ColdFusion-generated" because this page really is generated automatically, on a weekly basis, by our ColdFusion server via the <CFSCHEDULE> tag, but that's a story for another article.

Flex applications can't interact directly with a database as ColdFusion does, so the data for Flex applications must come from data providers, i.e., services that Flex recognizes and can interact with. Data providers include arrays, Web Services, HTTP services and external XML files to name a few. That last option interested me the most. If I could somehow use a separate XML file as the data provider for my Flex page then I could update the application simply by replacing the XML file. Plus, there would be no need to concern myself at all with the presentation code when performing data refreshes. The idea of creating a Flex application with separate data and presentation code was very compelling, and so I fired up Flex Builder determined to create a Flex page that gets its data from a separate XML file.

I had previously studied the tips and resources available in the Adobe Flex 2 Developer Center, and the Flex Builder IDE made it easy to construct my Flex application. Working primarily in Source mode, I added panel, datagrid, form, textinput, and other components and used data binding and Actionscript to bind everything together, similar to what I had done when working with CFML and Flash forms.

After some trial and error writing MXML (Flex's XML-based markup language) and Actionscript code, my Flex application was finished. I have since put it on my division's public Web site at www.epa.gov/reg3artd/permitting/flex/t5permits2.htm. The .SWF file, which is the application's Flash UI, is invoked by an HTML "wrapper" page that will prompt the user to download and install Flash Player 9, if needed. A basic wrapper page is automatically created by Flex Builder when an application is compiled, but I modified it to look like a standard EPA Web page so it would be consistent with the rest of our site. I think that creating a wrapper page is a good idea because some users may not have the latest version of Flash Player installed and Flex applications require Flash Player 9.

I'm happy to report that my Flex page uses a separate local XML file named "permits.xml" (www.epa.gov/reg3artd/permitting/flex/permits.xml) as its data provider. So it's possible for even a Flex novice like me to create Flex applications that use data from an "external" source. I even wrote a special ColdFusion template that queries our internal Title V Operating Permits (Oracle) database and constructs the permits.xml file from the query results. When I want to refresh the Flex application with new data, I simply run this ColdFusion template and replace the old XML file with the new one generated by the template. I think that in the future we'll see a lot of database information being converted into XML since Flex can't interact directly with a database but can easily access and retrieve data "packaged" in XML.

Separating presentation and data code certainly has its advantages, but for me the best thing about Flex is that no ColdFusion or other server-side support is needed for basic standalone Flex applications (like mine). Basic Flex applications can be deployed just like HTML files and will work on a standard (non-ColdFusion) Web server. This is important in my situation because, as I've mentioned before, the cost of ColdFusion support on EPA's public Web server is high. Therefore, my Division's public Web site doesn't have ColdFusion support at this time. However, with Flex I can still present our data via a Flash interface.

I've already begun thinking of ways to enhance my Flex page with images, links, or even charts. But I'm out of space for now and this will have to wait for another article. Thanks for reading and I hope that I've given you some interesting ideas on how to use Flash Forms and Flex to revitalize your own applications.

More Stories By Michael Markowski

Michael Markowski works for the Air Protection Division at the Environmental Protection Agency and is a Macromedia/Adobe Certified Professional.

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
Imagine if you will, a retail floor so densely packed with sensors that they can pick up the movements of insects scurrying across a store aisle. Or a component of a piece of factory equipment so well-instrumented that its digital twin provides resolution down to the micrometer.
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settle...
BnkToTheFuture.com is the largest online investment platform for investing in FinTech, Bitcoin and Blockchain companies. We believe the future of finance looks very different from the past and we aim to invest and provide trading opportunities for qualifying investors that want to build a portfolio in the sector in compliance with international financial regulations.
No hype cycles or predictions of a gazillion things here. IoT is here. You get it. You know your business and have great ideas for a business transformation strategy. What comes next? Time to make it happen. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jay Mason, an Associate Partner of Analytics, IoT & Cybersecurity at M&S Consulting, presented a step-by-step plan to develop your technology implementation strategy. He also discussed the evaluation of communication standards and IoT messaging protocols, data...
Coca-Cola’s Google powered digital signage system lays the groundwork for a more valuable connection between Coke and its customers. Digital signs pair software with high-resolution displays so that a message can be changed instantly based on what the operator wants to communicate or sell. In their Day 3 Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Chambers, Global Group Director, Digital Innovation, Coca-Cola, and Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, discussed how from store operations and ...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Raju Shreewastava, founder of Big Data Trunk, provided a fun and simple way to introduce Machine Leaning to anyone and everyone. He solved a machine learning problem and demonstrated an easy way to be able to do machine learning without even coding. Raju Shreewastava is the founder of Big Data Trunk (www.BigDataTrunk.com), a Big Data Training and consulting firm with offices in the United States. He previously led the data warehouse/business intelligence and B...
"IBM is really all in on blockchain. We take a look at sort of the history of blockchain ledger technologies. It started out with bitcoin, Ethereum, and IBM evaluated these particular blockchain technologies and found they were anonymous and permissionless and that many companies were looking for permissioned blockchain," stated René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventi...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, whic...
Product connectivity goes hand and hand these days with increased use of personal data. New IoT devices are becoming more personalized than ever before. In his session at 22nd Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo, Nicolas Fierro, CEO of MIMIR Blockchain Solutions, will discuss how in order to protect your data and privacy, IoT applications need to embrace Blockchain technology for a new level of product security never before seen - or needed.
Leading companies, from the Global Fortune 500 to the smallest companies, are adopting hybrid cloud as the path to business advantage. Hybrid cloud depends on cloud services and on-premises infrastructure working in unison. Successful implementations require new levels of data mobility, enabled by an automated and seamless flow across on-premises and cloud resources. In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Tevis, an IBM Storage Software Technical Strategist and Customer Solution Architec...
When shopping for a new data processing platform for IoT solutions, many development teams want to be able to test-drive options before making a choice. Yet when evaluating an IoT solution, it’s simply not feasible to do so at scale with physical devices. Building a sensor simulator is the next best choice; however, generating a realistic simulation at very high TPS with ease of configurability is a formidable challenge. When dealing with multiple application or transport protocols, you would be...
Nordstrom is transforming the way that they do business and the cloud is the key to enabling speed and hyper personalized customer experiences. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ken Schow, VP of Engineering at Nordstrom, discussed some of the key learnings and common pitfalls of large enterprises moving to the cloud. This includes strategies around choosing a cloud provider(s), architecture, and lessons learned. In addition, he covered some of the best practices for structured team migration an...
Smart cities have the potential to change our lives at so many levels for citizens: less pollution, reduced parking obstacles, better health, education and more energy savings. Real-time data streaming and the Internet of Things (IoT) possess the power to turn this vision into a reality. However, most organizations today are building their data infrastructure to focus solely on addressing immediate business needs vs. a platform capable of quickly adapting emerging technologies to address future ...
We are given a desktop platform with Java 8 or Java 9 installed and seek to find a way to deploy high-performance Java applications that use Java 3D and/or Jogl without having to run an installer. We are subject to the constraint that the applications be signed and deployed so that they can be run in a trusted environment (i.e., outside of the sandbox). Further, we seek to do this in a way that does not depend on bundling a JRE with our applications, as this makes downloads and installations rat...
Widespread fragmentation is stalling the growth of the IIoT and making it difficult for partners to work together. The number of software platforms, apps, hardware and connectivity standards is creating paralysis among businesses that are afraid of being locked into a solution. EdgeX Foundry is unifying the community around a common IoT edge framework and an ecosystem of interoperable components.
DX World EXPO, LLC, a Lighthouse Point, Florida-based startup trade show producer and the creator of "DXWorldEXPO® - Digital Transformation Conference & Expo" has announced its executive management team. The team is headed by Levent Selamoglu, who has been named CEO. "Now is the time for a truly global DX event, to bring together the leading minds from the technology world in a conversation about Digital Transformation," he said in making the announcement.
In this strange new world where more and more power is drawn from business technology, companies are effectively straddling two paths on the road to innovation and transformation into digital enterprises. The first path is the heritage trail – with “legacy” technology forming the background. Here, extant technologies are transformed by core IT teams to provide more API-driven approaches. Legacy systems can restrict companies that are transitioning into digital enterprises. To truly become a lead...
Digital Transformation (DX) is not a "one-size-fits all" strategy. Each organization needs to develop its own unique, long-term DX plan. It must do so by realizing that we now live in a data-driven age, and that technologies such as Cloud Computing, Big Data, the IoT, Cognitive Computing, and Blockchain are only tools. In her general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Rebecca Wanta explained how the strategy must focus on DX and include a commitment from top management to create great IT jobs, monitor ...
"Cloud Academy is an enterprise training platform for the cloud, specifically public clouds. We offer guided learning experiences on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and all the surrounding methodologies and technologies that you need to know and your teams need to know in order to leverage the full benefits of the cloud," explained Alex Brower, VP of Marketing at Cloud Academy, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clar...
The IoT Will Grow: In what might be the most obvious prediction of the decade, the IoT will continue to expand next year, with more and more devices coming online every single day. What isn’t so obvious about this prediction: where that growth will occur. The retail, healthcare, and industrial/supply chain industries will likely see the greatest growth. Forrester Research has predicted the IoT will become “the backbone” of customer value as it continues to grow. It is no surprise that retail is ...