Welcome!

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

Creating and Accessing Collection Files

Creating and Accessing Collection Files

In computer terms, objects are abstracts of real-world entities that are all around us in everyday life. Examples of such objects could be people, organizations, cars, animals, or even less tangible entities such as math or time.

Of these examples, only the first four can be considered collections. One or more persons is a collection of people; one or more organizations is a collection of organizations, and so on. However, math is not a collection of math and time is not a collection of time. They are just simple objects with methods and properties. Simply defined, a collection is a set of related objects.

Several languages already use built-in objects that mimic real-world entities. Many of you may already be familiar with some form of Visual Basic or JavaScript. In Visual Basic, a group of related objects is called a collection. Although the term collection is foreign to the JavaScript language, the language does have objects that act like collections. For instance, the forms object is a collection. You can loop through the collection and access the individual objects using array syntax such as document.forms[0].

Collections come with many advantages. First, they are objects, so any and all advantages of objects, such as encapsulation and reusability, are inherent to the collection. Second, you can access a group of objects easily by looping through the collection and executing the same code against each object in the collection. Finally, you can simplify a lot of the external data manipulation by using collections. For instance, instead of returning a query containing users (which might change in six months) you could use a Users collection. The User object that is stored in the Users collection would encapsulate all the code that goes into retrieving the user data. That way, when the database changes, you can change your User object while your collection and the code accessing the collection remain the same.

What Makes a Collection?
There are three hard and fast rules that an object (or in ColdFusion, a component) has to adhere to in order to be a collection:
1.   Every object in the collection can be accessed individually. Each object in the collection is unique in instance, if not data. If there are five objects in the collection, you should be able to call properties and methods from each object.
2.   Every object in the collection is the same type of object and has the same properties and methods. This means that you wouldn't have a collection called People with two types of objects: People and Computers. You would, in fact, have two collections, the People collection and the Computers collection.
3.   A collection usually has at least four methods: Add, Remove, Count, and Item.

Most collections can be completely accessed through the use of just four methods:

  • Add(): Adds a new object to the collection
  • Remove(): Removes an object from the collection
  • Item(): Retrieves an object from the collection (for use in the application)
  • Count(): Returns the number of objects in the collection (for looping purposes)

    Creating the Collection Files
    In order to create a collection we need to create two files, both of which are CFCs. The first CFC we'll create will be named ActiveUsers.cfc; the second will be named ActiveUser.cfc. The ActiveUser.cfc file will be the actual object that is contained in our collection. The collection filename is usually the plural term for the name of our object, hence, ActiveUser object and ActiveUsers collection. The ActiveUser.cfc file is shown in Listing 1.

    The ActiveUsers collection will have four methods: Add(strFirstName, strLastName), Remove(index), Item(index), and Count(). Our ActiveUser object will contain five methods: GetName(), SetName(strFirstName, strLastName), SetLoginTime(), GetLoginTime(), and GetMinutesActive().

    Our ActiveUsers collection will be used to display only users who are currently active on our Web site, similar to a "who's on" interface. Anytime you access a variable in a shared scope, such as the Application scope, you should lock it using CFLOCK.

    The first step is to set up a data structure to store our data in the ActiveUsers collection. We need only one private (or member) variable called arItems, which is an array. You can add that code just inside of your CFCOMPONENT tag as shown below.

    <CFCOMPONENT>
    <CFSET arItems = ArrayNew(1)>
    </CFCOMPONENT>

    Next we're going to add four methods to the component. The first method is the Add method. The Add method will take two arguments, FirstName and LastName, both string literals. The Add function simply adds an element to the private variable arItems using the intrinsic function, ArrayAppend(). The tricky part is that our Add method needs to add a value that represents an instance of an object. Since we can't use the CFOBJECT tag inside the ArrayAppend() function, we will use the CreateObject() function, shown below. After we add that element to the array, we also need to get the length of the array so we know the index of our recently added user. Again, locking is important here, because we want to add an element to the array and then get the length of the array before anyone else adds another element to it. This is sometimes called a race or race to commit, in database terminology. If we don't lock the actions, we will be racing against other requests to add elements to the array, potentially returning the wrong values to the calling page.

    <CFSET ArrayAppend(arItems, CreateObject("component","ActiveUser")>
    <CFSET idx = ArrayLen(arItems)>

    The next two lines of code in our function will be calling methods from the prebuilt ActiveUser object. These methods set three internal variables in the ActiveUser object: the user's first name, the user's last name, and the date the user logged in.

    <CFSET arItems[idx].SetName(Arguments.FirstName,Arguments.LastName)>
    <CFSET arItems[idx].SetLoginTime(Now())>
    <CFRETURN arItem[idx]>

    The last thing we do is return the current element of the array for the programmer to use in the calling page, if necessary. That was the hard part. The next three functions are short and sweet, so I'm going to spend more time describing why you need to do this, rather than stepping through the code line by line. Listing 2 shows the code for the entire collection object.

    With the Remove method, we require one argument that is an integer representing the index of the internal array, arItems. We need to check to make sure the value passed is less than or equal to the length of the array so there aren't any errors produced, and then we simply remove that element using the ArrayDeleteAt() function. Remember, you'll need to lock this action to prevent the wrong index of the array from being deleted. In a situation where the method is called twice, there will be a race to commit the deletion. In the event the deletion was not locked, the array would be resized after the first deletion and then the wrong index could potentially be deleted during the second deletion.

    The Item method also requires an index value, but the result is different. Instead of removing an item (or doing any type of action), we're just going to return the instance of the ActiveUser object that was stored at that index. This allows us to access each individual object from external ColdFusion templates easily, as you'll see later.

    The Count method accepts no arguments and returns an integer describing the number of objects in our collection. We use the ArrayLen() function to determine the return value.

    That's it for our collection. All of the internal code is written for our ActiveUsers collection to work properly. It's relatively easy to generate code for collections once you understand the concepts. Now we're going to look at how to use collections in ColdFusion templates.

    Making the Collection Persist
    In order for our "who's on" application to persist, we need to set up the ActiveUsers collection in the Application scope. Open the Application.cfm file in Listing 3 and add the following code:

    <CFIF NOT IsDefined("Application.objActiveUsers")>
    <CFOBJECT NAME="Application.objActiveUsers" COMPONENT="ActiveUsers">
    </CFIF>

    This code basically says to check whether the Application.objActiveUsers collection is defined at the beginning of every request. If it isn't defined, it will create the collection using the CFOBJECT tag.

    Accessing the Collection
    In the index.cfm file (see Listing 4) we're going to output the current number of users online and then loop through the ActiveUsers collection and output data pertaining to the users that are online. You can do all this using the code below:

    <CFSET iCount = Application.objActiveUsers.Count()>

    As you'll see, we've set the iCount variable to the value of the ActiveUsers collection's Count method. This lets us know how many active users are online right now. Now we can loop through the collection using a simple FROM/TO (or FOR) loop where the TO attribute is equal to the number of users online, or iCount.

    We can access the individual objects in the collection using the Item(index) property such as Application.objActiveUsers.Item(i). In the code below, we use that notation to call different methods of the object, such as GetName(), GetLoginTime(), and GetMinutesActive().

    <CFLOOP FROM="1" TO="#iCount#" INDEX="i">
    <CFSET stName = Application.objActive
    Users.Item(i).GetName()>
    #i# - #stName["FirstName"]#
    #stName["LastName"]# -
    #DateFormat(Application.objActiveUsers.Item(i).GetLoginTime(), 'm/d/yy')#
    #TimeFormat(Application.objActiveUsers.Item(i).GetLoginTime(), 'h:mm tt')# -
    #Application.objActiveUsers.Item(i).GetMinutesActive()#<BR>
    </CFLOOP>

    Running index.cfm at this point in time would result in the printing of "Number of Users: 0", since we haven't added any users to the collection. In order to add users to the collection we have to call the Add() method of the ActiveUsers collection. In this example, we'll make a ColdFusion page called AddUser.cfm (see Listing 5) that requires two URL variables called FirstName and LastName. The following code is all we'll use for our AddUser.cfm file:

    <CFSET objActiveUser = Application.objActive
    Users.Add(Trim(URL.FirstName),Trim(URL.LastName))>
    <CFLOCATION URL="index.cfm">

    If we access the AddUser.cfm page passing "Steve" and "Parks" through the query string such as

    AddUser.cfm?FirstName=Steve&LastName=Parks

    our page will then add the user to the collection and refresh us to the index.cfm page. You should now see that there is one user named Steve Parks in the collection. If your browser caches the index.cfm page, you may have to manually refresh the page. In the index.cfm file we called the GetName(), GetLoginTime(), and GetMinutesActive() methods from the ActiveUser object in the collection. You'll now see that data outputted through the collection. Try it again, adding another user using your name. You should now see that you are in the collection as well.

    The last file that needs to be created is the RemoveUser.cfm file, which will remove users from the collection. Instead of passing the FirstName or LastName of the user, you'll need to pass a valid index. In this example, we'll just remove the first index, but in theory you would remove users based on an algorithm possibly determined by a method called GetMinutesIdle(). To remove the first user from the application, call the file RemoveUser.cfm, shown in Listing 6, passing a value of 1 in the attribute index, as shown below:

    RemoveUser.cfm?Index=1

    We've now created our ActiveUsers collection in a simplified form. You can add properties and methods to the ActiveUser object to make the system more robust. I recommend adding locking and validation to the Application scope and methods, respectively.

  • More Stories By Steve Parks

    Steve Parks, CEO of Adept Developer Consulting, Inc (www.adeptdeveloper.com), is a Macromedia Certified Advanced Cold Fusion Developer. Steve has seven years experience developing web applications and relational databases.

    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
    What is the best strategy for selecting the right offshore company for your business? In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Alan Winters, U.S. Head of Business Development at MobiDev, will discuss the things to look for - positive and negative - in evaluating your options. He will also discuss how to maximize productivity with your offshore developers. Before you start your search, clearly understand your business needs and how that impacts software choices.
    High-velocity engineering teams are applying not only continuous delivery processes, but also lessons in experimentation from established leaders like Amazon, Netflix, and Facebook. These companies have made experimentation a foundation for their release processes, allowing them to try out major feature releases and redesigns within smaller groups before making them broadly available. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Brian Lucas, Senior Staff Engineer at Optimizely, will discuss how by using...
    SYS-CON Events announced today that Taica will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. ANSeeN are the measurement electronics maker for X-ray and Gamma-ray and Neutron measurement equipment such as spectrometers, pulse shape analyzer, and CdTe-FPD. For more information, visit http://anseen.com/.
    SYS-CON Events announced today that Daiya Industry will exhibit at the Japanese Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Ruby Development Inc. builds new services in short period of time and provides a continuous support of those services based on Ruby on Rails. For more information, please visit https://github.com/RubyDevInc.
    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, will discuss 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’ll go over some of the best practices for structured team migrat...
    As businesses evolve, they need technology that is simple to help them succeed today and flexible enough to help them build for tomorrow. Chrome is fit for the workplace of the future — providing a secure, consistent user experience across a range of devices that can be used anywhere. In her session at 21st Cloud Expo, Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, will take a look at various options as to how ChromeOS can be leveraged to interact with people on the devices, and formats th...
    SYS-CON Events announced today that Yuasa System will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Yuasa System is introducing a multi-purpose endurance testing system for flexible displays, OLED devices, flexible substrates, flat cables, and films in smartphones, wearables, automobiles, and healthcare.
    Join IBM November 1 at 21st Cloud Expo at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, and learn how IBM Watson can bring cognitive services and AI to intelligent, unmanned systems. Cognitive analysis impacts today’s systems with unparalleled ability that were previously available only to manned, back-end operations. Thanks to cloud processing, IBM Watson can bring cognitive services and AI to intelligent, unmanned systems. Imagine a robot vacuum that becomes your personal assistant tha...
    Organizations do not need a Big Data strategy; they need a business strategy that incorporates Big Data. Most organizations lack a road map for using Big Data to optimize key business processes, deliver a differentiated customer experience, or uncover new business opportunities. They do not understand what’s possible with respect to integrating Big Data into the business model.
    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, will discuss how from store operations...
    Recently, REAN Cloud built a digital concierge for a North Carolina hospital that had observed that most patient call button questions were repetitive. In addition, the paper-based process used to measure patient health metrics was laborious, not in real-time and sometimes error-prone. In their session at 21st Cloud Expo, Sean Finnerty, Executive Director, Practice Lead, Health Care & Life Science at REAN Cloud, and Dr. S.P.T. Krishnan, Principal Architect at REAN Cloud, will discuss how they bu...
    SYS-CON Events announced today that Dasher Technologies will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Dasher Technologies, Inc. ® is a premier IT solution provider that delivers expert technical resources along with trusted account executives to architect and deliver complete IT solutions and services to help our clients execute their goals, plans and objectives. Since 1999, we'v...
    SYS-CON Events announced today that TidalScale, a leading provider of systems and services, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. TidalScale has been involved in shaping the computing landscape. They've designed, developed and deployed some of the most important and successful systems and services in the history of the computing industry - internet, Ethernet, operating s...
    Enterprises have taken advantage of IoT to achieve important revenue and cost advantages. What is less apparent is how incumbent enterprises operating at scale have, following success with IoT, built analytic, operations management and software development capabilities – ranging from autonomous vehicles to manageable robotics installations. They have embraced these capabilities as if they were Silicon Valley startups. As a result, many firms employ new business models that place enormous impor...
    SYS-CON Events announced today that Taica will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Taica manufacturers Alpha-GEL brand silicone components and materials, which maintain outstanding performance over a wide temperature range -40C to +200C. For more information, visit http://www.taica.co.jp/english/.
    SYS-CON Events announced today that MIRAI Inc. will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MIRAI Inc. are IT consultants from the public sector whose mission is to solve social issues by technology and innovation and to create a meaningful future for people.
    As hybrid cloud becomes the de-facto standard mode of operation for most enterprises, new challenges arise on how to efficiently and economically share data across environments. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Dr. Allon Cohen, VP of Product at Elastifile, will explore new techniques and best practices that help enterprise IT benefit from the advantages of hybrid cloud environments by enabling data availability for both legacy enterprise and cloud-native mission critical applications. By rev...
    SYS-CON Events announced today that Datera will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Datera offers a radically new approach to data management, where innovative software makes data infrastructure invisible, elastic and able to perform at the highest level. It eliminates hardware lock-in and gives IT organizations the choice to source x86 server nodes, with business model option...
    With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend 21st Cloud Expo October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, CA, and June 12-14, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.
    Infoblox delivers Actionable Network Intelligence to enterprise, government, and service provider customers around the world. They are the industry leader in DNS, DHCP, and IP address management, the category known as DDI. We empower thousands of organizations to control and secure their networks from the core-enabling them to increase efficiency and visibility, improve customer service, and meet compliance requirements.