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Extending ColdFusion with Java

Extending ColdFusion with Java

Last month I introduced you to Lucene and then showed you how you can access the Jakarta Lucene APIs using native CFML scripting syntax. This month I'm going to show you how easy it is to create a Java CFX tag that performs the same functions as the two tags I illustrated last month: <cf_luceneindex> and <cf_lucenesearch>.

As a short review of last month and as many of you know already, one of the many reasons to use ColdFusion MX is that it comes standard with the majority of the tools you'll need to write full-featured, dynamic Web applications. Tags like <cfquery> and <cfmail> make it relatively simple to query a relational database and send e-mail. In the same way, you can use <cfsearch> and <cfindex> to create and search Verity full text indexes.

There are, however, a couple of situations when you can't use the full text searching capabilities of Verity. The ability to run ColdFusion MX on the Apple OS X operating system, while a boon to developers who code on the Apple platform, does not include the ability to use Verity. Programmers who work in a hybrid J2EE/ColdFusion MX environment (possibly using ColdFusion MX for J2EE) cannot natively use the Verity search capabilities in the J2EE environment. Finally, programmers who need customized searching and indexing capabilities may find the standard Verity integration limiting.

Enter Lucene, an open source full-text searching framework from the Apache Jakarta project, which, when combined with ColdFusion MX, can be run on Apple OS X, programmatically accessed by both J2EE and ColdFusion MX developers, and fully customized and extended. Additionally, when accessed with the Java CFX API, Lucene can be utilized in ColdFusion 5, 4.x, and possibly earlier versions.

In this article, I'll discuss CFX tags in general, walk through the CFX API, and then jump into the creation of two Java classes that combine the CFX and Lucene APIs into two CFX tags: <cfx_luceneindex> and <cfx_lucenesearch>. Finally, I'll conclude with some tricks and hints to help you when writing CFX tags in Java.

This article is not intended to be an in-depth introduction to the Lucene API, to Java programming, or to writing C++ CFX tags. If you're interested in learning more about the internal workings of Lucene, one of SYS-CON's sister publications, Java Developer's Journal, featured an article entitled, "Search-Enable Your Application with Lucene," see the resources section at the end of this article.

If you're new to Java, I'd suggest heading to your local bookstore to pick up one of the many Java books for beginners. Finally, if you're looking for information on writing C++ CFX tags, check out the CFX C++ documentation link, also in the resources section at the end of this article.

While I'll try to cover the basics of writing a Java CFX tag, if you'd like more information about Java and C++ ColdFusion CFX tags, I encourage you to check out the "Building Custom CFXAPI Tags" resource in the CFMX documentation (see resources section for the URL); included in the documentation are sample CFX tags for browsing ZIP file archives, creating JPEG images, and using sockets.

What Are CFX Tags?
If you've worked with ColdFusion for any length of time, you know that ColdFusion provides almost everything (if not everything!) you need to rapidly build dynamic Web applications. Sooner or later you'll come to a situation where you need something that ColdFusion doesn't provide out of the box. But don't fret! With some knowledge of Java or C++, you can create a CFX tag that wraps up the extra functionality you need into an easy-to-use CFX that you can then access using the standard tag-based syntax. In short then, a CFX tag is a compiled Java or C++ module that performs a task that ColdFusion doesn't natively offer.

Setup and Configuration
Before beginning, you'll need to make sure that your system (be it Unix, Linux, Windows, or Apple) is appropriately configured:

  • ColdFusion must be installed. You'll see that I'm using the ColdFusion MX integrated Web server running on port 8500 throughout the examples.
  • You'll need to download Lucene; binaries and source code are available on the Jakarta Apache site; you'll see links to those resources at the end of this document.
  • After downloading the Lucene JAR file, add the location of the JAR file to the classpath in ColdFusion Administrator (http://localhost:8500/cfide/administrator/, click on "Java and JVM" under "Server Settings", and type the full path to the location of the Lucene JAR file you downloaded). Make sure that you restart the ColdFusion service after saving your changes.
  • Create a folder in your /cfusionmx/wwwroot/ called "cfxlucene", into which you'll put the source code written during this article.
  • To compile the source code I've provided below, you'll need to have the Java 2 SDK installed on your system; I'm using J2SDK 1.4.1.
  • Finally, locate the "cfx.jar" file on your system. On my system with the default CFMX installation, the "cfx.jar" file is located at "C:\CFusionMX\lib\cfx.jar".

    Let's get started!

    Creating a Lucene Index Using the CFX API and Java
    If you've completed the setup and configuration steps above, open your favorite Java IDE (Notepad, VI, Eclipse, or even CF Studio all work just fine), create a new document, and save the document as "LuceneIndex.java". This file will contain the source code for the CFX tag that will perform the indexing of documents later in this article. The first items you'll need to add are the following Java import statements:

    import java.io.*;
    import java.util.*;
    import com.allaire.cfx.*;
    import org.apache.lucene.analysis.*;
    import org.apache.lucene.document.*;
    import org.apache.lucene.index.*;

    The lines of code above "import" the java.io and java.util libraries, the com.allaire.cfx library (which I'll explain in a bit), and three Lucene libraries - all of which you'll use when writing the LuceneIndex class. If you're new to Java, you can think of the previous import statements as doing something analogous to using <cfinclude> to include a file that contains one or more user-defined functions. Basically, I've just imported a number of Java functions (although in Java you only have "methods" on "objects", not "functions") into the LuceneIndex class.

    Next, you'll need to add the following line:

    public class LuceneIndex implements CustomTag {

    Without going into too much detail, this line of code says that the name of the class is "LuceneIndex" (the name of the file must match this name) and that it "implements" CustomTag. The word implements has a special meaning in Java; when you implement something, it means that the class you are writing will have a method with the same signature as each method in the class you are implementing (which is called an "interface"). In this case, I'm implementing the "CustomTag" interface, which has only one method:

    public void processRequest(Request req, Response res)

    Now that you understand interfaces (don't worry if you don't, interfaces and the "implements" keyword aren't that important to this article), you should know what the next line will be:

    public void processRequest(Request req, Response res) {

    Look familiar? It should! This is the method from the CustomTag interface that you must implement. Let's look a bit closer at it. There are two classes passed to this method: Request and Response. If you've done any work with ASP/VBScript or JSP, you might think that you understand these classes right away, but they aren't the same. We'll look at the Response class in the next section. The Request class contains seven methods, none of which deal with the "request" made by the browser (unlike the ASP request object or the JSP request object). I'm only going to cover two in this article: attributeExists() and getAttribute(), but if you're hungry for the details, you can read about all the methods by visiting the ColdFusion Java CFX reference resource at the end of this article. The method "getAttribute()" retrieves the value of the variable given as an attribute to the method. So, for example, if I wrote this in ColdFusion:

    <cfx_luceneindex path="c:\cfusionmx\wwwroot\cfdocs\">

    and I wanted to retrieve the value of the attribute "path" in the Java code, I'd write this:


    Simple right? In the same way, if I wanted to check that a specific attribute has been passed to the tag, I'd use the attributeExists() method. For instance, if I wanted to make sure that the attribute "path" has been passed to the Java code, I'd use a statement like this:


    Back to the LuceneIndex class. In order to index a directory or a file, you'll need to know which directory or file, where to create the index, whether to recurse the directories, and so on. To do so, you'll add the following lines of code:

    String indexName = req.getAttribute("indexName");
    String indexPath = req.getAttribute("indexPath");
    String directory = req.getAttribute("directory");
    String file = req.getAttribute("file");
    String urlpath = req.getAttribute("urlpath");

    For the sake of brevity, I'm not covering the error checking code, which you can see in the source code that you can (and should!) download below. Next, add a statement that checks to see if the user wants to "optimize" a Lucene index or "index" a directory of files:

    if (action.equalsIgnoreCase("index")) {

    Finally, you're ready to begin using Lucene to index a directory.

    Analyzer analyzer = new StopAnalyzer();
    IndexWriter writer;
    try {
    writer = new IndexWriter(indexPath, analyzer,
    if (req.attributeExists("directory")) {
    File f = new File(directory);
    if (f.exists() && f.isDirectory()) {
    indexDirectory(urlpath, f,
    recursive.booleanValue(), writer);
    } else {
    File f = new File(file);
    indexFile(urlpath, f, writer);
    } catch (java.io.IOException e) {

    Start by creating a Lucene Analyzer (in this case using the StopAnalyzer) object and a Lucene IndexWriter object, which are then used in the index process. You'll notice that the IndexWriter constructor and the indexFile()/indexDirectory() methods are wrapped in a try/catch block so that errors resulting from insufficient permissions and nonexistent directories/files are caught appropriately. I won't discuss indexFile() and indexDirectory() methods as they aren't pertinent to the topic at hand; you can find the source code for both methods in the LuceneIndex.java file.

    To optimize a Lucene index, add these short bits of code:

    StopAnalyzer analyzer = new org.apache.lucene.analysis.StopAnalyzer();
    IndexWriter writer;
    try {
    writer = new IndexWriter(indexPath, analyzer, false);
    } catch (java.io.IOException ex) {

    At this point, you're ready to save and compile LuceneIndex.java. Since I haven't included all the necessary code, I'd suggest that you download the source code and unzip the archive to


    where [cfusionhome] is the directory that contains your ColdFusion MX installation. After completing that (and keeping in mind the location of both the cfx.jar and the lucene.jar file that you downloaded/located during the previous setup and configuration steps), you can compile LuceneIndex by bringing up a command prompt and typing the following from the [cfusionhome]\wwwroot\WEB-INF\classes\ directory:

    C:\CFusionMX\wwwroot\WEB-INF\classes>javac -classpath
    [path_to_lucene.jar];[path_to_cfx.jar] LuceneIndex.java

    substituting the appropriate values for [path_to_lucene.jar] and [path_to_cfx.jar] like I did in Figure 1.


    After successfully compiling LuceneIndex.java, you should have a file called "LuceneIndex.class" in the [cfusionhome]\wwwroot\WEB-INF\classes\ directory. In order to test out the code you've written so far, you need to make ColdFusion aware of its existence. To do that, log in to the ColdFusion Administrator, click on "CFX Tags" under "Extensions," and then click the "Register Java CFX" button. Enter the tag name (in this case "cfx_luceneindex"), the class name ("LuceneIndex"), and optionally, a description just like I have in Figure 2.


    You can then test the indexing and optimizing operations by running a CFML script that contains the following code:


    again, substituting the appropriate values for your environment. I included a sample script in the source code called "test_luceneindex.cfm" that contains code for indexing a file, indexing a directory, and optimizing an index. All set to search that index? Great! Let's move to the next section...

    Searching a Lucene Index Using the CFX API and Java
    As in the previous section, start by creating a new file using your IDE; save this one as "LuceneSearch.java". I'll start off the new class by importing the appropriate libraries, just as I did in the previous example:

    import java.util.*;
    import com.allaire.cfx.*;
    import org.apache.lucene.analysis.*;
    import org.apache.lucene.document.*;
    import org.apache.lucene.index.*;
    import org.apache.lucene.queryParser.*;
    import org.apache.lucene.search.*;

    Not much different there, you can move quickly to the next lines:

    public class LuceneSearch implements CustomTag {
    public void processRequest(Request req, Response res) {

    Again, use the "implements" keyword in the class definition, and then immediately add a method "processRequest()" that matches the method signature of the processRequest() method from the CustomTag class. After that use the req.getAttribute() method to retrieve the value of the attributes given in the tag:

    String indexPath = req.getAttribute("index");
    String queryString = req.getAttribute("keyword");
    String r_query = req.getAttribute("r_query");

    Perform some error checking (again removed for the sake of brevity) and then you're into the heart of the tag:

    IndexSearcher searcher = null;
    org.apache.lucene.search.Query luceneQuery = null;
    Hits hits = null;
    searcher = new IndexSearcher(IndexReader.open(indexPath) );
    Analyzer analyzer = new StopAnalyzer();
    luceneQuery = QueryParser.parse(queryString, "body", analyzer);
    //parse the hits = searcher.search(luceneQuery);

    String[] columns = { "URL", "TITLE", "SUMMARY" } ;
    com.allaire.cfx.Query q = res.addQuery(r_query, columns) ;

    for (int i = 0; i < hits.length(); i++) {

    Document doc = hits.doc(i);
    String doctitle = doc.get("title");
    String url = doc.get("url");
    String docSummary = doc.get("summary");

    int iRow = q.addRow() ;
    q.setData( iRow, 1, url) ;
    q.setData( iRow, 2, doctitle);
    q.setData( iRow, 3, docSummary);

    This block of code creates an IndexSearcher object, a Lucene Query object, a Lucene Hits object, and an Analyzer object, all of which are used in various ways to parse the keyword into manageable bits and then search the index you created in the above example.

    Remember the Request and Response classes I mentioned? In this example you're going to use the Response object, which has four methods, only three of which you'll probably use on a regular basis. The addQuery() method enables you to return a ColdFusion query to the calling template, which is what you'll do in this example.

    Additionally, you can use the setVariable() method just like you might use the SetVariable function in ColdFusion - for example, to return a string or a number to the calling template. Finally, you can use the write() method to write text directly to the screen, just as you might use

    <cfoutput>Hello World!</cfoutput>


    WriteOutput("Hello World!");

    when writing CFML code. Back to the last example, the portion of code that is pertinent to this article starts with these lines:

    String[] columns = { "URL", "TITLE", "SUMMARY" } ;
    com.allaire.cfx.Query q = res.addQuery(r_query, columns) ;

    The first line creates an array of String objects: "URL", "TITLE", and "SUMMARY"; each represents the name of a column in a query. This array is passed to the method addQuery() of the Response object, along with the "r_query" value. After creating the query, loop over each "hit" that Lucene returned, using a "for" loop, and then add the URL, the TITLE, and the SUMMARY to the query:

    q.setData( iRow, 1, url) ;
    q.setData( iRow, 2, doctitle);
    q.setData( iRow, 3, docSummary);

    where iRow is the row number and 1, 2, and 3 represent the number of the column you're adding a value to.

    I left out the error checking and try/catch statements so if you want to compile the code, again I'd suggest that you download and unzip the archive to the [cfusionhome]\wwwroot\WEB-INF\classes\ directory and then compile LuceneSearch.java by typing this from the command line:

    cd [cfusionhome]\wwwroot\WEB-INF\classes
    javac -classpath [path_to_lucene];[path_to_cfx] LuceneSearch.java

    substituting the appropriate values for [cfusionhome], [path_to_lucene], and [path_to_cfx]. After successfully compiling the Java class, you should register the CFX tag in the ColdFusion Administrator (i.e., click on CFX Tags under Extensions and click the "Register Java CFX" button, tag name should be "cfx_lucenesearch", tag class should be "LuceneSearch"). You should be able to test the search functionality using the included "test_lucenesearch.cfm" script in the source code archive, or by creating a simple script that looks like this:


    Tips and Tricks
    As with any technology, there are things you need to watch out for. Here are a couple I found while working with Java CFX tags:

  • When using the Response object's write() method, the text is not written to the browser if you have <cfsetting enablecfoutputonly="true">. If you want to see error messages written by the tag or if the tag you've written uses the write() method, you must either (a) surround the tag invocation with a <cfoutput></cfoutput> block or (b) not use the <cfsetting enablecfoutputonly="true"> tag above the CFX tag invocation.
  • During development, you can use the DebugRequest, DebugResponse, and DebuqQuery objects to emulate your Java class being called from ColdFusion as a tag. The Building Custom CFXAPI Tags section of the documentation has directions on setting up your Java IDE for interactive debugging as well as an example of how you might use those classes. The LuceneIndex.java file in the source code archive also provides an example of the use of those classes.
  • According to the CFX Java tag documentation, changes to the class files located in the [cfusionhome]/wwwroot/WEB-INF/classes are automatically reloaded upon being changed. I did not observe this behavior; to view the change in the class file, I had to restart the ColdFusion MX service using the Services control panel applet.
  • When using a CFX Java tag in CFML, there is a special attribute called "reload" that supposedly controls whether or not ColdFusion will reload changes to the class file. The documentation states that by default the reload attribute is set to "Auto" and recommends that during development you set the reload attribute to "Always"; set it to "Never" to increase performance.

    The Java CFX Tag API enables developers to extend ColdFusion almost anywhere Java can travel. I hope that this article has given you an excellent introduction to writing CFX tags in Java and gets you rolling on your own Java CFX projects. I'd encourage you to download and explore the source code below in which I've included error checking code, try/catch blocks, and attribute validation, and to explore Lucene further.


  • Jakarta Lucene: http://jakarta.apache.org/lucene/
  • Jakarta Lucene Downloads: http://jakarta.apache.org/builds/jakarta-lucene/release/v1.2/
  • "Search-Enable Your Application with Lucene:" www.sys-con.com/java/article.cfm?id=1777
  • ColdFusion MX Documentation: http://livedocs.macromedia.com/cfmxdocs/
  • ColdFusion MX Documentation: Building Custom CFXAPI Tags: http://livedocs.macromedia.com/cfmxdocs/Developing_ ColdFusion_MX_Applications_with_CFML/CFXTags.jsp
  • ColdFusion MX Documentation: Developing CFX tags in C++: http://livedocs.macromedia.com/cfmxdocs/Developing _ColdFusion_MX_Applications_with_CFML/CFXTags7.jsp#1112325
  • ColdFusion MX Documentation: ColdFusion Java CFX Reference: http://livedocs.macromedia.com/ cfmxdocs/CFML_Reference/CFXRef_Java.jsp
  • More Stories By Aaron Johnson

    Aaron Johnson is a senior software engineer at Jive Software. He lives with his wonderful wife, young son and dog in a Portland, Oregon. You can find out more by reading his blog at http://cephas.net/blog/.

    Comments (3) View Comments

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    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.

    Most Recent Comments
    Dan Novik 04/29/08 04:49:22 AM EDT

    you can simply use JSP custom tags in your CF application. E.g. all the tags from this suite: http://www.servletsuite.com/jsp.htm work in CF too14

    Thomas Kläger 01/06/04 09:31:06 AM EST

    The source code to this article contains some serious errors! (Boolean values not read correctly, IndexOutOfBoundsException, maybe others too)

    The article itself is fine however

    David Hardwick 10/14/03 09:51:29 AM EDT

    Fantastic article. I'm going to use this CFX extension to call the java cryptix libraries to encrypt sensative data that we are forced to store in the database.

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