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I am currently reading Railo 3 Beginner's Guide by Mark Drew, et. al

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Review of Railo 3 Beginner's Guide
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Review of Railo 3 Beginner's Guide

Railo 3 Beginner's Guide by Mark Drew

In the interest of full disclosure I received a copy of this book from the publisher for purposes of this review.

You can find out more about the book at the publisher's website: http://www.packtpub.com/railo-3-beginners-guide-to-develop-deploy-complex-applications-online/book

Overview:

The book covers installing and using the Railo Server as a platform for writing web applications using the ColdFusion Markup Language. Similar to HTML, CFML lets you interact with databases and write applications that are deployed to the web.

Chapter 1 provides of an overview of what Railo Server is, how to get it up and running on your computer, and introduces readers to the ColdFusion Markup Language. It explains the architecture underlying Railo Server and the benefits to using it. Railo Server can also be extended by developers to add new functionality to their web applications.

Chapter 2 goes into greater details on installing Railo Server. It is possible to install an Express version (good if you are evaluating it for use in a project) or a full blown version. Instructions are given for setting it up in Windows using Tomcat and then connecting it to IIS or in Linux using Jetty. After installation is complete, the book covers securing the administration dashboard with a password. It also discusses where developers will place their CFML code when writing applications.

Chapter 3 gives an introduction to the ColdFusion Markup Language (CFML). It shows developers the use of the built-in CFML tags and functions (which use a format much like HTML and Javascript), how to set up and configure a database to use with your application (focusing on the popular open source MySQL database), creating user-defined functions, how to use structures and arrays, scopes, and web data coming from URL and FORM variables. The chapter wraps up with a discussion on how to create ColdFusion Components (CFCs) and use them when writing Object Oriented code.

Chapter 4 goes into greater details on administering the Railo Server.It starts with a discussion on the two different contexts the server is used in - Server and Web. The Server context handles anything that might cover all the websites running on the server, while the Web context handles settings specific to a single site. Next this chapter covers the many settings that can be changed through the Web-based administrator dashboard. It then shows how to extend Railo Server using applications and services provided through Railo's online store or through third party providers. Writing custom ColdFusion tags and documentation round out the chapter.

Chapter 5 goes over using the Application.cfc template to set up your application and how to incorporate various scopes into your app. Next it covers Object Relational Mapping (ORM) which uses components to handle interacting with your database instead of writing queries by hand. Finally it goes over caching, why to use it, the different methods you can use and how to use them.

Chapter 6 delves into more ColdFusion, focusing specifically on CFScript. CFScript has a Javascript like syntax and when used properly can be faster and use fewer lines than CF tags. CFScript can also be used to code many of the standard CF tags, letting developers code in the style that best suits their style (tags or script). The chapter ends by looking at several components that are built-in to the Railo Server.

Chapter 7 looks at more functions specific to the Railo Server, the CFVideo and CFVideoPlayer tags. These tags let developers manipulate (creating clips or still images) and convert video files or play them inside a website. The chapter ends with a look at the native ColdFusion AJAX methods.

Chapter 8 looks at Railo Server's resources and mappings. The first part deals with functions to read and write files to the local file system. The second part deals with mappings and ways to access files on other parts of the server. The third part covers using and manipulating compressed archive files. The last part goes over using Amazon's Simple Storage Service to use files in the cloud.

Chapter 9 covers the many ways to extend Railo Server. Developers can create their own CFML tags and functions and install them in the Railo Server to use in their applications. Railo Server also has the ability to install extensions to increase the capabilities of the platform through new services or applications. The ways to develop your own Application and Server extensions are discussed. Finally the chapter covers how to set up your own Extension Provider service so that others can make use of your extensions.

Chapter 10 takes everything from the previous chapters and puts it together. It leads the developer through creating a video sharing application, using the Application.cfc template, ORM to manipulate the database, the built-in video tags to manipulate and display uploaded videos, and the session scope to allow users to log in to the application.

The Good and the Bad

If you are looking for a good introduction to setting up and using the Railo Server this is a good book. It clearly details the various ways to install and configure the Railo Server. It also does a good job at covering some of the features specific to Railo like the video tags and the ways to extend the platform.

If you are an experienced ColdFusion developer you can skip Chapter 3. If you are new to ColdFusion programming or coming from another web development language like PHP or Ruby on Rails (I get the feeling they are the intended audience) then this chapter and the subsequent chapters on CFML will be good to get you up and running. There is of course much more to CFML and covering it all would be outside the scope of the book.

I did like the ORM discussion as this is an area I've not yet explored in my own projects. I feel that there is probably much more to the topic than is covered here but I feel like I have enough knowledge to get started using it.

I have some minor complaints. I feel some of the chapters could have been broken up and made shorter. Reading through the chapters and trying out the code and instructions as I went along made for some long sessions.

There were also a few minor errors with the code listings or instructions. Nothing that gets in the way of ultimately understanding the topic covered but enough to make for some minor inconveniences. I have found this in almost every technical book I've read so I can't fault the author or editors on this point. I understand it is difficult to get it 100 percent correct.

Overall, I'd say that this book lives up to the title of being a Beginner's Guide. You can get the basics but there is definitely more out there to learn.

Posted by jhusum - 02:02 AM - Books - Comments - Link to this entry

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