Finally, a framework for the rest of us!

CFWheels is an open source CFML (ColdFusion Markup Language) framework inspired by Ruby on Rails that provides fast application development, a great organization system for your code, and is just plain fun to use.

One of our biggest goals is for you to be able to get up and running with CFWheels quickly. We want for you to be able to learn it as rapidly as it is to write applications with it.

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What you need to know and have installed before you start programming in CFWheels.

We can identify 3 different types of requirements that you should be aware of:

  • Project Requirements. Is CFWheels a good fit for your project?
  • Developer Requirements. Do you have the knowledge and mindset to program effectively in CFWheels?
  • System Requirements. Is your server ready for CFWheels?

1. Project Requirements

Before you start learning CFWheels and making sure all the necessary software is installed on your computer you really need to take a moment and think about the project you intend to use CFWheels on. Is it a ten page website that won't be updated very often? Is it a space flight simulator program for NASA? Is it something in between?

Most websites are, at their cores, simple data manipulation applications. You fetch a row, make some updates to it, stick it back in the database and so on. This is the "target market" for CFWheels--simple CRUD (create, read, update, delete) website applications.

A simple ten page website won't do much data manipulation, so you don't need CFWheels for that (or even ColdFusion in some cases). A flight simulator program will do so much more than simple CRUD work, so in that case, CFWheels is a poor match for you (and so is ColdFusion).

If your website falls somewhere in between these two extreme examples, then read on. If not, go look for another programming language and framework. ;)

Another thing worth noting right off the bat (and one that ties in with the simple CRUD reasoning above) is that CFWheels takes a very data-centric approach to the development process. What we mean by that is that it should be possible to visualize and implement the database design early on in the project's life cycle. So, if you're about to embark on a project with an extensive period of object oriented analysis and design which, as a last step almost, looks at how to persist objects, then you should probably also look for another framework.

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Moving on...

Developer Requirements

Yes, there are actually some things you should familiarize yourself with before starting to use CFWheels. Don't worry though. You don't need to be an expert on any on of them. A basic understanding is good enough.

  • CFML. You should know CFML, the ColdFusion programming language. (Surprise!)
  • Object Oriented Programming. You should grasp the concept of object oriented programming and how it applies to
  • Model-View-Controller. You should know the theory behind the Model-View-Controller development pattern.


Simply the best web development language in the world! The best way to learn it, in our humble opinion, is to get the free developer edition of Adobe ColdFusion, buy Ben Forta's ColdFusion Web Application Construction Kit series, and start coding using your programming editor of choice. Remember it's not just the commercial Adobe offering: Lucee offers an excellent open source alternative. The Lucee 'express' standalone addition is a great and simple way to get a local development environment running quickly.

Object Oriented Programming (OOP)

This is a programming methodology that uses constructs called objects to design applications. Objects model real world entities in your application. OOP is based on several techniques including inheritance, modularity, polymorphism, and encapsulation. Most of these techniques are supported in CFML, making it a fairly functional object oriented language. At the most basic level, a .cfc file in ColdFusion is a class, and you create an instance of a class by using the CreateObject function or the <cfobject> tag.

Trying to squeeze an explanation of object oriented programming and how it's used in CFML into a few sentences is impossible, and a detailed overview of it is outside the scope of this chapter. There is lots of high quality information online, so go ahead and Google it.


Model-View-Controller, or MVC for short, is a way to structure your code so that it is broken down into 3 easy-to-manage pieces:

  • Model. Just another name for the representation of data, usually a database table.
  • View. What the user sees and interacts with (a web page in our case).
  • Controller. The behind-the-scenes guy that's coordinating everything.

MVC is how CFWheels structures your code for you. As you start working with CFWheels applications, you'll see that most of the code you write is very nicely separated into one of these 3 categories.

3. System Requirements

CFWheels requires that you use one of these CFML engines:

CFWheels makes heavy use of CFML's OnMissingMethod event, which wasn't available until the release of CF 8.

Operating Systems

Your ColdFusion or Railo engine can be installed on Windows, Mac, UNIX, or Linux—they all work just fine.

Web Servers

You also need a web server. CFWheels runs on all popular web servers, including Apache, Microsoft IIS, Jetty, and the JRun or Tomcat web server that ships with Adobe ColdFusion. Some web servers support URL rewriting out of the box, some support the cgi.PATH_INFO variable which is used to achieve partial rewriting, and some don't have support for either.

Don't worry though. CFWheels will adopt to your setup and run just fine, but the URLs that it creates might differ a bit. You can read more about this in the URL Rewriting chapter.

Database Engines

Finally, to build any kind of meaningful website application, you will likely interact with a database. Currently supported databases are SQL Server 7 or later, Oracle 10g or later, MySQL 5, PostgreSQL, and H2.

Regarding MySQL, please note that MySQL 4 is not supported. We also recommend using the InnoDB engine if you want for Transactions to work.

OK, hopefully this chapter didn't scare you too much. You can move on knowing that you have the basic knowledge needed, the software to run CFWheels, and a suitable project to start with.


What you need to know and have installed before you start programming in CFWheels.