22 July 2014

REST Web Services - Part 1 - CFML

Dammit Adam! If there's one thing I hate more than learning its being inspired to learn!

Last week Adam Cameron got me thinking about REST Web Services, he challenged his readers, what is the best language for building them. Well I had a few thoughts which I shared. Basically it depends which language the developer in question is most comfortable in, and which environment is most accessible. In my time I've been lucky enough to be paid to work in a lot of languages and a lot of environments, so I thought I’d do a quick re-cap of a few languages and maybe even attempt a few which I've never learnt. How long it takes before my patience and time run out, we’ll see :)

My environment will be mostly Ubuntu as that’s what I run at home these days, and I’m too poor to run a server. However if I make it on to Microsoft development I’m anticipating switching to Windows 7. As for the REST services themselves I’m going for Keep It Simple Stupid here, basic proof of concept stuff. I want a GET and a POST method and that’s about it. Also I’m largely ignoring security for the time being.

First up is ColdFusion.
I’ve spent many of my years being paid as a CFML developer and I’m most comfortable with it. I should be able to knock out some REST web services here pretty quick. As much as I like CFML, Rest in CF is a pain in the neck. To me the syntax is not intuitive, mistakes are difficult to pin point, debugging is very difficult and testing a nightmare. Someone reminded me of an add on called Taffy, which is a REST framework for CF. I've never encountered Taffy myself, so I'm hopeful and excited for the challenge.

First I install Railo express, not rocket science, suffice to say it works and in just two minutes I’m running a test cfm page. (Awesome job Railo guys!)

Now I need to get Taffy running. So I download the zip file and extract it. Loosely skimming through the docs I see I can just drop the taffy folder into my Railo root. Awesome, drag and drop, ok, now what? OK So back to the docs, I’ve got to add an extension to my Application.cfc and create a hello.cfc. So not that drag and drop then. After about thirty minutes fiddling around with resources directories and tweaking Application.cfc files I’ve finally got the Taffy welcome page working properly. What held me up was *not* using the Application.cfc supplied in the docs but instead borrowing the one from the help folder. My setup is as such:

-- Application.cfc (see below)
-- index.cfm (empty cfm file)
-- hello.cfc (my REST webservices)

I now have Taffy running with Railo. This is awesome, the format for web services is pretty good, I don't need to endlessly update Railo or my application config, it just works. The test bed is the best thing, I love the bootstrap layout and it makes it so simple and easy to test. I've put a screenshot down the bottom.

Here's some code.

My Application.cfc is:

<cfcomponent extends="taffy.core.api">

        this.name = hash(getCurrentTemplatePath());

        variables.framework = {};
        variables.framework.debugKey = "debug";
        variables.framework.reloadKey = "reload";
        variables.framework.reloadPassword = "true";
        variables.framework.representationClass = "taffy.core.genericRepresentation";
        variables.framework.returnExceptionsAsJson = true;

        function onApplicationStart(){
            return super.onApplicationStart();

        function onRequestStart(TARGETPATH){
            return super.onRequestStart(TARGETPATH);

        // this function is called after the request has been parsed and all request details are known
        function onTaffyRequest(verb, cfc, requestArguments, mimeExt){
            // this would be a good place for you to check API key validity and other non-resource-specific validation
            return true;


Finally the important bit here are my web services (hello.cfc):

component extends="taffy.core.resource" taffy_uri="/hello" {

     function get(){
        return representationOf(['all your base are belong to me. :)']);
    function post(String name){
        return representationOf(['Nice to meet you ' & name]);

And CFML is done. All this, including install of Railo and Taffy took me around an hour.

If you’re Adam Tuttle, congratulations Taffy is a fantastic product and I'm very impressed. The ease at which I can deploy web services and most importantly test them is now fantastic. I don’t need to create silly little html forms or anything, it’s all built in. This is genius.  If I may offer my two cents here, you've got a little work to do on the docs. Especially the initial deployment. It’s gotta be step by step built for idiots like me. If I can’t make it work quickly, I lose interest. That aside you should be really proud.


Adam Cameron said...

Ooh... that's my first look at Taffy in action (sorry Adam Tuttle), and I like it! That's far more simple than either ColdFusion or Railo's approach.

Cheers JayBo. You've now piqued MY interest in learning more stuff...


Adam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adam Tuttle said...

Hey, thanks for the post. I'm glad you like Taffy!

The docs do have an extremely simple -- possibly too extreme? -- walkthrough for your first API, here: http://docs.taffy.io/2.2.3/#Quickstart-Your-First-API

Maybe the problem was that you missed the new docs location at http://docs.taffy.io/ ? I created it because I know how awful GitHub wikis can be for extensive/complex documentation.

Once you're good with the first example, the guides section has more extensive examples for various use-cases. I think the best place to start would be the "Dead Simple CRUD" example, which links here:


That said, I'm a firm believer that documentation is never complete because it can always be better! Feel free to file issues (about the docs or the code) or send pull requests. The docs site itself is built from this repo: https://github.com/atuttle/TaffyDocs/

And if you ever need any help, we have a mailing list (linked from the docs site) and I usually lurk ##coldfusion on freenode. :)