Review: Three ColdFusion Books Compared

Next up is “Sams Teach Yourself Allaire ColdFusion in 21 Days.” Unlike Wrox’s offering, which specifically mentions a particular version of the language, Sams’ opts to remain more vague…though it hardly matters overall. The most striking difference between the two is that Sams’ book dives into database connectivity in chapter two, page 23! The first chapter almost serves as a summary of what is to come. It acts as an overview as to what CF is like, why you should use it (again, the selling of the language I mentioned earlier), what database-driven sites are like, the relationship between clients and servers, and a few other miscellaneous things.

The focus on databases is understandable, but not to the extreme it is taken. This book will have you making semi-advanced queries and creating basic administrative scripts before it has you using conditionals. This book is not for people just looking to learn about CFML; this book is for people who want to learn about database-driven websites and would like to try CFML with it. I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone who does not have a basic understand of web programming-related concepts already.

To this book’s credit, it seems to explore the use of some of CFML’s tags more than that of Wrox, which gives you a more solid footing and then leaves it up to you to explore the various tags further using one of the many appendices. Sams’ book manages to offset that benefit, however, with more poorly structured chapters. Why would someone want to learn about creating Java-based folder trees and query-based grids before they’ve learned about CFML’s basic text-handling functions? Can anyone tell me why it makes sense to learn to create variables with <cfset> over 150 pages after you’ve begun to learn about database-driven sites? To make matters worse, pages 275-296 are dedicated to grabbing and handling email from POP servers and the like - almost 2 dozen pages before you’re introduced to lists and arrays, which are two very basic concepts. Amidst all of this, they toss in a chapter called “Advanced SQL Techniques.” Shouldn’t this be next to the other query/DB-related chapters? Bottom line on this book: it explores certain tags very, very well, and has a focus on DB-driven sites that some may like, but it’s not for people simply trying to learn CFML and it’s not for anyone who needs their hand-held through the learning process; the chapters are just too disjointed.