Did you know there’s far more to the CF docs than just the CFML Reference?

Are you making full use of the ColdFusion documentation?

I see many people labor and suffer in their use of ColdFusion (or failing to take full advantage of it) because they tend to use search engines like Google to find information, only to be led often solely to the CFML Reference. That’s not all there is to the CF docs, folks! And you shouldn’t stop there. You wouldn’t try to learn a language from reading a dictionary, or put a tool together using only a parts list, would you? 

Did you know there are literally thousands of pages of online ColdFusion documentation, spread over several very targeted manuals, often with far more depth on a given topic than you may ever have imagined? My experience (helping in the community and with my clients) is that most folks don’t know they exist, where to find them, how to use them, and so on, which is what I cover in this article.

Online docs in web and PDF format
 
Before I detail the available manuals, note first that the docs are available both as web pages, as listed at Adobe ColdFusion Help,  and as PDFs (though for now, the PDFs for some CF2016 manuals offer only a subset of the docs) at listed at the ColdFusion Documentation Archive. (Fun fact: that list of PDF versions of the docs goes all the way back to CF6!)
 
The available manuals
 
If you visited either of those pages, you saw the large number of available CF manuals. I am listing them here again, both to reiterate their existence, and because I want to show you approximately how many pages there are, so that you appreciate the substantial nature of these manuals.
 
I’ve also listed them here in an order I have chosen, as think most people would want to know of them. Folks should take time to become familiar with all of them, I think. I include the link to the HTML version for CF2016, and I’ll add links for any complete versions of the PDFs as they may become available. 
 
And note that after this list I offer some of the newer available manuals, created in more recent releases, which may not be known even to folks who have long known that there was more than just the CFML Reference.
There are also some documents that are NOT listed on those pages but really are just as much part of documentation of ColdFusion (some are available only in PDF, others only in HTML):
So phew, that’s a lot of documentation! The next time someone complains because they don’t see any new CF books being written, ask them if they’re aware of nearly 4000 pages of available CF “books” offered by Adobe! 🙂
 
Some challenges viewing the documentation online
 
All that said, and though I have provided above the links to the online (HTML) versions of the CF2016 manuals, I will admit that when viewing anything other than the CFML Reference, I tend to favor using the PDFs for now (which are again for now only available for CF11 and below).
 
With the reference manual, each “page” is fairly independent of the other (or has links to related pages). All the other manuals are more link user guides, really meant to be read from page to page, as some topics are spread over many such “pages”.
 
Sadly the CF2016 version of the HTML-based online documentation has some serious challenges for this use.
 
There are no features for moving from one page to another, and once you’re within a given manual, each page has no navigational toolbar on the left or right showing this page’s location relative to other (chapters above, subsections below), nor is there even a simple breadcrumb to take you “up” in the documentation. There is also no means to search only within the selected manual.
 
So while I point out the HTML page links above, for those who may want to explore the HTML version, I would recommend that most people wanting to “read” or even search within a given manual would be better served with the PDF versions, even though for now the CF11 version of the PDFs are the latest available.
 
I do hope some day that both issues will be resolved: that the CF2016 PDF versions will be made available, and the online HTML versions of the CF2016 (and future) docs will have better navigational aids.
 
Another means to view CFML help
 
While my focus here has been to point out the Adobe CF documentation, many readers would benefit from knowing about the CFDocs.org site, offering quick access to current CFML reference information (tags, functions, script, and more), often with example code that may be more helpful than that in the CF documentation (but the site often has no examples at all for some tags or functions).  As an open source effort, created by Pete Freitag of Foundeo and contributed to by many, they would certainly welcome more and better examples.
 
But my main point has been to make you aware that there are indeed (and always have been) more to the CF docs than just the CFML Reference. Next time you have a question about how to use some CF feature, or deal with issues related to CF installation, administration, configuration, migration, or getting started with CF, or with ColdFusion Builder installation, use, and getting started, see the respective manuals that cover these topics!

5 Responses

  1. Thanks, Stephen. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time, and while I could have done it (and others here) on my own blog, carehart.org/blog, I am hoping that more CFers will eventually be guided here and learn from each other. Hoping it will bring out still more folks to share, who maybe don’t have their own blogs or other means to share info.

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