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PHP vs Coldfusion

Posted on 2009-04-11
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I have a client that has a website they would like re-designed.  Some of the site is built using coldfusion.  From what I have researched coldfusion looks a lot like php in what it does.  Are there benefits to coldfusion?  I could re-write the site to use php but I wondered if it would be worth learning coldfusion instead.
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Question by:brightsusan
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by:Ray Paseur
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No, it would not be worth learning CF instead.

Now having made that bold assertion, I'll try to explain why...
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Ray Paseur earned 500 total points
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The number of PHP web sites is growing by leaps and bounds over the number of CF sites.  This is largely because PHP is free and easy to use, whereas CF is not free (server software costs $$) and somewhat arcane.  PHP is open source.  That alone is worth a lot.

I would call CF a "framework" whereas PHP is more of a programming language.  Certain frameworks are implemented in PHP, notably Joomla, Drupal and WordPress.

Either PHP or CF can be used to build dynamic data-base backed web sites.  Some notable PHP sites include Yahoo, Facebook and Digg.  The popularity of these sites means that there is a lot of great research being done on high-performance and security in PHP.

If you want to find easy access to expertise, PHP is very popular and there will be lots of knowledgeable people around.  Less so with CF.  If you have not yet done so, look at the user-contributed notes in the PHP online documentation.  You con find them at the bottom of every function page.  Example... http://us3.php.net/manual/en/function.strtotime.php

And speaking of popularity, have a look at this:
http://www.tiobe.com/index.php/content/paperinfo/tpci/index.html

So overall, my guess is that you are better off converting it to PHP unless you are already fluent in CF.  "When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail" and "When you have PHP, every problem has a solution with PHP"

Best regards, ~Ray
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by:duncancumming
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Although this question is now closed, I'd like to make a reply to some of Ray's points.  

"CF is not free"
There are several diffferent versions of Coldfusion Server.  The one from Adobe isn't free.  There are three free open source versions.  The main two to consider are Railo and OpenBlueDragon.  However given that your client's site is already in Coldfusion, I guess you've already either got CF Server in place, or are using a hosting company that does.  So that shouldn't be a factor unless you want to move your client's site to your own server.

"somewhat arcane"
Not sure what that means, can you give an example?  

I would call CF a "framework"
ColdFusion is a web application server; CFML is a language.  CF is not a framework.  There are frameworks available for CF just as there are for PHP.

there will be lots of knowledgeable people around.  Less so with CF.
This is true.

What would be ideal I think is if you could leave the Coldfusion bits as they are, and any future work you do in PHP.  If you're familiar with PHP you may feel you should rewrite all Coldfusion to PHP; however I believe this would be a time consuming exercise without lots of benefit.  I guess the code would be easier for you to maintain and change later, although this could depend on how fluent you are in PHP, how easy you find to convert one language to another, and how difficult you find Coldfusion to understand.  

Alternatively you may want to try and learn Coldfusion and build on that rather than use PHP.  As a web developer, the more languages you know the better it is for you.  Both for your CV and also for your own knowledge and understanding.

Coldfusion certainly does have plenty of benefits.  Time to develop anything will usually be quicker than in PHP, ASP, JSP.  Although in those other languages you may be using a framework that does the equivalent for you.
Coldfusion uses Java in the backend, so you can always dip into Java to do something you can't do in CFML.
Even though there are much less CF developers than PHP, it is still widely used.  
CF can do some interesting things that other languages may struggle with, e.g. dynamic PDF creation, integrating with MS Exchange, good integration with Flex and Air.  CF server can even run PHP pages!
You may want to read some of the features available here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coldfusion#Main_Features
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by:brightsusan
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How difficult is Coldfusion to learn.  I am a quick learner and would like to gain more experience.  
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by:duncancumming
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Personally I'd say it's easy to learn.  The syntax of CFML is very similar to HTML syntax, i.e. tags with attributes.  If you're not comfortable with that, you can also use CFScript syntax, which is more like the C++ style you'll be familiar with from PHP.  


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