CFScript Gotchas and Syntax Guides

Now, script syntax is *usually* straightforward, but as with any language, sometimes it's easy to get confused over certain things in script syntax. In this post I'll cover a quick list of common "gotchas" in CFScript, document the proper syntax for each, and finally link to a list of CFScript guides which may help you start writing CFScript today.

Common “Gotchas” in CFScript

  • Too many pound signs
  • Missing semicolons
  • New operators
  • Assignment instead of equality operator
  • Strict equality operator

Too Many Pound Signs

Don’t do this:

if ( #isBroken# ) {
    writeOutput( "Hello #name#!" );
    writeOutput( #age# );

Why not? Because the pound signs are only necessary within strings. I suppose the correct term is “string evaluation”, because your variable needs to be evaluated and the contents placed within the string.

Here’s the proper syntax for that above example:

if ( isBroken ) {
    writeOutput( "Hello #name#!" );
    writeOutput( age );

For a more detailed writeup, check out Mark Kruger’s “Bamboozled by Pound Sign Decisions” blog post.

Missing Semicolons

This is a fairly easy one. Semicolons are used to terminate a CFScript statement, and are required in ACF up to CF2016. Semicolons are optional now in CF2018, as well as Lucee. So if you get a cryptic “Invalid construct. on line x” error, you may want to check your semicolons!

New Operators

If you’re using CFML’s JS-like syntax, you should use the new JS-like operators as well, no? This is a matter of preference, but I feel that these operators are more “standard” in all languages and a consistent, improved experience for CF devs.

  • Instead of NOT, use !
  • Instead of EQ, use ==
  • Instead of NEQ, use !=
  • Instead of GT, use >
  • Instead of LT, use <
  • Instead of GTE, use >=
  • Instead of LTE, use <=
  • Instead of OR, use ||
  • Instead of AND, use &&

Older tag-based operators:

if ( NOT json.success OR arrayLen(validation.errors) GT 0 ) {
    // do something

Newer, JS-like operators:

if ( !json.success || arrayLen(validation.errors) > 0 ) {
    // do something

PS. ArrayLen() always returns a non-negative integer. There’s really no need to check that it’s greater than zero, because any non-zero integer will evaluate to true in CFML. Whereas zero always evaluates to false. So you can shrink that conditional further like so:

if ( !json.success || arrayLen(validation.errors) ) {
    // do something

Using the Assignment Operator Instead of Equality Operator

I feel like this is a rite of passage for all developers. If you accidentally use the assignment operator (=) instead of the equality operator (==) in a conditional, you will get some very interesting results.

For example, this code will always print True! in Lucee.

if ( a = 1 ) {
} else {

That is a tough bug to find, because it looks right upon first scan. So be intentional about how you write your conditionals!

Strict Equality Operator

This is almost trick question - there is no “strict equality” operator in CFML!

So don’t do this, because it just won’t work:

if ( myVar === "theValue" ) {
    // do something

If you must enforce a type, use isValid().

CFScript Syntax Guides

I thought I’d put together a quick (non-exhaustive) list of CFScript syntax guides that may help folks on their journey to modern CF. You may want to bookmark a few of these, like Tony Junkes’ comparison of tag and script syntax, as well as Ortus’ “100 Minutes” full-on CFScript guide, and finally a cheat sheet by Pete Freitag. As you can see, there is a lot of CFScript documentation out there.

Hope this helps - thank you for reading!

June 28, 2019

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