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Dynamic Content

Dynamic content is generated or retrieved on the fly (dynamically) by a server-based application and integrated into a Web page before it is sent to the browser. For example, the server-based application may pull data from a database and display it in the Web page.

The developer (or development team) has to do two things: Create one or more server behaviors, such as retrieving a recordset from a database, and create client applications such as Web pages, possibly including Flash applications, that invoke those server behaviors and display the results.

Creating Server Behaviors

In Studio MX, you use Dreamweaver to create the server-side functionality. Dreamweaver can create Web pages supporting any of five major dynamic content technologies: Macromedia ColdFusion, Microsoft Active Server Pages (ASP), ASP.NET, JavaServer Pages (JSP), and PHP. Of these, this book focuses on ColdFusion.

You can use three basic approaches to create server behaviors. They're not mutually exclusive, and the first can serve as a gentle introduction to the second.

  • First, Dreamweaver provides tools that make it easy to create simple, useful server behaviors, with little or no coding. These tools can ease the learning curve and speed up your workflow. The Dreamweaver tools are particularly powerful for creating ColdFusion-based server behaviors.

NOTE

For more on Dreamweaver's tools for auto-generating ColdFusion server behaviors, see Chapter 13, "Developing ColdFusion Applications in Dreamweaver," page 287.

  • Second, you can code in the server's native language. In the case of ColdFusion Markup Language (CFML), it's not too difficult to learn, especially if you already know some HTML, and the power you get in return is impressive.

NOTE

For more on CFML, see Chapter 33, "ColdFusion Markup Language (CFML)," page 885.

  • Third, you can use ColdFusion's Server-Side ActionScript (SSAS). This consists of just two functions: CF.query for database operations such as retrieving, inserting, updating, and deleting records; and CF.http for sending information to a remote server or passing variables to a ColdFusion page or CGI program and getting return data. It's just a tiny fraction of what CFML can do, but very often it's all an ActionScript programmer needs. Everything else can be done in Flash.

Creating the Client Interface

To develop the client functionality—making requests and receiving return values—you'll probaby use just Dreamweaver or just Flash, though there's no reason why you can't use both in a single application. Both Dreamweaver and Flash have easy-to-use, powerful tools for integrating dynamic data.

Dreamweaver is a little easier than Flash. Dreamweaver can almost instantly create a bare-bones user interface that incorporates dynamic data. For instance, in Chapter 13, you'll find an example of creating a client request in Dreamweaver just by dragging and dropping a server behavior.

NOTE

For more on drag-and-drop client creation, see "Consuming Web Services," page 316, in Chapter 13, "Developing ColdFusion Applications in Dreamweaver."

Still, it's amazing how easy it can be to get the basics of dynamic data working in Flash MX Professional 2004. (And you should definitely use the Professional version for dynamic data, because of the special data components it includes.)

Both Dreamweaver and Flash can produce a wide variety of great-looking, powerful, highly usable client pages and applications that incorporate dynamic data. Realistically, they're both so good, I think most people will make the decision about which program to use based on factors other than their dynamic data functionality.

NOTE

For more on dynamic data in Flash, see Chapter 23, "Using Flash for Dynamic Data," page 661.

For more on dynamic data in Dreamweaver, see Chapter 13, page 287.

There's also information on dynamic data in Chapter 32, "Understanding and Administering ColdFusion," page 875.

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