Database Queries

CFML provides the easiest way to query a database

CFML became famous in its infancy because it was easy to query databases with a simple cfquery tag and no verbose ceremonious coding. There is no ceremony, just a plain datasource definition in the administrator, and we could easily query the database.

In modern times, we have many more ways to query the database, and defining data sources can occur not only in the admin but in our web application's Application.cfc or even define it at runtime programmatically or within the query constructs themselves.

See Application.cfc for more information on how to leverage it for web development.

What is a Datasource?

A datasource is a named connection to a specific database with specified credentials. You can define an infinite amount of data sources in your CFML applications in the following locations:

  • Global ColdFusion Engine (Adobe or Lucee) Administrator

    • Adobe : http://localhost:port/CFIDE/adminstrator

    • Lucee: http://localhost:port/lucee/admin/server.cfm

  • The Application.cfc, which will dictate the data sources for that specific ColdFusion application

  • Inline in cfquery or queryexecute calls

The datasource is then used to control the database's connection pool and allow the ColdFusion engine to execute JDBC calls against it.

What is a query?

A query is a request to a database representing the results' rows and columns. It returns a CFML query object containing a record set and other metadata information about the query. The query can ask for information from the database, write new data to the database, update existing information in the database, or delete records from the database. This can be done in several ways:

In Lucee, a query is backed by the following class: lucee.runtime.type.QueryImpl In Adobe, a query is backed by the following class: coldfusion.sql.QueryTable

// Tag syntax
<cfquery name = "qItems" datasource="pantry"> 

// script syntax

qItems = queryExecute( 

// Lucee datasource inline definition
  "SELECT * FROM Employees WHERE empid = ? AND country = ?", // sql
  [ 1, "USA" ], // params
  { // options
    datasource : {
      class : "",
      connectionString : "jdbc:sqlserver://#getSystemSetting("DB_CONNECTIONSTRING")#",
      username : getSystemSetting("DB_USER"),
      password : getSystemSetting("DB_PASSWORD")

If you are using Lucee, the datasource can even be defined inline. So instead of giving the name of the datasource it can be a struct definition of the datasource you want to connect to, just like the struct in Application.cfc

Default Datasource

You can also omit the datasource completely from query calls, and CFML will use the one defined in Application.cfc as the default datasource connection. This is a great way to encapsulate the datasource in a single location. However, we all know that there could be some applications with multiple data sources; that's ok; at least you can have one by default.

component{ = "myApp";

    // Default Datasource Name
    this.datasource = "pantry";


Defining Datasources

If you want to use the ColdFusion Engine's administrators for registering data sources, you must visit each administrator's interfaces and follow their wizards.

ColdFusion Engine Administrator


You can also define the datasources in the Application.cfc, which is sometimes our preferred approach as the connections are versioned controlled and more visible than in the admin. You will do this by defining a struct called this.datasources. Each key will be the name of the datasource to register and the value of each key a struct of configuration information for the datasource. However, we recommend that you setup environment variables in order to NOT store your passwords in plain-text in your source code.

    this.datasources = {
        // Adobe Driver Approach
        mysql = {
            database : "mysql",
            host : "localhost",
            port : "3306",
            driver : "MySQL",
            username : "root",
            password : "mysql",
            options : value
        // Adobe url approach
        mysql2 = {
            driver : "mysql",
            url : "jdbc:mysql://localhost:3306/test?useUnicode=true&characterEncoding=UTF-8&useLegacyDatetimeCode=true",
            username : "",
            password : ""
        // Shorthand Lucee Approach
        myLuceeDNS = {
            class : "com.mysql.jdbc.Driver",
            connectionString : "jdbc:mysql://localhost:3306/test?useUnicode=true&characterEncoding=UTF-8&useLegacyDatetimeCode=true",
            username : "",
            password : "" 
        // Long Lucee Approach
        myLuceeDNS = {
            type : "mysql",
            database : "mysql",
            host : "localhost",
            port : "3306",
            username : "",
            password : ""

For the inline approach, you will use the struct definition, as you see in the Application.cfc above and pass it into the cfquery or queryexecute call.

Portable Datasources

You can also make your data sources portable from application to application or CFML engine to engine by using our CFConfig project. CFConfig allows you to manage almost every setting that shows up in the web administrator, but instead of logging into a web interface, you can manage it from the command line by hand or as part of a scripted server setup. You can seamlessly transfer config for all the following:

  • CF Mappings

  • Data sources

  • Mail servers

  • Request, session, or application timeouts

  • Licensing information (for Adobe)

  • Passwords

    -Template caching settings

    -Basically any settings in the web based administrator

You can easily place a .cfconfig.json in the web root of your project, and if you start up a CommandBox server on any CFML engine, CFConfig will transfer the configuration to the engine's innards:

    "datasources" : {

Displaying Results

The query object can be iterated on like a normal collection through a for, cfloop or cfoutput , each() constructs.

In a CFM Template

<cfoutput query = "qItems">
There are #qItems.Quantity# #qItems.Item# in the pantry<br />

You leverage the cfoutput tag by passing the query to it. Then in the block of the tag you use dot/array notation and interpolation to output the column you want. CFML will iterate over all rows in the query for you.

<cfoutput query = "qItems" encodeFor="html">
There are #qItems[ 'quantity' ]# #qItems[ 'item' ]# in the pantry<br />

By specifying encodefor="html" each variable is encoded using the encodeForHTML function before it is output.

Using Loops

for( var row in qItems ){
 systemOutput( "There are #row.quantity# #row.item# in the pantry" );

qItems.each( function( row, index ){
 systemOutput( "There are #row.quantity# #row.item# in the pantry" );

} );

for( var i = 1; i lte qItems.recordCount; i++ ){
 systemOutput( "There are #qItems.quantity[ i ]# #qItems.item[ i ]# in the pantry" );

As you can see, many ways to iterate over the query exist. Choose the approach that suits your needs.

Multi-Threaded Looping

Lucee and Adobe 2021+ allow you to leverage the each() operations in a multi-threaded fashion. The queryEach() or each() functions allow for a parallel and maxThreads arguments so the iteration can happen concurrently on as many maxThreads as supported by your JVM.

queryEach( array, callback, parallel:boolean, maxThreads:numeric );
each( collection, callback, parallel:boolean, maxThreads:numeric );

This is incredibly awesome, as now your callback will be called concurrently! However, please note that once you enter concurrency land, you should shiver and tremble. Thread concurrency will be of the utmost importance, and you must ensure that var scoping is done correctly and that appropriate locking strategies are in place.

myquery.each( function( row ){
   myservice.process( row );
}, true, 20 );

Even though this approach to multi-threaded looping is easy, it is not performant and/or flexible. Under the hood, the engines use a single thread executor for each execution, do not allow you to deal with exceptions, and if an exception occurs in an element processor, good luck; you will never know about it. This approach can be verbose and error-prone, but it's easy. You also don't control where the processing thread runs and are at the mercy of the engine.

ColdBox Futures Parallel Programming

If you would like a functional and much more flexible approach to multi-threaded or parallel programming, consider using the ColdBox Futures approach (usable in ANY framework or non-framework code). You can use it by installing ColdBox or WireBox into any CFML application and leveraging our async programming constructs, which behind the scenes, leverage the entire Java Concurrency and Completable Futures frameworks.

Here are some methods that will allow you to do parallel computations:

  • all( a1, a2, ... ):Future : This method accepts an infinite amount of future objects, closures, or an array of closures/futures to execute them in parallel. When you call on it, it will return a future that will retrieve an array of the results of all the operations.

  • allApply( items, fn, executor ):array : This function can accept an array of items or a struct of items of any type and apply a function to each of the items in parallel. The fn argument receives the appropriate item and must return a result. Consider this a parallel map() operation.

  • anyOf( a1, a2, ... ):Future : This method accepts an infinite amount of future objects, closures, or an array of closures/futures and will execute them in parallel. However, instead of returning all of the results in an array like all(), this method will return the future that executes the fastest! Race Baby!

  • withTimeout( timeout, timeUnit ) : Apply a timeout to all() or allApply() operations. The timeUnit can be days, hours, microseconds, milliseconds, minutes, nanoseconds, and seconds. The default is milliseconds.

Using Input

We usually won't have the luxury of simple queries; we will need user input to construct our queries. Here is where you need to be extra careful not to allow for SQL injection. CFML has several ways to help you prevent SQL Injection, whether using tags or script calls. Leverage the cfqueryparam construct/tag ( and always sanitize your input via the encode functions in CFML.

// Named variable holder
// automatic parameterization via inline struct definitions
 "select quantity, item from cupboard where item_id = :itemID"
 { itemID = { value=arguments.itemID, cfsqltype="numeric" } }

// Positional placeholder
 "select quantity, item from cupboard where item_id = ?"
 [ { value=arguments.itemID, cfsqltype="varchar" } ]

You can use the :varname notation in your SQL construct to denote a variable placeholder or ? to denote a positional placeholder. The cfqueryparam tag or the inline cfsqltype construct will bind the value to a specific database type to avoid SQL injection and to further the database explain plan via types. The available SQL binding types are:

  • bigint

  • bit

  • char

  • blob

  • clob

  • nclob

  • date

  • decimal

  • double

  • float

  • idstamp

  • integer

  • longvarchar

  • longnvarchar

  • money

  • money4

  • nchar

  • nvarchar

  • numeric

  • real

  • refcursor

  • smallint

  • sqlxml

  • time

  • timestamp

  • tinyint

  • varchar

Please note that the types can be prefixed with cf_sql_{type} or just used as {type}.

Query Methods

Several query methods are available in CFML that can help you manage queries and create them on the fly ( Please note that you can also use chaining and member functions as well.

  • queryNew()

  • queryAddRow()

  • queryAddColumn()

  • queryColumnArray()

  • queryColumnCount()

  • queryColumnData()

  • queryColumnExists()

  • queryColumnList()

  • queryCurrentRow()

  • queryDeleteColumn()

  • queryDeleteRow()

  • queryEach()

  • queryEvery()

  • queryFilter()

  • queryGetCell()

  • queryGetResult()

  • queryGetRow()

  • queryMap()

  • queryRecordCount()

  • queryReduce()

  • queryRowData()

  • querySetCell()

  • querySlice()

  • querySome()

  • querySort()

  • quotedValueList()

  • valueList()

Building Queries

You can use a combination of the methods above to create your own queries:

news = queryNew("id,title", "integer,varchar");
querySetCell(news, "id", "1");
querySetCell(news, "title", "Dewey defeats Truman");
querySetCell(news, "id", "2");
querySetCell(news, "title", "Men walk on Moon");

users = queryNew( "firstname", "varchar", [{"firstname":"Han"}] );
subUsers = queryExecute( "select * from users", {}, { dbtype="query" } );
writedump( subUsers ); 

news = queryNew("id,title",
    [ {"id":1,"title":"Dewey defeats Truman"}, {"id":2,"title":"Man walks on Moon"} ]);

news = queryNew("id,title",
    {"id":1,"title":"Dewey defeats Truman"});

Query of Queries

Query a local database variable without going through your database is another great way to query an already queried query. Too many queries?

users = queryNew( "firstname", "varchar", [{"firstname":"Han"}] );
subUsers = queryExecute( "select * from users", {}, { dbtype="query" } );
writedump( subUsers );

Please note that using a query of queries can be quite slow sometimes, not all the time. An alternative approach is to use modern queryFilter() operations to actually filter out the necessary data from a query or querySort(), etc.

Returning Arrays of Structs or Struct of Structs

In Lucee and Adobe 2021+, you can also determine the return type of database queries as something other than the CFML query object. You can choose an array of structs or a struct of structs. This is fantastic for modern applications that rely on rich JavaScript frameworks and produce JSON.

This is achieved by passing the returntype attribute within the query options or just an attribute of the cfquery tag (

users = queryNew( "firstname", "varchar", [{"firstname":"Han"}] );
subUsers = queryExecute( "select * from users", {}, { dbtype="query", returntype="array" } );
writedump( subUsers ); 

users = queryNew( "id, firstname", "integer, varchar", [{"id":1, "firstname":"Han"}] );
subUsers = queryExecute( "select * from users", {}, { dbtype="query", returntype="struct", columnkey="id" } );
writedump( subUsers );

QB = Query Builder

We have created a fantastic module to deal with queries in a fluent and elegant manner. We call it QB short for query builder ( You can install it using CommandBox into your application by just saying:

box install qb

Using qb, you can:

  • Quickly scaffold simple queries

  • Make complex, out-of-order queries possible

  • Abstract away differences between database engines

// qb
query = wirebox.getInstance( 'Builder@qb' );
q = query.from( 'posts' )
         .whereNotNull( 'published_at' )
         .whereIn( 'author_id', [5, 10, 27] )

You can find all the documentation in our Ortus Books docs:

Last updated

Ortus Solutions, Corp