Here’s a nice surprise for some about a change in CF11: you can now create and read CAR files (ColdFusion archive files, a CF Admin feature) in the STANDARD edition of ColdFusion 11. In prior releases, it was available only in ColdFusion Enterprise.
Read on for more, including a gotcha regarding importing from previous release Standard editions, but for many this news will be a delight and all they need to know.
For more on what the CAR mechanism is, finding more on it, the gotcha (and what NOT to do if you hit that gotcha), and info on still more hidden gems in CF, read on.
What the CAR mechanism is for
I don’t want to rehash what’s already well-documented in both the CF docs and various blog entries and articles, so I’ll point to those in a moment.
But briefly, the CAR mechanism has been a feature in the CF Enterprise Admin “Packaging & Deployment” section, and it allows one to easily export some or all settings of one CF admin into a single zip file (a “.car” file), which can then be imported into another CF admin. It’s a point and click interface (though its UI has its challenges, so see the resources below to better understand it before trying to use it.)
It can be great whether you are moving settings from one machine to another. It can even help with migration of settings from one release to another, though CF does that for you if you install a new release on a machine with an old one, in which case the Migration Wizard option is offered as a last step of installation.
Again, though, as for using the CAR feature, one needed a CF Enterprise (or the trial or Developer) edition on both sides (export and import). At least ColdFusion 11 now supports using the feature to import or export settings, even if running ColdFusion 11 Standard.
A gotcha: won’t help with exporting Admin settings out of older Standard editions
The change in CF11 is great news going forward, but there is a gotcha: if you’re wanting to import CF Admin settings from a previous release that IS ALSO only a Standard edition, this change won’t affect THAT earlier release of CF. In other words, you still won’t be able to use the CAR feature in THAT older CF Standard edition’s CF Admin to export its settings.
I realize to some that will be a sore spot, and may seem a catch-22 (why would Adobe bother with the feature if it can’t be used to import older settings). Well, let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth. At least we have it going forward. And it WILL be of valuable for CF11 Standard folks to use to move settings to a new machine also running CF11, etc.
And I mentioned above the migration wizard will help with importing settings on an upgrade of a machine having an older release of CF to a newer one, so even someone going from an older CF Standard edition CAN have their settings migrated. This is just about using that specific CAR file feature, which is typically more for moving settings from one machine to another.
What you don’t want to do: just drop the neo-*.xml files into CF 11 (or 10) from CF9 or earlier
So what do you do if you NEED to move admin settings from a CF 9 or earlier Standard edition? You may be tempted to just grab the neo-*.xml files from the old CF server and copy them into the appropriate location in CF11 (or CF10). I’m not going to detail how to do it, because it’s unwise.
There were substantial changes in those underlying files between 9 and 10, so that it often will not work (even if it worked for years for you or others going to CF 7, 8, or 9, and even if someone says it works for them with 10 or 11.) I will say that the changes from 10 to 11 aren’t as significant, so one may have more luck trying this shortcut there.
The better solution (to bring CF admin settings from one release to another without the CAR feature)
But there’s a better solution for this dilemma (and it may be useful in other cases, also). And it’s a fully supported and documented one. I hinted at it above, when I mentioned that the last step of the CF installer checks to see if there is a previous release of CF installed on the machine. If there is, then the “migration wizard” does the import.
Well, what if you didn’t know this when you installed CF11 (or 10, or some earlier release)? Is it too late? No! It is possible to re-run that migration wizard at any time, by placing the previous release files in a particular place and editing a config file to cause the Admin to re-run the migration wizard.
Explaining (and some gotchas) goes beyond the scope of this blog entry, so I will save it for another to follow. Just know that between that and the CAR feature, you should not have to rely on trying to copy/past neo*.xml files directly from one CF instance into another, if that may cause problems.
Finding more about the CAR feature
So I’d mentioned that the CAR feature is documented. That said, the docs are rather spartan, so I’d rather you start with a blog entry that walks you through the process. There are many, but one that seems to do the job nicely is from Adrian Moreno. It’s from the CF7 timeframe, but the steps really have not changed:
There’s also an old entry from Ian at quackit.com, but it’s not got much detail and looks to be from CF6. 🙂
If anyone wants to share an equally complete and perhaps more updated blog entry, feel free to mention it in the comments. (More on the paucity of community resources covering this topic in a moment.)
As for the official CF docs,it’s mentioned in the manual on “Using the CF Administrator”, specifically the ColdFusion Archives page part of that page. Again, it’s rather spartan.
Finally, there is also online help for the feature. Many never notice but on any page of the CF Admin, there is a help button in the top right corner which will offer varying levels of detail depending on the feature in question.
Since the CAR feature has been around since CF5, we don’t find many people talking about it/blogging about it much (I could find no mention of it on old standby’s like bennadel.com, raymondcamden.com, and blog.adamcameron.me, searching for “car file” or “coldfusion archive”). Of course, some people also either never used it or perhaps never liked some aspect of it, which also may contribute to the lack of modern coverage.
So folks new to it are at a bit of a disadvantage, but hopefully the first resources above will help get you going. And again, with a new community of people now able to use the feature (those CF Standard users, now on CF11), perhaps it will spark a resurgence of interest in the tool, and in folks showing each other how to use it.
Want More Hidden Gems?
And last, as for this “hidden gem”in CF11, some of you may know that every release I like to discuss what I call “hidden gems”–things that are in the new release but may not get much press from Adobe, and perhaps even others. I’ve done talks, articles, and/or blog entries on hidden gems in each release over the years, and you can find those here and on my main site’s presentations and articles pages.
That said, I often have offered a lot more in the talks or articles that I never got around to blogging. I hope to rectify that by pointing out more of these here, and not just for CF11. What if you skipped from CF9 or 8 right to CF11? You may not have paid attention when others and I were talking about CF10 hidden gems.
So I hope to blog some more of those, too. All of us can always stand to learn still more about CF, even after years of working with it! 🙂