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Ben Nadel at CFinNC 2009 (Raleigh, North Carolina) with: Simon Free and Todd Sharp and Shannon Hicks and Charlie Arehart and Sean Corfield and Jason Dean
Ben Nadel at CFinNC 2009 (Raleigh, North Carolina) with: Simon Free ( @simonfree ) Todd Sharp ( @cfsilence ) Shannon Hicks ( @iotashan ) Charlie Arehart ( @carehart ) Sean Corfield ( @seancorfield ) Jason Dean ( @JasonPDean )

CFHttp Error: Column Names Must Be Valid Variable Names In ColdFusion

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One of the peculiarities of the ColdFusion language is that some operations are capable of returning two different kinds of data (results and metadata). And, some operations are capable of returning the same result using two different mechanisms. Most of the time, this is fine—you develop the patterns of consumption that work best for your particular style of coding. But, sometimes your brain farts and you end up with strange error messages.

This is what happened to me yesterday when invoking the CFHttp tag in ColdFusion. I was making a simple GET request:

<cfscript>

	cfhttp(
		name = "httpResponse",
		method = "get",
		url = "https://www.bennadel.com/",
		timeout = 3
	);

</cfscript>

... and ended up with this runtime error:

Column names must be valid variable names. They must start with a letter and can only include letters, numbers, and underscores.

coldfusion. runtime. QueryFunction$ QueryColumnNameException: The column name <!doctype html> is invalid.

The CFHttp tag is a strange tag. And it has some strange (in my opinion) legacy behaviors; one of which is parsing the returned fileContent into a ColdFusion Query object. Instead of indicating this behavior through some processing attribute, like returnAsQuery, ColdFusion differentiates this pathway through the existence of the name attribute.

If you look at my ColdFusion code above, you'll see that I'm using name="httpResponse". This is telling ColdFusion to parse the HTTP fileContent into a query object called httpResponse. Hence the above error.

What I intended to do was use the result attribute:

<cfscript>

	cfhttp(
		result = "httpResponse",
		method = "get",
		url = "https://www.bennadel.com/",
		timeout = 3
	);

</cfscript>

This works fine; and, tells ColdFusion to save the HTTP fileContent into a variable named httpResponse.

Aside: Without the result attribute, the HTTP response can also be accessed using the cfhttp variable which is implicitly defined after the cfhttp tag execution. If you're using the script-based Http() component, this is akin to calling new Http().send().getPrefix().

Want to use code from this post? Check out the license.

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Ben Nadel