Programmers use various strategies to encapsulate their work. You can think of encapsulation as creating an entity that exists in a virtual black box. To use it, you need not know how it works. But, knowing what information it requires to do its job and what information it will result in after its job is complete is a must. For example, a programmer creates a program that gets information from an employee database. Anyone, including other programs, can then use that program to query that database. Thus, the program is reusable.

Experience shows that well-organized programs that use encapsulation are easier to maintain, enhance, and reuse. Different technologies offer programmers different ways to accomplish this encapsulation, and different names describe these strategies: functions, modules, and others. Dreamweaver uses the term component for some of the more popular and modern encapsulation strategies such as Adobe ColdFusion components (CFCs). So, when users build web applications in Dreamweaver, the Components panel assists them in using CFCs.

Components from recent technologies (such as web services, JavaBeans, or CFCs) can describe themselves. Usually, information about the component is embedded in the files that constitute the component. The ability of a component to publish or share this information is called introspection. So, a program like Dreamweaver can ask a component for a list of the functions it exposes. (Exposed functions are those functions that can be loaded from another program). Depending on the technology in use, a component can reveal other information about itself.

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