It's been awhile since I've written about Client Access Express for Windows (Express client) PC5250 program updates. However, that doesn't mean IBM's Client Access group has been idle. IBM announced recently a new release of iSeries Client Access Express for Windows, V5R1, which contains a multitude of PC5250 changes. As an IBM project manager working with PC5250, I'm going to give you the scoop on all the new enhancements. So get a cup of coffee, sit back, and join me on a spin around the new and improved features of V5R1 PC5250.
PC5250's GUI Changes
The GUI for PC5250 has changed, and while some of the changes initially took me by surprise, there are some great improvements included in the new release. The first time I saw the new V5R1 PC5250 screen, I couldn't believe my eyes. While looking at the screen in Figure 1, I noticed that some of the menu bar items (e.g., the Transfer and Appearance drop-down lists) that I was accustomed to seeing and using were missing.
Figure 1: The PC5250 menu bar choices, and their associated drop-down list choices, have been reorganized in V5R1.
I wondered if my fellow IBM developers removed them just to annoy me, but I soon discovered that these former menu bar selections were reassigned as sub-menu selections within the remaining menu bar options. This change allows PC5250 to maintain a greater consistency with most Windows applications. For example, the menu bar item called Appearance is now an Edit menu sub-item. In V5R1 PC5250, if you want to customize any of the user interfaces (e.g., Window panel information, Tool Bar, Keyboard, Macro/Scripts, Hotspots, Popup Keypad), you select Edit on the menu bar, select Preferences, then select Appearance to view the sub-options in the drop-down list. This makes perfect sense because if you're going to customize or edit an option, you should go to the menu bar and select Edit, which is where editing options are located in most Windows applications.
So, where did IBM place the menu bar item called Transfer? Well, Transfer is an action, so the logical place for it is under the Actions menu bar option. Another selection under Actions is Trace, and this option allows you to launch the PC5250 trace facility. Trace used to only be a menu option in the Client Access emulator folder, but being able to change or start tracing directly from a PC5250 session makes it more useable. The last significant change is found within the menu bar option called View. In V5R1 PC5250, IBM reassigned the View options called Save/Delete View and Select View from the Windows menu bar drop-down list to the View menu bar drop-down list. Again, this change makes sense because View deals with the aspects of your active PC5250 window (or view). The View options allow you to arrange and jump between all the open workstation sessions.
The most exciting graphical interface change--and the one that has won the hearts of IBM's beta customers--is the new PC5250 Configure menu that is used to configure your PC5250 session parameters. Shown in Figure 2, the Configure menu can be reached by clicking on Actions, then Configure.
Figure 2: The PC5250 configure menu has also been revamped to make it easier to select your Workstation ID name.
I have written previously about the new Workstation ID parameters that were available with Express client PC5250. These parameters allowed you to use your Windows computer name, a Windows user name, or a generic PC5250 device name for your session Workstation ID device name. However, this support required that you enter a set of--sometimes obscure--parameters (e.g., &COMPN*) directly into the Workstation ID field of your configuration. V5R1 PC5250 offers a vast improvement. As seen in Figure 2, you can easily specify how you want the Workstation ID name defined via new check box options.
Here is a short review on what each of these options means. In the Configure PC5250 dialog screen, (Figure 2) there are three radio buttons on the left-hand side of the Workstation ID panel. By selecting the Use Computer name radio button, you are requesting that the PC5250 session uses your Windows computer (as defined on the Identification tab of your Windows Control Panel Network properties page) as your OS/400 Workstation ID name. Alternatively, if you select the Use Windows user name radio button, your Workstation ID would be based on your Windows logon user name. Choosing the Specify workstation ID radio button allows you to specify a constant Workstation ID name of up to 10 characters in length that you enter in the field directly below this radio button. For this example, I have typed in MyDisplay. If you specify a name, the name constant must not start with a numeric character and it cannot contain blanks or these special characters: ampersand (&), asterisk (*), percent sign (%), equals sign (=), and plus sign (+).
Look at the right-hand side of the Workstation ID panel. When you select the Add prefix to indicate printer or display check box, PC5250 will insert the letter P at the beginning of the Workstation ID name if the session is a printer emulation session or the letter S if the session is a display emulation session. When you select the Avoid duplicate names on this workstation check box, PC5250 will append a default short session identifier (e.g., A, B, C) to the end of the workstation ID name. When you select the Avoid duplicate names with other workstations check box, PC5250 will append a character at the end of the Workstation ID starting with the number 1. Then if that Workstation ID is already in use, PC5250 will modify the last character until if finds a Workstation ID that is not currently in use. The characters appended range from the numbers one to nine and from the letters A to Z. If you specify both the Avoid duplicate names on this workstation and Avoid duplicate names with other workstations check boxes, the character for Avoid duplicate names on this workstation is appended to the Workstation ID before the character for Avoid duplicate names with other workstations. Be aware that you can only select one of the three radio buttons on the left-hand side of the Workstation ID panel; however, you can select none or all of the check boxes on the right hand side.
There is one more option in the Workstation ID section of the Configure PC5250 dialog that you should know about: the Truncate radio buttons. Truncate is used when you select either of the Avoid duplicate names options in conjunction with the Use Computer name or Use Windows user name options. When Truncate is selected, PC5250 will shorten, when necessary, characters from either the front end (the Beginning characters radio button) or the back end (the Ending characters radio button) of the Windows user name or the Computer name to ensure that the Workstation ID name remains at 10 characters. The Ending characters radio button is the default. By the way, for those of you on a previous release of PC5250 who have already been using these functions via the aforementioned &COMPN strings, PC5250 will interpret those parameters and map them into the GUI options. You will no longer be able to enter those parameters directly into the Specify Workstation ID prompt.
Since I am outlining Workstation ID support, I want to share another exciting way it can be used. (Those of you who work on two sessions at once are really going to like this one as it will help you identify the session in which you are working). You can have PC5250 use your Workstation ID as your PC5250 emulation session window title. Look at the Window Title bar in Figure 1; you will see that it is named Systemname - MyDisplaya, which includes a literal Systemname followed by the Workstation ID I specified in Figure 2 with the letter a appended at the end (because I specified the Avoid duplicate names with this workstation check box on the Configure PC5250 dialog). The default for the Window Title is Session n - screen size where n is the same letter as your Short Session-ID (as defined in your PC5250 setup) and the screen size value is either '[24 x 80]' or '[27 x 132]'.
So how did I change this? Well, this default determines the appearance of your PC5250 window, which is a preference you can edit from the menu bar. So, go to the menu bar and select Edit, select Preferences, select Appearance, then select Window Setup, which is shown in Figure 3.
Figure 3: You can use the Windows Setup panel to change the contents of your PC5250 Windows title.
To designate the Workstation ID as your Window Title, select the 5250 Workstation ID check box in the Window Title section. You can select more than one option under this section and each of these selections will automatically change the value in your window title. My recommendation is that you first select the Session Name check box and then key in your iSeries or AS/400 computer name into the input field next to Session Name (in this case, I keyed in Systemname). Next, I recommend that you check the Separator check box on this screen as well as the 5250 workstation ID check box. These three check boxes will give you a PC5250 session Window title that contains your session name, a separator, and your Workstation ID name (MyDisplaya, in this case). If you checked the three recommended check boxes on the Window Setup screen and entered the values specified here, your PC5250 Window title would display as Systemname - MyDisplaya, the same as it does in Figure 1.
Changing colors on your PC5250 is also easy with V5R1 PC5250 thanks to a change to the GUI on the Color Mapping menu. This option used to be located in the Appearance menu item drop-down list, but it has been relocated to the Edit menu drop-down list. From the V5R1 PC5250 menu bar, you open the Color Mapping panel (as shown in Figure 4) by selecting Edit, then select Preferences, then select Appearance, then select Color Mapping. The instructions for changing colors on your PC5250 session are now displayed on the panel. If you prefer the previous method of color mapping (dragging the paint can), you can still use that method by pressing the Advanced button on the Color Mapping panel.
Figure 4: The instructions for changing colors on your PC5250 session are now located on the Color Mapping panel.
In V5R1 PC5250, there is an update to the Printer Setup panel GUI that offers two additional check box options: Use Windows Default Printer and Show this dialog before every print. Figure 5 shows the Printer Setup panel, which can be reached by selecting File, then selecting Printer Setup.
Figure 5: Printing is a breeze with the new and improved PC5250.
The Use Windows Default Printer option is a great feature that allows you to install and use a new default Windows printer for PC5250 without having to change your Printer Emulation session workstation profile. PC5250 will automatically choose your Windows default printer, even if it was added after you created you printer workstation session, as long as you have this option selected.
The Show this dialog before every print option can be a blessing or a curse. The benefits of this option are twofold. First, you can redirect your printed output to any printer instead of sending it to a designated PC5250 printer so you can balance your printer workload (e.g., send a job to an idle network printer). Second, you can send specific outputs to a printer on which that output prints the best. However, this option comes with a price: The Printer Setup panel will appear every time a job is printed to your printer emulation session, and, unfortunately at this time, the panel for redirecting your printed output does not become the active window when output is ready for printing.
One of the most common PC5250 requirement requests customers sent to IBM was the ability to remap the base and shift states of the PrtSc (SysRq), ScrLk (NumLk), and Pause (Break) keys. While pre-V5R1 versions of PC5250 provided a workaround for remapping the PrtSc key by adding a parameter in the workstation profile file (the .ws file), the other two keyboard remapping functions were not supported. With V5R1 PC5250, IBM now supports the mapping of these keys directly from the keyboard customization menu. No extra steps (e.g., adding parameters to the workstation profile ) are required.
Another new V5R1 PC5250 keyboard change is perfect for all programmers who know and love HEX and who want to enter HEX characters into a PC5250 session. There is a new function called HEX mode, which is available in the Select a Key Action panel of the Customize Keyboard function (this can be reached by selecting Edit, then by selecting Preferences, then by selecting Keyboard and clicking on the Customize button). By using keyboard customization, you can map the HEX mode function to a key on a keyboard, a button on the popup keypad, a mouse button, or assign it to a macro. The way that HEX mode operates is simple: You must request HEX mode for each hex character that you wish to enter. So if I wanted to use HEX mode to enter the characters A1 (which is specified in HEX as X'C1F1'), I would need to select HEX mode, then type C, then type 1 (A would be displayed), then select HEX mode again and type F, then type 1 (1 would be displayed). Remember, once you are in HEX mode, the first key of the paired sequence must be 4 to 9 or A to F, and the second key of the pair sequence must 0 to 9 or A to F. The only other key allowed in HEX mode is the Error reset key. There is one "gotcha" in HEX mode: If a break message occurs when you are in HEX mode, HEX mode will be interrupted and you will need to re-enter HEX Mode again before typing your HEX character.
For fumble-fingered programmers (like me) who are always locking up their keyboards with invalid key sequences or accidentally trying to key into non-input fields, V5R1 PC5250 now has an automatic error reset function. However, to use this function requires a bit more work on your part. To enable automatic error resetting, you must go into your workstation profile file (the .ws file) for your session and add the following statement under the [Keyboard] stanza of the file:
A value of Y (Yes) will allow you to recover from a keyboarding error by pressing the ENTER key, any of the function keys, the cursor arrows, or the RESET key. A value of N (No) will force you to press the RESET key on your keyboard. And since I am discussing [Keyboard] stanza parameters, I want to remind you about the following statements that were recently introduced in Express client Service Packs:
By putting the last four statements into the [Keyboard] stanza of your workstation profile and using the Yes parameter, you will be able to repeat the function of each of those keys--the PF keys, the Enter key, the Dup key, and the Field Mark key--by holding the target key down instead of pressing the key multiple times. This can be a real time saver when you have a series of screens to go through using the Enter key or when you are trying to duplicate a series of commands. If Y (yes) is specified for the caps lock overrides statement, you will be able to enter lowercase letters while Caps Lock is set by pressing the shift key.
There are many more PC5250 improvements in Client Access Express V5R1, including improvements in Macro support, security enhancements, and an assortment of other changes designed to help you become more productive with PC5250.
Becky Schmieding is a senior programmer at IBM Rochester. She is theproject manager responsible for Client Access Express, including Operations Navigator and Management Central, iSeries Access for the Web, iSeries Integrated File Systems, iSeries NetServer, Host Servers, and the Java Toolbox at the IBM Rochester development organization. She is also responsible for the integration of other IBM software products onto the AS/400.