A Simple Pipe Called OVRPRTF

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Brief: Piping is a common operation used in many operating systems to redirect the output from one program function to another. In OS/400, piping is accomplished with overrides. This article gives you an example using the standard Override with Printer File (OVRPRTF) CL command.

Every now and then, a consultant is asked to explain the advantages or disadvantages of using one programming technique over another. This task can be rather difficult when the consultant works in a shop that has established standards, preferences, or prejudices. Even large shops get caught in inertia, continuing to program in ways which no longer make sense. For instance, as odd as it may seem, some shops continue to create program-described printer output.

"What's the advantage of an externally described printer file?" one manager asked me. "We don't do that here! It's just one more program object we have to track, one more thing to get broken." Why should you program with externally described printer files? The answer can be summed up by referring to one CL command: OVRPRTF.

OVRPRTF Defined

The Override Printer File command (OVRPRTF) allows you to divert the printer datastream from one report to another without delving into the intricacies of program logic. It's like the pipe commands used in other operating systems, which redirect the flow of information away from one destination, towards another. Piping is not something that you build. It is a function built into the operating system-a kind of pre-built tool that allows you to control where and how different program objects relate to each other. OVRPRTF is one of those pipes. To see exactly how this might work, consider the following example.

OVRPRTF Piping Example

The CNTMST file is a database containing the names, addresses, and phone numbers of important people frequently contacted by members of your organization. The database is used by many different employees, and it is usually printed as a simple report called CNT01R. It uses the externally described printer file called CNT01P (See 1).

The CNTMST file is a database containing the names, addresses, and phone numbers of important people frequently contacted by members of your organization. The database is used by many different employees, and it is usually printed as a simple report called CNT01R. It uses the externally described printer file called CNT01P (See Figure 1).

Christmas time is fast approaching, and someone in the marketing department has a great idea. "Let's send holiday cards to everyone in our contact database! We'll put a POSTNET bar code on the labels, and it won't cost us much! It'll be a good way to keep our names in front of our contacts."

The simplest means of accomplishing this is to create a second externally described printer file called XMASP, (see 2). Then, using the OVRPRTF command, we will redirect (or pipe) the report output to the XMASP printer file instead of to the normal CNT01P printer file.

The simplest means of accomplishing this is to create a second externally described printer file called XMASP, (see Figure 2). Then, using the OVRPRTF command, we will redirect (or pipe) the report output to the XMASP printer file instead of to the normal CNT01P printer file.

Compare XMASP to the original CNT01P printer file. XMASP uses some (but not all) of the fields described in the CNT01P printer file. The significant difference is in the way the printer file is described. For instance, instead of printing out a heading line under the format called HEADR (containing the name of the report and the date) XMASP's HEADR format prints nothing; it only skips to line one. Secondly, the zip code format for the RPZIP field is printed as a POSTNET bar code.

This example assumes that we're using an Intelligent Printer Data Stream (IPDS) printer capable of producing a POSTNET bar code. See "Implementing POSTNET," MC, April 1994 for more information on using POSTNET in your organization. Or, see "Barcoding with DDS," MC, February 1994 for a detailed look at using IPDS printers.

XMASP is compiled using the Create Printer File (CRTPRTF) command, making certain that the LVLCHK parameter is set to *NO. This prevents the CNT01R program from halting with a level check when we pipe the report output to the XMASP printer file. Other parameters of the compile specify the size of the form being used, the number of lines, and other pertinent information about the report output.

Now it's about time to test XMASP. We could write a CL program to run this new program combinination, but since this will probably be a one-time program, we'll run the job interactively.

The first the first thing we'll need to do is to redirect the printer file to XMASP. To accomplish this, we key in OVRPRTF and press the F4 prompt key. The screen in 3 is displayed. In the FROMFILE parameter, we specify the original CNT01P printer file. In the TOFILE parameter, we specify the new XMASP file. This is all that's needed to set the pipe although there are lots of other parameters we could manipulate. For instance, if the original CNT01P printer file specified a printer device type that is not defined as an IPDS printer, we could use the OVRPRTF to instruct OS/400 to transform the datastream to IPDS. An entire list of options available for the OVRPRTF command can be found in the CL Reference manual.

The first the first thing we'll need to do is to redirect the printer file to XMASP. To accomplish this, we key in OVRPRTF and press the F4 prompt key. The screen in Figure 3 is displayed. In the FROMFILE parameter, we specify the original CNT01P printer file. In the TOFILE parameter, we specify the new XMASP file. This is all that's needed to set the pipe although there are lots of other parameters we could manipulate. For instance, if the original CNT01P printer file specified a printer device type that is not defined as an IPDS printer, we could use the OVRPRTF to instruct OS/400 to transform the datastream to IPDS. An entire list of options available for the OVRPRTF command can be found in the CL Reference manual.

After pressing the Enter key on the screen, we can call the CNT01R program interactively. As the output is created, OS/400 redirects the datastream, away from the CNT01P printer file and into the XMASP printer file. The resulting output has transformed the original report from one printed format to another without any modification of the original code. The printer override stays in effect only as long as the session remains active, or until a Delete Override (DLTOVR) command is issued.

Conclusion

This is just one example of how the redirection ability of OVRPRTF can reduce programming efforts. Instead of having to create another program (or modify the existing program) to process the slightly different printer file, we simply redirect the existing printer file to the file we want to use. It's a good demonstration of the power which externally defined printer files provide to a programming staff. Using these architectural utensils, which come as part of the standard OS/400, we can minimize the requirements of programming by increasing our efficiency. All it takes is a little planning and understanding of OS/400.

Thomas M. Stockwell is a senior technical editor for Midrange Computing.

REFERENCE CL Reference (SC41-0030, CD-ROM QBKA8202).


A Simple Pipe Called OVRPRTF

Figure 1 CNT01P Printer File

 *. 1 ...+... 2 ...+... 3 ...+... 4 ...+... 5 ...+... 6 ...+... 7 A REF(REF) * A A R HEADR SKIPB(1) A 1'CNT01R' A 11TIME EDTWRD(' : : 0') A 54'CONTACT MASTER LISTING' A 113DATE EDTCDE(Y) A 124'Page' A 129PAGNBR EDTCDE(Z) A SPACEA(2) * A 1'Number' A 7'Last Name' A 23'First Name' A 34'Address ' A 53'City ' A 64'State' A 70'Zip Code' A SPACEA(2) * A R DETAIL A RP#ID R 2REFFLD(RF#ID) A RPLNAM R 7REFFLD(RFLNAM) A RPFNAM R 23REFFLD(RFFNAM) A RPADR1 R 34REFFLD(RFADR1) A RPCTY R 53REFFLD(RFCTY) A RPST R 64REFFLD(RFST) A RPZIP R 70REFFLD(RFZIP) A SPACEA(1) *. 1 ...+... 2 ...+... 3 ...+... 4 ...+... 5 ...+... 6 ...+... 7 
A Simple Pipe Called OVRPRTF

Figure 2 XMASP Printer File

 *. 1 ...+... 2 ...+... 3 ...+... 4 ...+... 5 ...+... 6 ...+... 7 A REF(REF) * A R HEADR SKIPB(1) * A R DETAIL A RPFNAM R 1REFFLD(RFFNAM) A RPLNAM R 16REFFLD(RFLNAM) A SPACEA(1) A RPADR1 R 1REFFLD(RFADR1) A SPACEA(1) A RPCTY R 1REFFLD(RFCTY) A RPST R 12REFFLD(RFST) A SPACEA(1) A RPZIP R 1REFFLD(RFZIP) A BARCODE(POSTNET) A SPACEA(1) *. 1 ...+... 2 ...+... 3 ...+... 4 ...+... 5 ...+... 6 ...+... 7 
A Simple Pipe Called OVRPRTF

Figure 3 Override with Printer file (OVRPRTF) Command Promp

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