The CL Corner: Need Some Help with That Command? Part II

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Additional UIM capabilities provide more help text with user commands.


In the last article, "Need Some Help with That Command?", several User Interface Manager (UIM) tags related to the formatting of help text were introduced, including these:


  • :pnlgrp and :epnlgrp to define a panel group along with the setting of default values for some of the tags that might be found in the panel group
  • :help and :ehelp to define one or more help modules within a panel group
  • :p to indicate the start of a paragraph
  • :hp2 and :ehp2 to indicate the start and end of a highlighted phrase
  • :ul and :eul to start and end a list of items
  • :li to indicate the start of a list item


These tags were discussed as they related to the general help provided for the TRMLFTCHR command. This article will continue this discussion of UIM tags as we look at documenting how the various parameters of the TRMLFTCHR command work.


The GENCMDDOC command generated the following UIM source as a starting point for documenting the VAR parameter of the TRMLFTCHR command.



.*   Help for parameter VAR                                           


:help name='TRMLFTCHR/VAR'.                                           

&msg(TRM0002). (VAR) - Help                                           

:xh3.&msg(TRM0002). (VAR)                                             

:p.Specifies <...>                                                    

.* Describe the function provided by the parameter.                   

:p.This is a required parameter.                                     




Specify the <...>                                                    

.* Describe the function provided by the user-defined parameter value.




The first three source lines, as you learned in the previous article, are comments as they start with the characters '.*' in positions one and two of the source. Following these comments is the help tag for the next help module within the panel group.


Unlike the help tag we looked at last month, which had a simple name of TRMLFTCHR and served as extended help for the command, this help module name utilizes an imbedded slash (/) character. The slash, when found within a name, serves as a delimiter. In this case, the name TRMLFTCHR/VAR indicates that the help module is for the keyword parameter VAR of the TRMLFTCHR command. If you prompt the TRMLFTCHR command and request help while the cursor is located on the prompt line containing the VAR parameter, this is the help module that is to be immediately displayed.  Because the name contains a slash, the name must also be enclosed within apostrophes.


Following the help tag is a msg symbol similar to that used in the previous help module. The msg symbol will extract the first-level text of message ID TRM0002 from message file VINING/USERMSGF, concatenate the first level text with the text ' (VAR) – Help', and display the result.


The next tag, xh3 for extended help heading type 3, is new. Extended help headings provide the heading used over contextual help. Extended help headings are formatted with one blank line before the heading and one blank line following the heading, and the heading itself can be formatted in one of four ways. For type 3 extended help headings, the text is left justified and shown in white on a color display or high intensity on a monochrome display. There are three other types of formatting:


  • xh1—Text is centered, underlined, and shown in white on a color display or high intensity on a monochrome display.
  • xh2—Text is left justified, underlined, and shown in white on a color display or high intensity on a monochrome display.
  • xh4—Text is left justified, underlined, and shown in green on a color display.


After the xh3 heading are two paragraphs. The first paragraph is where you can describe the function of the parameter. One possible description is "Specifies the CL character variable whose value is to be changed." The second paragraph specifies that the parameter is required and is provided by GENCMDDOC due to the command definition indicating that a minimum of one value is required.


Following these paragraphs is a :parml tag. The parameter list tag defines the start of a list of possible parameter values and descriptions. Two required tags are used within the parameter list to define each possible parameter value. These tags are :pt to indicate the supported parameter term and :pd to describe the parameter term. Additional tags can be used in the term and description in order to control formatting. The parameter list, when all possible parameter values have been documented, is then ended with the :eparml tag.


In the case of the VAR parameter, there is only one supported parameter value: a CL variable defined as TYPE(*CHAR). So the first and only list entry for the VAR parameter uses a pt tag with the text 'character-value' to define the type of value expected. This text string is preceded by the programming variable tag :pv and followed by the end programming variable tag :epv. The pv tag will cause the text 'character-value' to be displayed as green on a color display and underlined. Following this is a pd tag where you can document the type of character value expected—in our case, a CL variable.


The complete help module for the VAR parameter, along with the help modules for the other two parameters— TRMCHR and ALLTRMCHR—might be defined as shown below.



.*   Help for parameter VAR                                         


:help name='TRMLFTCHR/VAR'.                                         

&msg(TRM0002). (VAR) - Help                                          

:xh3.&msg(TRM0002). (VAR)                                           

:p.Specifies the CL character variable whose value is to be changed.

:p.This is a required parameter.                                    




Specify the name of the character variable.                          




.*   Help for parameter TRMCHR                                      


:help name='TRMLFTCHR/TRMCHR'.                                        

&msg(TRM0003). (TRMCHR) - Help                                        

:xh3.&msg(TRM0003). (TRMCHR)                                          

:p.Specifies one or more character values to be trimmed from the left 

of the CL variable identified by the VAR parameter. Trimming of        

characters will end when a character value of the VAR parameter does  

not match any of the specified TRMCHR values.                         

:p.You can specify 50 values for this parameter.                      


:pt.:pk def.0:epk.                                                    


Remove zero (0) values starting from the left of the VAR parameter    




Specify the characters to be trimmed from the left of the VAR         





.*   Help for parameter ALLTRMCHR                                    


:help name='TRMLFTCHR/ALLTRMCHR'.                                    

&msg(TRM0004). (ALLTRMCHR) - Help                                    

:xh3.&msg(TRM0004). (ALLTRMCHR)                                      

:p.Specifies the left adjusted value to be returned in the VAR       

parameter when only characters specified by the TRMCHR parameter are 

found in the VAR parameter. This character value will be returned in 

the leftmost position of the VAR parameter with all following         

character positions set to blanks.                                   


:pt.:pk def.*TRMCHR:epk.                                             


The first specified TRMCHR parameter value is to be used when all    

characters of the VAR parameter are trimmed.                         



Specify the character value to be returned when all characters of the

VAR parameter are trimmed.                                           




You should recognize many of the UIM tags shown above, but there is one set of tags found in the TRMCHR and ALLTRMCHR help modules that you haven't seen before. Both the TRMCHR and the ALLTRMCHR parameters define a default value—0 for TRMCHR and the special value *TRMCHR for ALLTRMCHR. For these default values, you will notice that the pv and epv tags, while used with the VAR parameter list entry and the second list entry defined for the TRMCHR and ALLTRMCHR parameters, have been replaced with the programming keyword :pk tag and associated :epk. The pk tag identifies the following text as representing a programming key value that can be used with the command. When used with the DFT attribute, as it is the 0 value for TRMCHR and the *TRMCHR special value for ALLTRMCHR, the programming keyword is also being identified as the default value for the parameter. When the optional DFT attribute is specified, the programming keyword will be displayed underlined and white on a color display or high intensity on a monochrome display. When the DFT attribute is not specified, the programming keyword will be displayed white on a color display or high intensity on a monochrome display, without being underlined.


After all of the command parameters have been documented, CL command help generally provides one or more examples of how to use the command. The command usage examples are typically defined as a separate help module, with the following representing two examples.




.* Examples for TRMLFTCHR                                            



:help name='TRMLFTCHR/COMMAND/EXAMPLES'.                              

Examples for TRMLFTCHR - Help                                        

:xh3.Examples for TRMLFTCHR                                          

:p.:hp2.Example 1: Simple Command Example:ehp2.                      


TRMLFTCHR  VAR(&CHAR10)                                              


:p.This command will trim all leading zero (0) values from the       

CL variable &CHAR10 and return the remaining characters left         



:p.:hp2.Example 2: More Complex Command Example:ehp2.                


TRMLFTCHR   VAR(&CHAR10) TRMCHR(* ' ')                               



:p.This command will trim all leading blanks and asterisks from the  

CL variable &CHAR10 and return the remaining characters left adjusted.

If only blanks and asterisks are found in the &CHAR10 variable then  

the left adjusted value 'X' is to be returned.                       



As with the help modules for TRMCHR and ALLTRMCHR, you should recognize most of the tags being used by the preceding help module. The one new set of tags is :xmp and :exmp, indicating the start and end of an example. The xmp tag, for the most part, disables the formatting normally done by UIM—for instance, the concatenation of text from one source line to the next, trimming trailing blanks. There are a few exceptions related to the available width of the help display area, but in general the xmp tag provides a "what you see is what you get" environment for demonstrating command inputs and resulting outputs.


The last help module that is provided by the GENCMDDOC command is related to the possible escape, status, and notify messages that might be sent by the TRMLFTCHR CPP—that is, the messages that your CL program using the TRMLFTCHR command can monitor for with the MONMSG command. Currently, no messages are sent by the CPP. But rather than assume the CPP is perfect, we'll add a program-level monitor to the CPP and send the escape message TRM0009 in the event the monitor is run. To add message description TRM0009 to the VINING/USERMSGF message file, you can use the following command.



MSG('Unexpected error. See job log for additional information.')


To send the message from the CPP, we will also make these changes to the TRMLFTCHR CL program:


  • Add a program-level monitor after the last DCL command:


                MonMsg MsgID(CPF0000 MCH0000) Exec(GoTo CmdLbl(Error))


  • Add the following commands prior to the ENDPGM command:




            SndPgmMsg  MsgID(TRM0009) MsgF(Vining/UserMsgf) +



And then recompile the program with either








With these changes out of the way, we're now ready to work on the error message help module. As with the example help module, you should recognize many of the tags you find in the error message help module. You should also see that a new feature of the &msg symbol is being introduced. In the previous help modules, the msg symbol was referencing message descriptions that could be found in the USERMSGF message file. As this message file was earlier designated as the default message file for msg symbols with the submsgf attribute of the pnlgrp tag, there was no need for us to re-specify the message file. In the error message help module, though, we're referencing two IBM-provided message descriptions: CPX0005 and CPX0006. The new attribute specifies where these message descriptions can be found—in this case, the message file QCPFMSG.


There are also new tags found in the error message help module, though you can probably guess the purpose of these tags due to your earlier exposure to similar tags. The dl tag starts a list of definitions, the dt tag a definition term, the dd tag a definition description, and the edl tag the end of the definition list. The term being defined is the message ID that can be sent, and the description is the first-level text of the message. Associated with the dl tag is the attribute COMPACT. Lists default to having one blank line between each list item. The compact attribute causes the list to be formatted without the blank line between items and is supported with the ol and ul tags in addition to the dl tag.


The GENCMDDOC command generates several IBM-provided error messages in the definition list. As the TRMLFTCHR command will not send any of these messages, we should remove them. But prior to deleting these IBM-provided messages from the panel group source, note that a fourth attribute of the msg symbol, nosub, has been specified (there is also a new third attribute, but I suspect it's intended use can be easily guessed at). The first-level text of many error messages includes replacement text variables (&1, &2, etc). By default, the msg symbol will substitute blanks for the replacement text variables. That is, &msg(CPF9801,QCPFMSG). will generate the help text 'Object  in library  not found.' in our help panel group. The nosub attribute causes the replacement text variables to not be substituted, which I generally find more useful within help text. That is, &msg(CPF9801,QCPFMSG,*LIBL,nosub). will generate the help text 'Object &2 in library &3 not found.' In the case of TRMLFTCHR, none of our TRM* messages utilize replacement variables in the first-level text, so we can simply go with the default value.


After removing the GENCMDDOC-generated dt and dd tags, we'll add one entry for the TRM0009 error message we previously defined. The following help module source demonstrates our changes.




.* Error messages for TRMLFTCHR                                       



:help name='TRMLFTCHR/ERROR/MESSAGES'.                                

&msg(CPX0005,QCPFMSG). TRMLFTCHR - Help                               

:xh3.&msg(CPX0005,QCPFMSG). TRMLFTCHR                                  

:p.:hp3.*ESCAPE &msg(CPX0006,QCPFMSG).:ehp3.                          









That completes our general updates of the TRMLFTCHR command help text. If you would like to see the command help text as it stands with the changes made in this article, you can re-create the panel group with this command:




Once created, you can then prompt the TRMLFTCHR command and request help with F1 followed by F2 to access the extended help.


As you will hopefully agree, providing and maintaining help text for commands does not take much time or effort. And the productivity advantage in having help directly associated with the command—as opposed to having to run off to some book that may or may not be up to date (or easily found for that matter)—leads me to the conclusion that any command without help text is a command that is only half done. There is one problem, though, with having help text associated with the command itself—namely, that you need access to an i in order to prompt the command and then read the help text. Wouldn't it be nice to also provide the help text on the Web and in hardcopy? Next month, we'll see how to provide the command help text on a Web site and explore a few other items that are easily implemented.


Wondering how to accomplish a function in CL? Send your CL-related questions to me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. I'll try to answer your burning questions in future columns.

 as/400, os/400, iseries, system i, i5/os, ibm i, power systems, 6.1, 7.1, V7,


Bruce Vining

Bruce Vining is president and co-founder of Bruce Vining Services, LLC, a firm providing contract programming and consulting services to the System i community. He began his career in 1979 as an IBM Systems Engineer in St. Louis, Missouri, and then transferred to Rochester, Minnesota, in 1985, where he continues to reside. From 1992 until leaving IBM in 2007, Bruce was a member of the System Design Control Group responsible for OS/400 and i5/OS areas such as System APIs, Globalization, and Software Serviceability. He is also the designer of Control Language for Files (CLF).A frequent speaker and writer, Bruce can be reached at 

MC Press books written by Bruce Vining available now on the MC Press Bookstore.

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    IBM’s Steve Will talks AS/400, POWER9, cognitive systems, and everything in between

    Are there still companies that use AS400? Of course!

    IBM i was built on the same foundation.
    Watch this recorded webinar with IBM i Chief Architect Steve Will and IBM Power Champion Tom Huntington to gain a unique perspective on the direction of this platform, including:

    • IBM i development strategies in progress at IBM
    • Ways that Watson will shake hands with IBM i
    • Key takeaways from the AS/400 days


  • Ask the RDi Experts

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericWatch this recording where Jim Buck, Susan Gantner, and Charlie Guarino answered your questions, including:

    • What are the “hidden gems” in RDi that can make me more productive?
    • What makes RDi Debug better than the STRDBG green screen debugger?
    • How can RDi help me find out if I’ve tested all lines of a program?
    • What’s the best way to transition from PDM to RDi?
    • How do I convince my long-term developers to use RDi?

    This is a unique, online opportunity to hear how you can get more out of RDi.


  • Node.js on IBM i Webinar Series Pt. 2: Setting Up Your Development Tools

    Profound Logic Software, Inc.Have you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application. In Part 2, Brian May teaches you the different tooling options available for writing code, debugging, and using Git for version control. Attend this webinar to learn:

    • Different tools to develop Node.js applications on IBM i
    • Debugging Node.js
    • The basics of Git and tools to help those new to it
    • Using as a pre-built development environment



  • Inside the Integrated File System (IFS)

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericDuring this webinar, you’ll learn basic tips, helpful tools, and integrated file system commands—including WRKLNK—for managing your IFS directories and Access Client Solutions (ACS). We’ll answer your most pressing IFS questions, including:

    • What is stored inside my IFS directories?
    • How do I monitor the IFS?
    • How do I replicate the IFS or back it up?
    • How do I secure the IFS?

    Understanding what the integrated file system is and how to work with it must be a critical part of your systems management plans for IBM i.


  • Expert Tips for IBM i Security: Beyond the Basics

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access

    Don't miss this chance to take your knowledge of IBM i security beyond the basics.



  • 5 IBM i Security Quick Wins

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn today’s threat landscape, upper management is laser-focused on cybersecurity. You need to make progress in securing your systems—and make it fast.
    There’s no shortage of actions you could take, but what tactics will actually deliver the results you need? And how can you find a security strategy that fits your budget and time constraints?
    Join top IBM i security expert Robin Tatam as he outlines the five fastest and most impactful changes you can make to strengthen IBM i security this year.
    Your system didn’t become unsecure overnight and you won’t be able to turn it around overnight either. But quick wins are possible with IBM i security, and Robin Tatam will show you how to achieve them.

  • How to Meet the Newest Encryption Requirements on IBM i

    SB PowerTech WC GenericA growing number of compliance mandates require sensitive data to be encrypted. But what kind of encryption solution will satisfy an auditor and how can you implement encryption on IBM i? Watch this on-demand webinar to find out how to meet today’s most common encryption requirements on IBM i. You’ll also learn:

    • Why disk encryption isn’t enough
    • What sets strong encryption apart from other solutions
    • Important considerations before implementing encryption



  • Security Bulletin: Malware Infection Discovered on IBM i Server!

    SB PowerTech WC GenericMalicious programs can bring entire businesses to their knees—and IBM i shops are not immune. It’s critical to grasp the true impact malware can have on IBM i and the network that connects to it. Attend this webinar to gain a thorough understanding of the relationships between:

    • Viruses, native objects, and the integrated file system (IFS)
    • Power Systems and Windows-based viruses and malware
    • PC-based anti-virus scanning versus native IBM i scanning

    There are a number of ways you can minimize your exposure to viruses. IBM i security expert Sandi Moore explains the facts, including how to ensure you're fully protected and compliant with regulations such as PCI.



  • Fight Cyber Threats with IBM i Encryption

    SB PowerTech WC GenericCyber attacks often target mission-critical servers, and those attack strategies are constantly changing. To stay on top of these threats, your cybersecurity strategies must evolve, too. In this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access




  • 10 Practical IBM i Security Tips for Surviving Covid-19 and Working From Home

    SB PowerTech WC GenericNow that many organizations have moved to a work from home model, security concerns have risen.

    During this session Carol Woodbury will discuss the issues that the world is currently seeing such as increased malware attacks and then provide practical actions you can take to both monitor and protect your IBM i during this challenging time.


  • How to Transfer IBM i Data to Microsoft Excel

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_Generic3 easy ways to get IBM i data into Excel every time
    There’s an easy, more reliable way to import your IBM i data to Excel? It’s called Sequel. During this webinar, our data access experts demonstrate how you can simplify the process of getting data from multiple sources—including Db2 for i—into Excel. Watch to learn how to:

    • Download your IBM i data to Excel in a single step
    • Deliver data to business users in Excel via email or a scheduled job
    • Access IBM i data directly using the Excel add-in in Sequel

    Make 2020 the year you finally see your data clearly, quickly, and securely. Start by giving business users the ability to access crucial business data from IBM i the way they want it—in Microsoft Excel.



  • HA Alternatives: MIMIX Is Not Your Only Option on IBM i

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericIn this recorded webinar, our experts introduce you to the new HA transition technology available with our Robot HA software. You’ll learn how to:

    • Transition your rules from MIMIX (if you’re happy with them)
    • Simplify your day-to-day activities around high availability
    • Gain back time in your work week
    • Make your CEO happy about reducing IT costs

    Don’t stick with a legacy high availability solution that makes you uncomfortable when transitioning to something better can be simple, safe, and cost-effective.



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  • Backup and Recovery on IBM i: Your Strategy for the Unexpected

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates the routine tasks of iSeries backup and recovery, saving you time and money and making the process safer and more reliable. Automate your backups with the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution. Key features include:
    - Simplified backup procedures
    - Easy data encryption
    - Save media management
    - Guided restoration
    - Seamless product integration
    Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Try the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Manage IBM i Messages by Exception with Robot

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Managing messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. How can you be sure you won’t miss important system events?
    Automate your message center with the Robot Message Management Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated message management
    - Tailored notifications and automatic escalation
    - System-wide control of your IBM i partitions
    - Two-way system notifications from your mobile device
    - Seamless product integration
    Try the Robot Message Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Easiest Way to Save Money? Stop Printing IBM i Reports

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates report bursting, distribution, bundling, and archiving, and offers secure, selective online report viewing.
    Manage your reports with the Robot Report Management Solution. Key features include:

    - Automated report distribution
    - View online without delay
    - Browser interface to make notes
    - Custom retention capabilities
    - Seamless product integration
    Rerun another report? Never again. Try the Robot Report Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Hassle-Free IBM i Operations around the Clock

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413For over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i.
    Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated batch, interactive, and cross-platform scheduling
    - Event-driven dependency processing
    - Centralized monitoring and reporting
    - Audit log and ready-to-use reports
    - Seamless product integration
    Scale your software, not your staff. Try the Robot Job Scheduling Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • ACO MONITOR Manages your IBM i 24/7 and Notifies You When Your IBM i Needs Assistance!

    SB DDL Systems 5429More than a paging system - ACO MONITOR is a complete systems management solution for your Power Systems running IBM i. ACO MONITOR manages your Power System 24/7, uses advanced technology (like two-way messaging) to notify on-duty support personnel, and responds to complex problems before they reach critical status.

    ACO MONITOR is proven technology and is capable of processing thousands of mission-critical events daily. The software is pre-configured, easy to install, scalable, and greatly improves data center efficiency.