Full Frontal Access

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If you’re an RPG programmer and programming front-end applications in Microsoft’s Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) seems like a foreign language, this is the article for you. Once you see how similar the two really are, you’ll be speaking fluent VBA in no time. For example, we will go through the creation of a simple order entry system using Microsoft Access for front-ends. That is, all of the interactive programming will be done in Microsoft Access. Our database will be stored on the AS/400 and accessed via ActiveX Data Objects (ADO).

System Requirements

To complete the examples in this article, we will use Microsoft Access 97, AS/400 Client Access Express for Windows on V4R4, and Microsoft ADO Version 2.1. To follow along with the examples, go to the Midrange Computing Web site (www.midrangecomputing. com/mc) and download the Microsoft Access database for this article.

The Database

This database contains all the forms and code that go along with this article. Also included in this database is a form that creates your AS/400 data files using ADO. The first time you open this database, you should proceed to the Forms tab and double-click the frmInstall form. You will be asked to enter your user name, password, and system name. When you click on the Install button, the database creates the AS/400 Library and files required for the example. This is accomplished by using SQL Create Database for the library and Create Table statements for the four files used in the example. This will also insert some sample records into the Customer and Item tables. The information entered on the frmInstall form is cached for later use when reading or writing to these tables via ADO.

It is important to note that you may have to change the references for this Access project. Microsoft has shipped many versions of ADO, and you may be running an earlier or later version than I was when I created this program. If you have a problem, open the Tools/Macro/ Visual Basic (VB) Editor menu choice and then select Tool/References from the VB Editor menus. If you see the word MISSING preceding any project reference entry, you need to correct that by deselecting the improper version of the component and selecting

the proper version of the referenced file. If you need a more up-to-date version of ADO, download the latest version of MDAC (Microsoft Data Access Components), which includes ADO and ODBC, from the Microsoft Web site (

Before we go any further, let’s go over the parts of a Microsoft Access database and the comparable AS/400 objects.

Tables. Tables are going to be fairly obvious. They would be the Microsoft Access version of an AS/400 physical file. Access tables also contain a component of a logical file in that they can have multiple indexes defined on one table. This is accomplished by displaying the table in Design view and going to the Indexes option under the View menu. Access indexes, like logical file keys, can have multiple key fields defined. These indexes can also be named through this screen. A table’s primary key (that is uniquely keyed) is named PrimaryKey by default.

Queries. Although this one would also seem obvious, it’s not. Queries in Microsoft Access would be more accurately compared with logical files or Open Query File statements than they would with AS/400 queries. This is because a primary use of queries in Microsoft Access is selecting, sorting, and grouping data to be used for another task at a later point. Queries within Microsoft Access are one of the most powerful tools within this development platform because of their ability to define a query that updates, appends, or deletes records from a table. Unfortunately, for the purposes of this article, we will not spend much time on Microsoft Access queries.

Forms. Microsoft Access forms are the equivalent of AS/400 display files on steroids. This is because you can build a data entry application that uses multiple tables in a form without ever typing a single line of code. For our application, we will create a form that is controlled by a code module.

Reports. Reports within Access are something between an AS/400 query and an RPG program. Although you don’t need to do any coding to create a report, adding a module to the report’s Print event allows you to customize certain report functions, like forcing the printing of group headings on page breaks.

Macros. Microsoft Access macros are like a combination of a CL program and an AS/400 command. Macros allow you to set a sequence of events to occur based on menu commands or modules.

Modules. Modules are the Microsoft Access equivalent of programs on the AS/400. The command language used is VBA, which is basically a downsized version of Microsoft’s VB development platform.

Now that we’ve gone over the basic similarities between developing in Microsoft Access and developing on the AS/400, let’s make some practical use of what we’ve gone over and see how programming in VBA compares to programming in RPG.

Before we start with the code, let’s examine the form that will act as our data entry screen. First, open the FRONTAL.MDB Microsoft Access database and go to the Forms tab. Now highlight the frmOrderEntry form and click the Design button to view the form shown in Figure 1. Believe it or not, each of the objects on this form has an AS/400 counterpart. For example, the combo boxes used for the Order Number, Customer, and Item fields act like an entry field with a prompt option on the AS/400. The nice thing about combo boxes is that you can link them to a field on a table without doing any coding simply by setting their RecordSource property. (To display the properties of a control, right-click on the control and select Properties from the pop-up menu.) An example is the OrderNumber field, which has the SQL statement “SELECT OrderNumber FROM tblOrderHeader” as its RecordSource. This tells Access to list the order numbers out of the tblOrderHeader field in this box. In the case of the Customer Number combo box, we want to be able to display the customer name in the field but return the customer number as the field value. This is accomplished by setting both the ColumnCount and the BoundColumn properties to 2. The

The Form

2 in the ColumnCount property tells Access to show two columns from the Select statement that drives this combo box, while the 2 in the BoundColumn property tells Access to place the contents of column number 2 into the current record when an entry is selected from the combo box.

Next, let’s examine the command buttons on our form. Command buttons are used to control the execution of a subprocedure. The control program flows in the same way an RPG program would use a function key. If you examine the Caption property, you will notice it shows as &New. The “&” tells Access to make this the shortcut key for this command button. When the form is displayed in the Form view, the button is displayed with the letter N underlined. The user can press Alt+N instead of clicking on the button. Since the button is named cmdNewOrder, both clicking the button and pressing Alt+N causes the cmdNewOrder_Click() subroutine to be activated. This is how routines are called in an event-driven environment like Access.

Next, let’s look at the list box on our form. List boxes differ from combo list boxes in that a combo box is initially displayed as a one-line field in which the list is dropped down by clicking on the combo box. A list box is always displayed in list form with a slide bar displayed along the side. The list box itself is used like the subfile display is used on the AS/400. Like the combo box, the list box can be linked directly to the table and fields required by the application. The RowSource property on this list box is slightly more complicated than those in any of the combo boxes. The following SQL statement not only selects which fields are displayed but also includes a calculated field for the extended order amount and a WHERE clause to select order lines for only the current order:

SELECT OrderLine, OrderItem, Quantity, Price, DueDate, [Quantity]*[Price] AS Amount
FROM tblOrderDetail WHERE (((OrderNumber)=[lstOrderNumbers]));

Also, the ColumnHeads property is set to “Yes” so that the list box shows the field names as the first row in the list. This list box automatically shows the order lines as they are added to the coding required!

The text boxes on the bottom of the form act as standard entry fields would in a display file. On the tbxOrderLine text box, the enabled property is set to “N,” which is the equivalent of creating a protected input capable field on a display file. Entries made in these text boxes are added to the tblOrderDetail table and will then automatically appear in the list box above. These are all of the objects required by our example.

Next, let’s take a look at the code used behind the scenes for our application. To do this, click on the Modules tab and highlight the Global module and select Design. This module is named Global to tell Access to make the procedures in this module available to other modules, forms, or reports within this database.

The Imports function has four subroutines (Items, Customers, Header, and Details) that basically perform the same function. They all download copies of their related data files from the AS/400 to our Access database. Figure 2 is a modified snippet of the Imports function. The Dim statements are used to define the objects that will be used in the procedure. The first three Dim statements are used to set up our ADO objects. The ADO Connection object lets us define the information required to connect to the AS/400. This includes the system name, user name, and password. This is done through the ConnectionString property. When defining the ConnectionString property, you must set the Provider parameter to IBMDA400 to connect to an AS/400 database if you are using the Client Access OLE DB provider. You can set the ConnectionString argument to connect your AS/400 to an ODBC driver, also.

The ADO Command object is used to define what data file on the AS/400 will be used and which records from that file should be read. This is done through the use of


standard SQL code that is placed in the CommandText property of the ADO Command object. In our example, these are basic Select from File Name statements; however, these can be more detailed to select specific fields from specific records, and the selection can be built dynamically as needed. Using this method, your programs could access one record at a time for doing interactive updates. For our example, we have not done this, because we wanted the ability to use multiple list boxes containing all of the records in the data files. The ADO Recordset object is used to access the records and fields in the file defined by the Connection and Command objects. The final Dim statement defines another Recordset object. This one allows us to access information in one of our Access tables.

When this function runs, it first clears the data in the Access table by using the RunSQL method of the DOCMD statement to execute an SQL Delete from Table Name statement. Now, after defining the ADO Connection, Command, and Recordset objects, we will read through each record of our AS/400 table and create new records in the related Access table. The WHILE NOT tablename.EOF line allows us to perform a loop until the specified table is at end-of-file. This would be comparable to doing a DOWxx loop based on a no-read indicator on a Read statement. The MoveNext method, when used on the ADO Recordset, works like an RPG Read statement. The AddNew method tells Access to create a new empty record in our local table. The Fields property allows us to set (or read) the value of the field name specified. The Update method replaces the blank record with actual field values. These three steps perform the same function as a Write statement in RPG. The four subprocedures used to import the AS/400 data are all called from the FormOpen event on our order entry form.

The cmdNewOrder_Click() subprocedure, a snippet of which is shown in Figure 3, uses the same ADO logic to take the data from the Order Header and Details tables and populate it back into the AS/400 Order Header and Details files. This routine runs each time an order is added or updated from our form and runs only on the current record (unlike the import routines, which dealt with all of the data in the file). If the cmdNewOrder button caption does not read “New,” the program updates the data on the AS/400 by using the Edit method on the ADO Recordset object after using the FindFirst method on that object to locate the correct record. After setting the fields values using the Fields property, we again use the Update method to write the updated field information to the file. If the caption of the cmdNewOrder button reads “New,” the program executes an SQL Insert statement to cause the data to be written to the AS/400 and to create a new order header record in the Access database.

That’s all that is required to get this application up and running. Unfortunately, there is a lot more code in there that does a lot of useful things. I’m sure that once you’ve seen how easy it is to complete the basic version of this order entry application, you’ll want to add your own customizations. This basic example gives you all the tools you need to gain full frontal access to your AS/400.

References and Related Materials:

Microsoft Universal Data Access Web site:

Full_Frontal_Access05-00.png 397x234

Figure 1: The Design view in Access allows you to edit the properties and controls used in your GUI application.

Function Imports()

' These lines are comparable to 'F' spec
Dim conn As New ADODB.Connection

'Define ADO Connection
Dim cmd As New ADODB.Command

'Define Command Object
Dim tblCustomer As New ADODB.Recordset

'Define ADO recordset for Customers File
Dim tblCustomers As Recordset

'Define Accessrecordset for Customers File

'First we define our connection Provider will always be IBMDA400.
'Other options should be changed to match your system,
'user name & password

On Error GoTo OpenErr

conn.ConnectionString = "Provider=IBMDA400;" & _

"User ID=username;Password=password;Data Source=sysname"

conn.Open 'Open the connection

'Disable displaying of warning messages
DoCmd.SetWarnings False

'Remove customers from Access table
DoCmd.RunSQL "DELETE * FROM tblCustomers"

cmd.ActiveConnection = conn

'Customer Import
'This would be comparable to an OPNQRYF statement

'Set recordset using SQL statement
Set tblCustomer = cmd.Execute

Set tblCustomers = CurrentDb.OpenRecordset("tblCustomers")

'This code would be comparable to an RPG 'DO' loop
While Not tblCustomer.EOF With tblCustomers


.Fields("CustomerNO") = tblCustomer.Fields("CUSTNO")

.Fields("CustomerName") = tblCustomer.Fields("CUNAME")

.Fields("CustomerAddr1") = tblCustomer.Fields("CUADD1")

.Fields("CustomerAddr2") = tblCustomer.Fields("CUADD2")

.Fields("CustomerCity") = tblCustomer.Fields("CUCITY")

.Fields("CustomerState") = tblCustomer.Fields("CUSTAB")

.Fields("CustomerZIPCode") = tblCustomer.Fields("CUZIPC")

.Fields("CustomerPhone") = tblCustomer.Fields("CUPHON")


End With

'This is comparable to the RPG Op Code READ


'This would be comparable to an RPG CLOSE operation

...... 'More code to import

End Function 'This is a snippet of the cmdNEwOrder_Click sub procedure

If cmdNEwORder.Caption = "&New" Then

'Add new header
Set tblOrderHdr = cmdOH.Execute

If tblOrderHdr.RecordCount > 0 Then


'Read the last order number
'and increment by one

LastOrder = tblOrderHdr.Fields("ORDNO") + 1


LastOrder = 1

End If



cmdOH.Parameters(0) = LastOrder

'Replaces the first ? above with this value


'Write out blank Header record
'to grab order number


tblOrderHeader.Fields("OrderNumber") = LastOrder


lstOrderNumbers = LastOrder

'Position list to current order number


lstCustomer = Null

lstItem = Null

tbxOrderLine = 1

tbxQty = Null

tbxPrice = Null

tbxDueDate = Null


cmdNEwORder.Caption = "&Update"

cmdAdd.Caption = "A&dd"

'Update header info

cmdOH.CommandText = "UPDATE OELIB.ORDHEADER " & _


cmdOH.Parameters(0) = lstCustomer

cmdOH.Parameters(1) = 0

For X = 1 To lstOrderLines.ListCount - 1

cmdOH.Parameters(1) = cmdOH.Parameters(1) + lstOrderLines.Column(5, X)

Next X


tblOrderHeader.Seek "=", lstOrderNumbers

If Not tblOrderHeader.NoMatch Then


tblOrderHeader.Fields("CustomerNumber") = lstCustomer

tblOrderHeader.Fields("OrderTotal") = cmdOH.Parameters(1)


End If

cmdNEwORder.Caption = "&New"

lstOrderNumbers = Null

lstCustomer = Null


End If
End Sub

Figure 2: This snippet of the Imports function relates the Access code to the code you would write in RPG.

Figure 3: This portion of the cmdNewOrder subprocedure either creates a new order header or updates the existing order record on your AS/400.

Mike Faust

Mike Faust is a senior consultant/analyst for Retail Technologies Corporation in Orlando, Florida. Mike is also the author of the books Active Server Pages Primer, The iSeries and AS/400 Programmer's Guide to Cool Things, JavaScript for the Business Developer, and SQL Built-in Functions and Stored Procedures. You can contact Mike at

MC Press books written by Mike Faust available now on the MC Press Bookstore.

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    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericToo much paper is wasted. Attempts to locate documents in endless filing cabinets.And distributing documents is expensive and takes up far too much time.
    These are just three common reasons why it might be time for your company to implement a paperless document management system.
    Watch the webinar to learn more and discover how easy it can be to:

    • Capture
    • Manage
    • And distribute documents digitally


  • IBM i: It’s Not Just AS/400


    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.



  • Node Webinar Series Pt. 1: The World of Node.js on IBM i

    SB Profound WC GenericHave 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.
    Part 1 will teach you what Node.js is, why it's a great option for IBM i shops, and how to take advantage of the ecosystem surrounding Node.
    In addition to background information, our Director of Product Development Scott Klement will demonstrate applications that take advantage of the Node Package Manager (npm).
    Watch Now.

  • The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security

    SB Profound WC Generic The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security
    Here’s the harsh reality: cybersecurity pros have to get their jobs right every single day, while an attacker only has to succeed once to do incredible damage.
    Whether that’s thousands of exposed records, millions of dollars in fines and legal fees, or diminished share value, it’s easy to judge organizations that fall victim. IBM i enjoys an enviable reputation for security, but no system is impervious to mistakes.
    Join this webinar to learn about the biggest errors made when securing a Power Systems server.
    This knowledge is critical for ensuring integrity of your application data and preventing you from becoming the next Equifax. It’s also essential for complying with all formal regulations, including SOX, PCI, GDPR, and HIPAA
    Watch Now.

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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.