Sun, Sep
3 New Articles

Practical RDi: iSphere and Searching

Programming - Other
  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

iSphere brings together two worlds: Rational Developer for i (RDi) and open source.

I’m going to spend some time in upcoming articles introducing various open-source tools available for the IBM i. These will include purely IBM i utilities like Giovanni Perotti’s MMAIL, but also some that are specifically designed to interface with IBM’s RDi. This first article brings you one of the most robust integrations, Thomas Raddatz’s iSphere.

iSphere Source File Search, Find String, and a Whole Lot More

iSphere isn’t just one feature. In fact, I’ll probably have to write several articles to identify all of the things this incredible piece of software can do. However, the function I use the most by far is its search capability. iSphere builds on the Remote Systems view and is accessed much the same way you would access RDi’s native Find String feature.

Practical RDi: iSphere and Searching 

Figure 1: Start by creating a standard RDi filter to get a list of source files.

If you’re unfamiliar with how a filter works, it’s a relatively straightforward concept but has many nuances. You can set up a basic filter quickly and easily, but you can also spend a lot of time creating complex filters to deal with specific cases. This is a relatively simple filter: I want to look at all the source files in the TOOLS400 library. (This particular library is a few years old, so if you’re playing along at home, your list might not match mine.)

Once set up, the filter then appears in my Remote Systems view, where I can now perform a mass action on the entire list of files by simply right-clicking on the filter as shown in Figure 2. You’ll see that I can select (among many other options) either Find String… or iSphere Source File Search. But the similarity ends there.

Practical RDi: iSphere and Searching - Figure 2 

Figure 2: I can right-click on the filter and choose an option from the context menu.

Practical RDi: iSphere and Searching - Figure 3 

Figure 3: The Find String dialog from RDi is very basic.

You can see that the dialog doesn’t give you a lot of options. You enter a search string and say whether the search is case-sensitive or not. You can limit the columns as well, which is nice but not something I use very often. If you hit OK, you’ll get a list of all the matches in a single window.

Practical RDi: iSphere and Searching - Figure 4 

Figure 4: iSphere will build a list of all the source members and then you can execute your search.

iSphere builds the list of all members and puts up the dialog shown in Figure 4. It is very fast, especially for a single source file. With a broader filter like mine, which includes many source files, it can take a few moments to build the entire list, but it’s still pretty quick. Once you do get the list, that’s when the magic happens.

First, let me just run it as I’ve shown above. I am searching for CEETSTA. You’ll notice a few controls at the top; I think the defaults are what I have shown. As defined, this dialog is going to run a search with a single match expression that is case-sensitive and doesn’t use regular expression (we’ll cover regular expression in a moment). Basically, it’s just going to look for the string CEETSTA in uppercase in all the members.

Practical RDi: iSphere and Searching - Figure 5 

Figure 5: The search progress appears in a standard progress bar.

I just hit the OK button and the search begins, with a nice progress bar.

Practical RDi: iSphere and Searching - Figure 6 

Figure 6: The results panel allows a quick navigation through the matches.

The results panel is also a big departure from the base RDi capability. Where RDi presents a single view with all of the members and instances together in a sort of tree, iSphere presents a header/detail view, where the members are shown in the left panel; as you click on those, the actual matches appear in the right panel. I find this easier to navigate, especially when some of the members have dozens or even hundreds of matches. Even cooler, though, are the icons on the upper right of the results panel, especially the little Excel icon.

Practical RDi: iSphere and Searching - Figure 7 

Figure 7: You can export the results to an Excel spreadsheet.

This will create a spreadsheet with three panels, one with the summary, another with all the individual matching lines, and a third with the search criteria in case you forget what you were searching for and where. I use this at the beginning of every maintenance project to build a list of programs to review. One last topic for this introduction (and it really is just an introduction; the tool has much more in it): regular expressions. Let me show you how those work.

Practical RDi: iSphere and Searching - Figure 8 

Figure 8: Selecting the Regular expression checkbox allows you to use regular expression syntax in your search.

This is an actual example of a regular expression (Regex) that I just used in a search. The business problem was that I needed to find references to any of the three email techniques that we use in our shop. Those include IBM commands SNDDST and SNDSMTPEMM, as well as the popular EML commands (EMLSMF, EMLMSG, and EMLSPLF) from Giovanni Perotti’s MMAIL package (which I referenced at the beginning of this article). I was able to search for all of them using a single expression. So the syntax I used was the “or” syntax in Regex, which is multiple terms enclosed in parentheses, separated by vertical bars. (A|B|C) means A or B or C. Mine had three terms:


You’ll notice that the third term itself had an embedded Or clause, which then expanded it to search for EMLSTMF, EMLMSG, and EMLSPLF. So when this search is actually executed, it will match any members that contain any of five values: SNDDST, SNDSMTPEMM, EMLSTMF, EMLMSG, or EMLSPLF. All of that from one little expression.

Regex is a wonderful technology, and I highly recommend learning it. It is not, however, for the faint of heart. The syntax is compact and powerful, but that makes it, to me, difficult to decipher at times. The good news is that there are powerful online tools to learn Regex syntax. My favorite is RegExr, but there are others. Trust me, if you have the time, this is a good thing to know.

What Really Makes This Special

The truly amazing part about iSphere is that it’s open source. That has a number of incredible benefits. The most obvious is that it’s free, which is especially important for smaller shops. You’ve seen what it can do, and the only investment on your part is the time to install it, which Thomas has actually made about as simple as possible. If you’re interested, let me know in the comments and I can go over installing and upgrading in more detail in a subsequent article. If you can’t wait that long, just look for it in the Eclipse Marketplace (from the RDi main menu, Help > Eclipse Marketplace…).

Practical RDi: iSphere and Searching - Figure 9 

Figure 9 Use menu option Help > Eclipse Marketplace… and enter iSphere in the Find: field.

But potentially even more beneficial is the fact that all of the source is available, which is an extraordinary opportunity for anyone looking to expand their skill set. The code uses a wide range of advanced programming techniques, and it extends across the platform bridge from the IBM i to the Java world of RDi. If you want to see some real-world examples of high-level technical programming, iSphere is the place. This article is an example of just that: I used iSphere to search the TOOLS400 source for example of using the CEETSTA API. That is a win on a win! So, get iSphere installed, use it, and if you want to learn how to code, dig into what Thomas has provided.

As a final note, Thomas has a rather low-key donation page on his site. I think it’s a great idea to send him a few dollars; I know his work has saved me a ton of time. I’m embarrassed to say I never donated until I was writing this article. As I introduce other projects, I’ll try to find a donation link for them as well.


Joe Pluta

Joe Pluta is the founder and chief architect of Pluta Brothers Design, Inc. He has been extending the IBM midrange since the days of the IBM System/3. Joe uses WebSphere extensively, especially as the base for PSC/400, the only product that can move your legacy systems to the Web using simple green-screen commands. He has written several books, including Developing Web 2.0 Applications with EGL for IBM i, E-Deployment: The Fastest Path to the Web, Eclipse: Step by Step, and WDSC: Step by Step. Joe performs onsite mentoring and speaks at user groups around the country. You can reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

MC Press books written by Joe Pluta available now on the MC Press Bookstore.

Developing Web 2.0 Applications with EGL for IBM i Developing Web 2.0 Applications with EGL for IBM i
Joe Pluta introduces you to EGL Rich UI and IBM’s Rational Developer for the IBM i platform.
List Price $39.95

Now On Sale

WDSC: Step by Step WDSC: Step by Step
Discover incredibly powerful WDSC with this easy-to-understand yet thorough introduction.
List Price $74.95

Now On Sale

Eclipse: Step by Step Eclipse: Step by Step
Quickly get up to speed and productivity using Eclipse.
List Price $59.00

Now On Sale



Support MC Press Online

$0.00 Raised:

Book Reviews

Resource Center

  • SB Profound WC 5536 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. You can find Part 1 here. In Part 2 of our free Node.js Webinar Series, Brian May teaches you the different tooling options available for writing code, debugging, and using Git for version control. Brian will briefly discuss the different tools available, and demonstrate his preferred setup for Node development on IBM i or any platform. Attend this webinar to learn:

  • SB Profound WP 5539More than ever, there is a demand for IT to deliver innovation. Your IBM i has been an essential part of your business operations for years. However, your organization may struggle to maintain the current system and implement new projects. The thousands of customers we've worked with and surveyed state that expectations regarding the digital footprint and vision of the company are not aligned with the current IT environment.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT Generic IBM announced the E1080 servers using the latest Power10 processor in September 2021. The most powerful processor from IBM to date, Power10 is designed to handle the demands of doing business in today’s high-tech atmosphere, including running cloud applications, supporting big data, and managing AI workloads. But what does Power10 mean for your data center? In this recorded webinar, IBMers Dan Sundt and Dylan Boday join IBM Power Champion Tom Huntington for a discussion on why Power10 technology is the right strategic investment if you run IBM i, AIX, or Linux. In this action-packed hour, Tom will share trends from the IBM i and AIX user communities while Dan and Dylan dive into the tech specs for key hardware, including:

  • Magic MarkTRY the one package that solves all your document design and printing challenges on all your platforms. Produce bar code labels, electronic forms, ad hoc reports, and RFID tags – without programming! MarkMagic is the only document design and print solution that combines report writing, WYSIWYG label and forms design, and conditional printing in one integrated product. Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Request your trial now!  Request Now.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericForms of ransomware has been around for over 30 years, and with more and more organizations suffering attacks each year, it continues to endure. What has made ransomware such a durable threat and what is the best way to combat it? In order to prevent ransomware, organizations must first understand how it works.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericIT security is a top priority for businesses around the world, but most IBM i pros don’t know where to begin—and most cybersecurity experts don’t know IBM i. In this session, Robin Tatam explores the business impact of lax IBM i security, the top vulnerabilities putting IBM i at risk, and the steps you can take to protect your organization. If you’re looking to avoid unexpected downtime or corrupted data, you don’t want to miss this session.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericCan you trust all of your users all of the time? A typical end user receives 16 malicious emails each month, but only 17 percent of these phishing campaigns are reported to IT. Once an attack is underway, most organizations won’t discover the breach until six months later. A staggering amount of damage can occur in that time. Despite these risks, 93 percent of organizations are leaving their IBM i systems vulnerable to cybercrime. In this on-demand webinar, IBM i security experts Robin Tatam and Sandi Moore will reveal:

  • FORTRA Disaster protection is vital to every business. Yet, it often consists of patched together procedures that are prone to error. From automatic backups to data encryption to media management, Robot automates the routine (yet often complex) 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:

  • FORTRAManaging messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. Messages need a response and resources must be monitored—often over multiple systems and across platforms. 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:

  • FORTRAThe thought of printing, distributing, and storing iSeries reports manually may reduce you to tears. Paper and labor costs associated with report generation can spiral out of control. Mountains of paper threaten to swamp your files. Robot 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:

  • FORTRAFor over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i. With batch job creation and scheduling at its core, the Robot Job Scheduling Solution reduces the opportunity for human error and helps you maintain service levels, automating even the biggest, most complex runbooks. Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:

  • LANSA Business users want new applications now. Market and regulatory pressures require faster application updates and delivery into production. Your IBM i developers may be approaching retirement, and you see no sure way to fill their positions with experienced developers. In addition, you may be caught between maintaining your existing applications and the uncertainty of moving to something new.

  • LANSAWhen it comes to creating your business applications, there are hundreds of coding platforms and programming languages to choose from. These options range from very complex traditional programming languages to Low-Code platforms where sometimes no traditional coding experience is needed. Download our whitepaper, The Power of Writing Code in a Low-Code Solution, and:

  • LANSASupply Chain is becoming increasingly complex and unpredictable. From raw materials for manufacturing to food supply chains, the journey from source to production to delivery to consumers is marred with inefficiencies, manual processes, shortages, recalls, counterfeits, and scandals. In this webinar, we discuss how:

  • The MC Resource Centers bring you the widest selection of white papers, trial software, and on-demand webcasts for you to choose from. >> Review the list of White Papers, Trial Software or On-Demand Webcast at the MC Press Resource Center. >> Add the items to yru Cart and complet he checkout process and submit

  • Profound Logic 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.

  • SB Profound WC 5536Join us for this hour-long webcast that will explore:

  • Fortra IT managers hoping to find new IBM i talent are discovering that the pool of experienced RPG programmers and operators or administrators with intimate knowledge of the operating system and the applications that run on it is small. This begs the question: How will you manage the platform that supports such a big part of your business? This guide offers strategies and software suggestions to help you plan IT staffing and resources and smooth the transition after your AS/400 talent retires. Read on to learn: