Best of Cozzi: Qualified Data Structures

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(Editor's note: Bob is on vacation this week, so he offers this "best of" article in case you missed it the first time.)

When OS/400 V5R1 was announced, it included what I would consider the most significant enhancement to RPG IV data structure support in history: qualified names.

Qualified data structure names allow you to refer to the subfields of a data structure by qualifying them to the data structure name itself. This means that within the calculation specifications (or C specs), you refer to a subfield name by typing the name of the data structure, then a period, and then the subfield name, something like this:

Eval MyStruct.MySubfield = 'ABCDEFG'

The period qualifies the data structure subfield named MYSUBFIELD to its parent data structure, named MYSTRUCT.

Qualified data structures provide a unique benefit; you may use the same subfield name in more than one data structure. And the names do not have to have the same attributes (as you might think). They are distinct fields. In fact, when a data structure is a qualified data structure, the subfield names must be referred to using the qualified syntax only.

To identify a data structure as a qualified data structure, the new QUALIFIED keyword is used. Specify this keyword on a data structure definition, and it becomes a qualified data structure.

If you use the QUALIFIED keyword, you may only refer to the subfields in that data structure by using qualified syntax. This is what allows duplicate field names to be assigned. Since the subfields of a qualified data structure must be qualified when they are used, the subfields are scoped to the data structure. For example, the three data structures listed in Figure 1 are perfectly valid in RPG IV.

     D Customer        DS                  Qualified Inz
     D  CustNo                        7P 0
     D  Contact                      30A
     D  Addr1                        20A
     D  Addr2                        20A
     D  City                         20A
     D  Phone                        11P 0
     D  Ext                           6A

     D undo_Buffer     DS                  Qualified Inz Occurs(10)
     D  CustNo                        7P 0
     D  Contact                      30A
     D  Addr1                        20A
     D  Addr2                        20A
     D  City                         20A
     D  Phone                        11P 0
     D  Ext                           6A

     D SaveCust        DS                  Inz
     D  CustNo                        5P 0
     D  Contact                      30A
     D  Addr1                        30A
     D  Addr2                        30A
     D  City                         30A
     D  Phone                        10S 0
     D  Ext                           5A

Figure 1: Here are three examples of qualified data structure declarations.

The first data structure, CUSTOMER, is a qualified data structure, so the subfields of that data structure may only be referred to by using the qualified syntax. This also allows the subfield names to be reused elsewhere in the source member, which is exactly what I did in the second data structure, UNDO_BUFFER. This data structure is a multiple-occurrence data structure and is qualified. Note that it contains the same set of subfield names as the CUSTOMER data structure. This data structure might be used to provide some level of "undo" capability in an application. Simply move CUSTOMER to an occurrence of UNDO_BUFFER and then increment the UNDO_BUFFER's occurrence. Again, since the UNDO_BUFFER is qualified, each subfield must be referred using the qualified syntax. The following are valid references to subfields in the CUSTOMER data structure:

  • Customer.Custno
  • Customer.Contact
  • Customer.Addr1
  • Customer.Phone

The following are valid references to the subfields of the UNDO_BUFFER data structure:

  • Undo_Buffer.Custno
  • Undo_Buffer.Contact
  • Undo_Buffer.Addr1
  • Undo_Buffer.Phone

The QUALIFIED keyword finally gives us the ability to use the same subfield name in more than one data structure. This is because the data structure is qualified and the subfields may only be referred to using qualified syntax. Because of this, the compiler can distinguish between the subfield names from different data structures. That is, CUSTOMER.CUSTNO is different from UNDO_BUFFER.CUSTNO.

But what about the third data structure listed in Figure 1? SAVECUST is a traditional data structure that does not contain the QUALIFIED keyword, so its subfields cannot be referred to using the qualified syntax. They have to be referenced in the traditional method by just specifying the subfield name itself.

If a source member were to contain all three data structures from Figure 1, there would be three definitions for the various subfields. Of course, this is due to the fact that, for example purposes only, I used the same subfield names in all three data structures. In the source member, you would have three definitions for the CUSTNO field, as follows:

  • Customer.Custno Packed(7,0)
  • Undo_Buffer.Custno Packed(7,0)
  • CustNo Packed(5,0)

Each subfield is individual; one has absolutely nothing to do with one another. The QUALFIED keyword gives us the ability to reuse field names. The name of any subfield of a qualified data structure may be use elsewhere in the source member without consequences. Of course, it is up to you to keep things organized.

Data Structure Templates

It might seem like qualified data structures would be enough of an enhancement, but IBM didn't stop there. IBM also provided us with the ability to create templates. Templates are data structures that are used like format-file objects, but rather than create record formats with them, you can declare other data structures by using the format of an existing data structure.

You can use the new LIKEDS keyword to declare a data structure with the same subfields as an existing data structure. Normally, this would create a conflict with subfield names, but when the LIKEDS keyword is used, the QUALIFIED keyword is implied.

Other languages have had this capability for decades. RPG IV joins the rest of the programming language community with its first step toward user-defined data types.

By declaring a data structure, you create a structure whose content is based on the needs at hand. Formerly, it was difficult in RPG to reuse the structure without creating unique subfield names. The PREFIX keyword offered some relief in that each subfield could be renamed by adding a specified prefix set of characters to the field name. Figure 2 shows an example.

     D Customer      E DS                  Extname(Custmast) PREFIX(CM_)
     D SaveCust      E DS                  Extname(Custmast) PREFIX(SAVE_)

Figure 2: The PREFIX keyword offers another way to use externally described data structures.

This example would declare two data structures with similar formats. I say "similar" because, while the subfield definitions would be identical in each structure, the subfield names themselves would be different. The first data structure, CUSTOMER, would have its subfield names prefixed with CM_, and the SAVECUST data structure would have its subfield names prefixed with SAVE_. In Figure 3, these data structures are expanded to illustrate their subfield names.

     D Customer      E DS                  Extname(Custmast) PREFIX(CM_)
     D  CM_CustNo                          EXTFLD(CUSTNO)
     D  CM_Contact                         EXTFLD(CONTACT)
     D  CM_ADDR1                           EXTFLD(ADDR1)
     D  CM_Addr2                           EXTFLD(ADDR2)
     D  CM_City                            EXTFLD(CITY)
     D  CM_Phone                           EXTFLD(PHONE)
     D  CM_Ext                             EXTFLD(EXT)

     D SaveCust      E DS                  Extname(Custmast) PREFIX(SAVE_)
     D  SAVE_CustNo                        EXTFLD(CUSTNO)
     D  SAVE_Contact                       EXTFLD(CONTACT)
     D  SAVE_ADDR1                         EXTFLD(ADDR1)
     D  SAVE_Addr2                         EXTFLD(ADDR2)
     D  SAVE_City                          EXTFLD(CITY)
     D  SAVE_Phone                         EXTFLD(PHONE)
     D  SAVE_Ext                           EXTFLD(EXT)

Figure 3: Here's an example of expanded externally described data structures with PREFIX keyword.

While this is similar to qualified data structures, it is not the same. With the LIKEDS keyword, you can avoid the PREFIX keyword altogether, as follows in Figure 4:

D Customer E DS Extname(CustMast)

Figure 4: With the LIKEDS keyword, you don't need the PREFIX keyword at all.

In this case, the CUSTOMER data structure is still externally described, but it does not include the PREFIX keyword, so its subfield names will be the same as those in the CUSTMAST database file. The format of the SAVECUST data structure is based on the CUSTOMER data structure. The SAVECUST data structure contains the LIKEDS keyword but does not contain the PREFIX keyword. It will have the same subfield names as the CUSTOMER data structure. This is possible because LIKEDS implies QUALIFIED. In fact, you can't even hard code the QUALIFIED keyword when LIKEDS is present; it is redundant, and the compiler will complain.

LIKEDS can be used to create one data structure like another. In using it, you may clone a data structure. There an enhanced way to use LIKEDS--with a template. The word template is loosely applied to a method of declaring a data structure and then basing that data structure on a pointer. When a data structure--or any field for that matter--is based on a pointer, no storage is allocated for the variable. So a data structure that contains the BASED keyword uses no physical storage at runtime. Instead, it uses the storage at the address assigned to its based pointer.

In the context of the LIKEDS keyword, a data structure could be declared and then include the BASED(@) keyword. The "at" symbol (@) is customarily used when you do not assign a value to a pointer--that is, when you are declaring a template, not a structure for storing data. Think of it as declaring an object in your RPG program that's like a format file.

For example, in Figure 5, a data structure named TP_CUSTOMER is declared. It contains the BASED(@) keyword. This causes no storage to be declared for the TP_CUSTOMER data structure, so it doesn't consume any valuable resources in your program.

     D tp_Customer     DS                  BASED(@)
     D  CustNo                        7P 0
     D  Contact                      30A
     D  Addr1                        20A
     D  Addr2                        20A
     D  City                         20A
     D  Phone                        11P 0
     D  Ext                           6A

Figure 5: Declare a data structure as a template.

The letters tp and the underscore in front of the data structure name are a convention that I used for this article; they are not standards, nor are they in any way required. To use this structure in your code, you would declare another data structure and use the LIKEDS keyword, as follows:

     D Customer        DS                  LIKEDS(tp_Customer)

The CUSTOMER data structure will contain all the subfields from the tp_CUSTOMER data structure and also will contain the QUALIFIED keyword. No other attributes are inherited. That is, the BASED keyword is not applied to the CUSTOMER data structure. In addition, the LIKEDS keyword does not inherit the initial values of the based data structure. So, if CUSTOMER should be initialized, you will have to initialize it using one of the following methods:

  1. Specify the INZ keyword on the CUSTOMER data structure definition.
  2. Use the CLEAR operation code in the calculation specifications, such as in the *INZSR subroutine.

There is a problem when using the BASED keyword in this context. The subfields of the original data structure (the one containing the BASED keyword) may not include the INZ keyword. If a data structure is based, it contains no storage, so no storage can be initialized. Therefore, INZ is not permitted on the based-on data structure. Consequently, creating a storageless template will only work in some circumstances.

There are actually three choices for initializing a derived data structure, however. The third choice is a new option on the INZ keyword. The *LIKEDS option of the INZ keyword can be used to initialize a data structure like the original data structure. The original data structure's initial values may be inherited by using the INZ(*LIKEDS) keyword on the derived data structure's declaration. Figure 6 illustrates this concept.

     D QualName        DS                             
     D   Object                      10A
     D   Library                     10A   Inz('*CURLIB')

     D FileName        DS                  LIKEDS(QUALNAME) Inz(*LIKEDS)

Figure 6: Another way to initialize a derived data structure is to use LIKEDS with INZ(*LIKEDS).

In Figure 6, the data structure QUALNAME is a traditional RPG data structure. It contains two subfields, OBJECT and LIBRARY. OBJECT is initialized to blank, and LIBRARY is initialized to '*CURLIB'.

The data structure named FILENAME is declared with the LIKEDS(QUALNAME) keyword. The FILENAME will contain both the OBJECT and the LIBRARY subfields. In order to cause the derived data structure to have the same initial values as the original data structure, the INZ(*LIKEDS) keyword is used. This causes FILENAME to inherit the initial values of the QUALNAME data structure.

Most other values of the original data structure are not inherited when the LIKEDS keyword is used, so there's more to duplicating a data structure than just adding the LIKEDS keyword. Listed in Figure 7 are an original data structure and a derived data structure. Note the added keywords needed to fully duplicate the original data structure's attributes.

     D ITEM            DS                  Occurs(15) Inz
     D  Catagory                      3A   Inz('THX')                           
     D  SeqNbr                        5S 0 Inz(100)
     D  Postfix                       2S 0 Inz(0)                          
     D ItemNo          DS                  LikeDS(ITEM) OCCURS(%ELEM(ITEM))
     D                                     INZ(*LIKEDS)

Figure 7: Duplicate a data structure and its attributes.

The LIKEDS keyword and the INZ(*LIKEDS) option along with the QUALIFIED keyword introduce a level of simplicity in coding data structures that has been long overdue. Before you implement qualified data structures, remember the following:

  • These enhancements are in V5R1 and later.
  • When the QUALIFIED keyword is used, the subfields of the data structure must be referenced using qualified syntax (e.g., dsname.subfield).
  • The LIKEDS keyword may be used to declare one data structure like another. The new data structure is referred to as a derived data structure; the original data structure is referred to as the based on data structure or the parent data structure.
  • When the LIKEDS keyword is used, the QUALIFIED keyword is implied.
  • Use the *LIKEDS option of the INZ keyword in conjunction with the LIKEDS keyword to inherit the initialization attributes of the parent data structure.


Bob Cozzi is author of the best-selling The Modern RPG IV Language, Fourth Edition as well as RPG TNT: 101 Dynamite Tips 'n Techniques with RPG IV and is host of the i5 Podcast Network, which provides free video and audio podcasts to the i5 community. You can also see him in person at RPG World in May 2007.

Robert Cozzi

Bob Cozzi is a programmer/consultant, writer/author, and software developer. His popular RPG xTools add-on subprocedure library for RPG IV is fast becoming a standard with RPG developers. His book The Modern RPG Language has been the most widely used RPG programming book for more than a decade. He, along with others, speaks at and produces the highly popular RPG World conference for RPG programmers.

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  • Time to Remove the Paper from Your Desk and Become More Efficient

    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.