RPG Gets XML Boost in V5R4

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IBM continued its commitment to RPG IV by announcing support for native RPG IV-based XML support. Although you must upgrade to V5R4 of i5/OS, I consider this the first compelling enhancement to RPG IV since qualified data structures and data structures as arrays were introduced back in V5R1. If you're unsure of what XML is or you need a primer on it, visit the W3C organization for more information.

Before I review the XML capabilities of RPG IV at V5R4, let's look at the other changes IBM introduced into RPG IV with this release.

SEU Syntax Checking for /Free

While virtually no one else will mention this, I know that most of you continue to love PDM/SEU and use SEU for editing. If you've used /free RPG IV syntax at all, you know that one of the frustrating features is that you have to wait for the compiler to compile the code to give you your syntax errors. That's all changed on V5R4, as SEU now syntax checks everything, even /free syntax.

Data Structure Mapping and EVAL-CORR

IBM finally added to RPG IV what has been in COBOL forever: Move Corresponding. This COBOL functionality is ported to RPG IV in the form of a new opcode named EVAL-CORR. (You didn't read that wrong; yes, there is a hyphen in the middle of the opcode.) It stands for "Eval Corresponding" and allows you to copy one data structure to another on a field-by-field basis.

Think of it this way: The Copy File (CPYF) command has a Format Option (FMTOPT) parameter. In that parameter, you have an option to map the fields of one file to the other. That way, when the copy is performed, the target file does not need to have an identical layout. Specifying FMTOPT(*MAP)—or FMTOPT(*MAP *DROP) to be precise—will copy the fields from the original file to the corresponding fields of the target file based on field names, no locations.

RPG IV has needed a data structure mapping option ever since IBM introduced qualified data structures because you can now have data structure subfields with the exact same names in two or more data structures.

Programmers needed a way to copy the subfields from DS2 to DS1 based on subfield name, not just a byte-by-byte copy. People asked for "Eval with mapping." Some old COBOL programmers equated it to COBOL's "MOVE CORRESPONDING" command, so we got EVAL-CORR. I'm sure the email lists will be filled with syntax-error-related questions on this one.

The correct syntax is as follows:

  eval-corr DS2 = DS1;

I was an advocate of EVALMAP or COPYDS as the opcode name, but it is what it is, and we will all learn to live with it.


EVAL-CORR works by copying the fields from the original data structure to a target data structure based on field names and similar data types. The field name mapping is obvious, but what does "similar data types" mean? It means this: If the subfield named CUSTNO is Pkd(7,0) in DS1 and is Zoned(7,0) in DS2, the copy still works. Similar functionality applies to data fields (different date formats) and character fields (varying to fixed, fixed to varying).

Here's an example. The original data structure, DS1, is represented as follows:

     D DS1             DS                  Qualified
     D  CustNo                        7P 0
     D  Address                      30A
     D  City                         25A
     D  State                         2A
     D  ZipCode                      10A
     D  Phone                        10P 0
     D  BalDue                        7P 2
     D  TotSales                     11P 2

The target of the move is data structure DS2, as follows:

     D DS2             DS                  Qualified
     D  RegionID                      4A
     D  SalePerson                    5I 0
     D  Phone                        10S 0
     D  ZipCode                      10A
     D  CustNo                        7P 0
     D  Phone                        10P 0
     D  BalDue                        7P 2
     D  TotSales                     11P 2

A simple EVAL-CORR is all that's necessary to copy the like-named fields from DS1 to DS2, as follows:

     C                   eval-corr DS2 = DS1

This copies all the fields from DS1 that also appear in DS2. The other positions—that is, the other subfields—are unchanged.

If a field in DS1 is also in DS2, but the data types are not compatible, then the subfield is not copied. It would have been cool to have an option someplace that allowed you to map the fields from numeric to character or character to numeric or what have you. But that's always an option for a future enhancement.

DEBUG Keyword

The DEBUG keyword has been enhanced to allow you to embed information about the XML SAX parser and to provide more granular control over INPUT and DUMP options.

The valid options for the DEBUG keyword are as follows:

  • *NO— This value indicates that no debugging aids are to be generated into the module. Specifying DEBUG(*NO) is the same as omitting the DEBUG keyword.
  • *YES—This value is kept for compatibility purposes. Specifying DEBUG(*YES) is the same as specifying DEBUG without parameters or DEBUG(*INPUT : *DUMP).
  • *INPUT—Fields that appear only on input specifications are read into the program fields during input operations.
  • *DUMP—DUMP operations without the (A) extender are performed.
  • *XMLSAX—An array of SAX event names is generated into the module to be used while debugging a SAX event handler.

NULL Indicator Enhancements

Somebody slap me! I read this and fell asleep. Apparently, there is a use for the %NULLIND() built-in function. Now, with V5R4, IBM supports the so-called null indicator map for qualified data structure subfields.

You can view this thing in debug mode by typing in the following debugger command:

  ==>  eval  _QRNU_NULL_dsname.subfield

Or you can specify only the data structure name, as follows:

  ==>  eval  _QRNU_NULL_dsname

In addition, you have an extra option on the OPTIONS keyword when creating a procedure and prototype. When OPTIONS(*NULLIND) is specified for a prototype/procedure parameter, and a data structure or null indicator field is passed, the null indicator map is passed along.

For example, if you have a qualified data structure containing subfields that support the null indicator, when you pass that data structure as a parameter, the null indicators are carried along with it to the subfield (if it supports them). Previously, they would have been lost.

Also, the new EVAL-CORR opcode copies the null indictor between data structures when ALWNULL(*USRCTL) is specified on the Header specification.

XML Support

If you ever tried to use the IBM XML Toolkit for RPG, you will appreciate the powerful and relatively easy XML support in RPG IV at V5R4.

IBM did a reasonably good job of adding read-only XML support (i.e., XML parsing) to the language. Again, there's the issue of my dislike of hyphens in opcode names, but I'll ignore that for now.

There are four pieces to XML parsing in RPG IV:

  • %XML—A built-in function that identifies the XML source code
  • XML-INTO—A new opcode that provides "EVAL XML" support
  • %HANDLER—A new built-in function that identifies a subprocedure to call to process the parsed XML (also the first implementation of a callback parameter in RPG IV)
  • XML-SAX—A new opcode that provides "EVAL XML" support that uses the Simple API for XML (SAX) parser

Let's look at the these components individually.

%XML Built-in Function

The %XML built-in function identifies the XML you want to read and the options that control how the XML is parsed. The syntax is as follows:

%XML( xmldocument { : options } ) 

The xmldocument parameter may be one of two things:

  1. Pure XML, such as "1234" in a field or literal. Typically, this would be a field if it were read from another system (using something like the free iSockets library) or from a file on your iSeries.
  2. The name of a file on the IFS that contains XML

If a field containing XML is specified, then the OPTIONS parameter is not necessary. If an IFS file is specified for the XML parameter, then the OPTIONS parameter must contain, at least, 'doc=file'. For example:

%XML( '/cozzi/mystuff/fedex.xml'  : 'doc=file')

This tells the %XML to use the file named FEDEX.XML in the folder /cozzi/mystuff. The options parameter is set to 'doc=file' to tell %XML that a file name is being specified.

The options parameter has many options. If more than one option is specified, it is separated from the previous option with a blank. Here are some of the more popular options. For a complete list, see the latest edition of The Modern RPG IV Language, 4th Edition, coming soon from MC Press.

"Options" Parameter Options
string, the default, tells the %XML built-in function that the XMLdocument parameter contains a string or field of XML (i.e., not a file name).
file tells the %XML built-in function that the XMLdocument parameter is the name of an IFS file that contains the XML.
This specifies how the XML is stored. Specifying case=lower or case=upper is faster than case=any because the parser will convert the XML to all uppercase when case=any is specified.
This controls whether spaces (tabs, linefeeds, excess blanks) should be removed before assigning to variables. It applies only to character fields. Other data types always trim extra spaces.
When you copy the XML values to a data structure, this option controls whether or not a node/element for each data structure subfield must exist in the XML. You probably want to set this to "yes" in most cases.
The complement of allowmissing, this option controls whether or not to allow extra nodes/elements in the XML that do not have a corresponding subfield name in the target data structure.
This is perhaps the most powerful feature of %XML. It allows you to directly retrieve an element in an XML document. If this option is not specified, the element retrieved is the same as the target field name (for standalone fields) and the names of the subfields (for data structures). For example, to retrieve the salary of an employee in this document, you would specify /employees/employee/salary, like so:

Bob Cozzi


The XML-INTO opcode is required in order to read/parse XML in RPG IV. It allows you to load XML into a data structure, a field, or a data structure array. This opcode, along with XML-SAX, is used instead of the EVAL opcode when processing XML.

The syntax of this opcode is as follows:

XML-INTO  target  %XML( 'xmldocument' { : 'options' } )

Here, target is the name of a field, data structure, or "handler" where the parsed XML is copied.

If target is the name of a field, the path= option should be specified to indicate which XML element is retrieved. If the path= option is not specified, the target name is used to determine the elements to retrieve. If more than one element with the target name or path= name exists, then an array may be specified. The number of elements returned is determined by the number of elements declared for the target array.

If target is a data structure, the data structure subfield names are used to identify which elements are returned. The allowmissing and allowextra options may be necessary, depending on the data in the XML. Nested data structures are permitted and fully supported. In fact, they are required in order to extract.

If target is a handler, things get a bit more complicated. To specify a handler, the %HANDLER built-in function is used, as follows:

%HANDLER Built-in Function

XML-INTO %handler(myProc : firstParm) %XML( 'xmldocument' { : 'options' } )

So how does this work? The procedure you pass on the %handler() built-in function is called each time the XML parser fills up a multiple-occurrence data structure (actually, a data structure array). Then, that same procedure needs to do something with the data. Once finished, the procedure returns, and control resumes in the XML parser, filling up another set of elements in the data structure array. Then, the procedure is again called. This process repeats until all of the XML is processed.

The second parameter of %handler is required. It is a user-supplied value passed as the first parameter of the handler procedure.

The handler procedure has two additional parameters: 1) a data structure array containing the data from the parsed XML document and 2) the count of the number of elements populated in the data structure array by the XML parser.

This requires the use of the LIKEDS keyword for the data structure array. For example:

FCONTACTS  UF A E             DISK    Prefix('CT.')

D CT            E DS                  ExtName(Contacts)
D                                     Qualified

D Contact         DS                  Qualified 
D  CustNo                        7P 0
D  Address                      30A
D  City                         25A
D  State                         2A
D  ZipCode                      10A
D  Phone                        10P 0

D  whyme          S              1A  '?'

D ContactHdlr     PR
D  hello                         1A   Const 
D  Contacts                           LikeDS(Contact
D                                     Dim(128)
D  nCount                       10I 0 

 **  Here's the normal RPG IV syntax
C                   XML-INTO  %Handler(ContactHdlr : whyme)
C                              %XML(myXMLFile : 
C                              'doc=file path=contacts/contact')

 **  Here's the /free version
    XML-INTO  %Handler(ContactHdlr : whyme)
              %XML(myXMLFile : 'doc=file path=contacts/contact');

P ContactHdlr     B                   Export 
D ContactHdlr     PR
D  hello                         1A   Const 
D  Contacts                           LikeDS(Contact
D                                     Dim(128)
D  nCount                       10I 0 

D i               S             10I 0

C                   for        i = 1 to nCount
C                   eval-corr  ct = Contacts(i)
C                   Write     Contacts
C                   endfor
P ContractHdlr    E

In this example, the data is loaded from a file whose name is stored in the MYXMLFILE variable (not shown). The field WHYME is passed as the first parameter to the handler procedure named CONTACTHDLR. In addition to the WHYME parameter (which is a user-defined parameter, so it can be anything), two more parameters are passed: 1) the parsed XML in the form of a data structure defined on the procedure itself and 2) the number of elements passed in on the second parameter.

The handler above copies each element from the CONTACTS data structure to the database file and then writes it out to the database.

XML-SAX Opcode

The XML-SAX opcode is also required in order to read/parse XML in RPG IV. It starts the Simple API for XML (SAX) parser. The handler is called for each chunk of XML that is recognized. A primary difference from the regular XML parser in RPG IV is that the SAX parser sees each element in the XML once (as it is loaded), whereas the regular parser gives you access to the elements in the XML randomly. The syntax of the XML-SAX opcode is illustrated below.

XML-SAX(e)  %handler(myProc : firstParm)  %XML( 'xmldoc' { : 'sax-options' } )

For more information on the XML SAX parser, see these links on the Web:

Long Live RPG

The V5R4 enhancements to RPG IV confirm a positive trend in RPG IV; it is the language to use if you're building applications for today's modern application world.

Bob Cozzi is a programmer/consultant, writer/author, and software developer of the RPG xTools, a popular add-on subprocedure library for RPG IV. His book The Modern RPG Language has been the most widely used RPG programming book for nearly two decades. He, along with others, speaks at and runs the highly-popular RPG World conference for RPG programmers.

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.

MC Press books written by Robert Cozzi available now on the MC Press Bookstore.

Get this jam-packed resource of quick, easy-to-implement RPG tips!
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  • The Top Five RPG Open Access Myths....BUSTED!

    SB_Profound_WC_GenericWhen it comes to IBM Rational Open Access: RPG Edition, there are still many misconceptions - especially where application modernization is concerned!

    In this Webinar, we'll address some of the biggest myths about RPG Open Access, including:

    • Modernizing with RPG OA requires significant changes to the source code
    • The RPG language is outdated and impractical for modernizing applications
    • Modernizing with RPG OA is the equivalent to "screen scraping"


  • 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.