TechTip: Shoot for Orion with Your RPG

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We're going to disrupt your comfort zone. RPG in the IFS. Browser-based development environments. T-shirts with tags that line the collar.


The April announcement of V7.3 by IBM was a great time to receive new goodies for IBM i. You can gain a full perspective at Steve Will's blog. In this article, I will be focusing on the Orion addition, which is option 8 of 5733OPS. I will also dive into a little bit of Git, which IBM is also now delivering with 5733OPS.


First things first: What is Orion?


You can gain some initial insight by heading over to As quoted from the website, the concept is "A modern, open source software development environment that runs in the cloud." The topic of using browser-based development tools has been of great interest to me the past few years. Six years ago, I would have said, "There’s no way I can use a browser-based development environment." However, my perception has changed a lot. To put it into perspective, how much time did you spend updating SEU back in the day? Exactly! It was installed once for all developers. Browser-based tools afford us similar efficiencies. The kicker: SEU is a server-side editor. So we've come full circle and now have a new server-side (browser-based) source code editor. Its name is Orion.


Orion goes further than just an editor. It wasn't created for IBM i. Rather, it’s existed for a number of years. Orion was developed by the Eclipse Foundation, among a few other browser-based development environments.


It’s important to understand that Orion does not replace RDi. RDi is very feature-rich and very "IBM i aware." Orion not so much. In some ways, that's OK, although I do hope it grows in IBM i capabilities. Check out the Orion docs to learn about the full set of features.


Sometimes, the best way to introduce a new tool is to run through a scenario. Our goal for this article is to edit RPG code stored in the IFS and use Git to change manage it, all from the browser-based Orion tooling. We won't be covering the install or startup of Orion on IBM i. Instead, that can be learned from the Orion developerWorks page.


"What is this RPG-in-the-IFS you speak of, Aaron?"


Yes, you heard me correctly. RPG can be stored in the IFS. Commands like CRTBNDRPG have been "IFS-capable" for a while now. With Git being easy to install, well, it's time we use the free open-source tooling to our advantage.


Figure 1 shows the Orion home page being run on my IBM i. Click the Register link.


051316bartell figure1 orionhomepage

Figure 1: Orion home page


Figure 2 shows the registration page. You can configure Orion to use social media authentication or use the included authentication mechanism by specifying the profile and password of your choice. Note this is not an IBM i profile, although you can name it the same as an IBM i profile. Just know there isn't any direct correlation between Orion and IBM i profiles.


051316bartell figure2 orionregister

Figure 2: Orion registration


Figure 3 shows the initial Orion workspace. As you can see, there aren't any files or projects in existence yet, so it's time to create some.


051316bartell figure3 orionloggedinnoproject

Figure 3: Orion workspace


Figure 4 shows how to create a new "Basic" project. Under the covers, this will create a new directory in the IFS where you will store your source code.


051316bartell figure4 orioncreateproject

Figure 4: Create a new Basic project


It will prompt you for a project name. I specified p1 and was presented with the screen in Figure 5.


051316bartell figure5 orionprojectcreated

Figure 5: Project p1 now exists


Next create a new file named pgm1.rpgle, as shown in Figure 6.


051316bartell figure6 orionnewfile

Figure 6: Create a new file


Paste some code in pgm1.rpgle. As you can see in Figure 7, there is RPG syntax coloring. Hurray!


051316bartell figure7 orionpgm1

Figure 7: Orion has RPG syntax highlighting


Note it is auto-saving after each change you make. I really like this feature for a browser-based editor because it means losing work will be minimal.


Next question: Where is code stored in the IFS? Open a shell prompt and run the following command:


$ ls /QOpenSys/QIBM/UserData/OPS/Orion/serverworkspace

aa             an             at             metastore.json


As you can see, there are many workspaces. The one created for this tutorial is 'aa'. From there, I kept running additional ls commands until I made it to the location of pgm1.rpgle, as shown below.


$ ls /QOpenSys/QIBM/UserData/OPS/Orion/serverworkspace/aa/


$ ls /QOpenSys/QIBM/UserData/OPS/Orion/serverworkspace/aa/aaron

OrionContent             aaron-OrionContent.json p1.json                 user.json

$ ls /QOpenSys/QIBM/UserData/OPS/Orion/serverworkspace/aa/aaron/OrionContent


$ ls /QOpenSys/QIBM/UserData/OPS/Orion/serverworkspace/aa/aaron/OrionContent/p1



Sometimes, when I've navigated to a file, I will use the cat command to display its contents, as shown below.


$ cat /QOpenSys/QIBM/UserData/OPS/Orion/serverworkspace/aa/aaron/OrionContent/p1/pgm1.rpgle

dcl-pr pgm1 extpgm;

   char1 char(1);

   dec1 packed(7:4);


dcl-pi pgm1;

   char1 char(1);

   dec1 packed(7:4);


char1 = 'C';

dec1 = 321.1234;



OK, now that we've got some code, the next logical step is to compile. We can do that with the below CRTBNDRPG command and make use of the SRCSTMF parameter.


CRTBNDRPG PGM(MYLIB/PGM1) SRCSTMF('/QOpenSys/QIBM/UserData/OPS/Orion/serverworkspace/aa/aaron/OrionContent/p1/pgm1.rpgle')


At this point, our programming is complete and we should save the code in history using Git. Git is a source change-management (SCM) tool very popular in the open-source community. I use Git on a daily basis and like it a lot, although it took some time to learn the ins and outs.


Figure 8 shows the Orion Git page. We need to initialize the previously created directory as a Git repository (repo for short). To do that, we need to be on the Orion Git page (left nav button), select Repositories, select Init Repository, and select More so we can point it at the p1 directory.


051316bartell figure8 oriongitinit1

Figure 8: Orion git init


Select "Existing folder" on the pop-up, as shown in Figure 9.


051316bartell figure9 oriongitinit2

Figure 9: Git init existing directory


Expand Orion Content and select the p1 directory, as shown in Figure 10.


051316bartell figure10 oriongitinit3

Figure 10: Select existing Orion project directory for Git init


You will be brought back to a confirmation dialog where the "Existing folder" will be occupied. You should select OK, as shown in Figure 11.


051316bartell figure11 oriongitinit4

Figure 11: Confirm Git init of existing directory


Now the Orion Git page will convey the changes that have been made to the p1 directory, as shown in Figure 12. These are the changes needing to be committed to history, basically storing the version of source as it exists at this point in time.


051316bartell figure12 oriongitcommit1

Figure 12: Git changes for p1 directory


To commit the changes to pgm1.rpgle, we need to add a short message, select the pgm1.rpgle program from the list, and select the Commit button, as shown in Figure 13.


051316bartell figure13 oriongitcommit2

Figure 13: Commit pgm1.rpgle program changes


False alarm on being able to commit on the last screen. It will recognize you haven't yet configured Git with your personal information, and you will be presented with the following Author and Committer prompts. Fill those out and select the Commit button again, as shown in Figure 14.


051316bartell figure14 oriongitcommit3

Figure 14: Specify your personal information


This time the commit was a success, as shown in Figure 15.


051316bartell figure15 oriongitcommitsuccess

Figure 15: Git Commit is a success


What does this mean? Well, when you commit something with Git, it will store a snapshot in the .git directory of the entire directory at this point in time. What ".git" directory? If you navigate back to the Orion editor page and expand the p1 project directory, you will see a .git directory, as shown in Figure 16.


051316bartell figure16 oriongitdir

Figure 16: Orion .git directory


OK, so you're now tracking your changes with Git and want to share these with another developer. To do this, you need to push your changes to a central repository so another developer can pull the source. The IBM i can act as a central repository, but I prefer to store my source, both public and private, on BitBucket (GitHub works too). The following steps detail how to create and sync your p1 directory with BitBucket.


First sign up for a free BitBucket account. Then navigate to the Create Repo URL, as shown in Figure 17.


051316bartell figure17 orionbitbucketcreate

Figure 17: Create BitBucket Git repository


After clicking the "Create repository" button, you will be redirected to the repository's page. We need to obtain the HTTP repository URL so we can plug it into Orion. Figure 18 shows how to obtain this information.


051316bartell figure18 bitbucketcreate2

Figure 18: Obtain the repository URL


In my case, I now have URL //This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it./aaronbartell/p1.git">https://This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it./aaronbartell/p1.git in my clipboard. Next, navigate to the Orion Git page, select the Reference drop-down, select the New Remote button, specify "origin" for the Name, and paste the aforementioned URL, as shown in Figure 19.


051316bartell figure19 oriongitremotecreate

Figure 19: Add new Git remote to p1 repository


Now refresh the Git Orion page so it recognizes there is an attached remote repository.


The next step is to get the local commits onto BitBucket. Select the "Sync" button. When prompted, enter your Bitbucket password, as shown in Figure 20.


051316bartell figure20 oriongitsync

Figure 20: Sync local changes to remote BitBucket repository


Orion will now communicate the changes to Bitbucket. Once complete, it will convey there are no outgoing changes, as shown in Figure 21.


051316bartell figure21 oriongitsyncd

Figure 21: Orion Git page shows local environment is synced with remote


Go to the Bitbucket "Commit" page for the repository, and you can now see the recent commits, as shown in Figure 22.


051316bartell figure22 bitbucketcommits

Figure 22: BitBucket commits of IBM i project


A repo only needs to be created once by the first developer. Subsequent developers simply have to clone the existing repo. To do this, you navigate to the Orion Git page, select the Repository drop-down, select Clone Repository, specify the repository URL, and click Submit, as shown in Figure 23.


051316bartell figure23 oriongitclone

Figure 23: Subsequent developer's clone of p1 repository


At this point, you're set for doing development of your RPG with Orion. Developing RPG in the IFS is different on a number of fronts. It's not necessarily a quick change because we haven't yet addressed a solid build solution. One I am fond of is how Mihael Schmidt of does with his projects. For example, check out his JSON project and see how it uses the "make" utility to copy files from the IFS to a temporary library for compilation. That's one of many options.


Hopefully, this article gives you a taste for Orion and what it can do. You can head over to to get news and updates about what is going on with Orion. As always, if you have any questions you can leave a comment below or contact me via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Aaron Bartell

Aaron Bartell is Director of IBM i Innovation for Krengel Technology, Inc. Aaron facilitates adoption of open-source technologies on IBM i through professional services, staff training, speaking engagements, and the authoring of best practices within industry publications andwww.litmis.comWith a strong background in RPG application development, Aaron covers topics that enable IBM i shops to embrace today's leading technologies, including Ruby on Rails, Node.js, Git for RPG source change management, and RSpec for unit testing RPG. Aaron is a passionate advocate of vibrant technology communities and the corresponding benefits available for today's modern application developers. Connect with Aaron via email

Aaron lives with his wife and five children in southern Minnesota. He enjoys the vast amounts of laughter that having a young family brings, along with camping and music. He believes there's no greater purpose than to give of our life and time to help others.



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