Untangle the Web with RPG and CGI

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A few articles have dealt with using RPG to write Common Gateway Interface (CGI) applications, which allow midrange programmers to use tools already available to produce e-commerce solutions for companies. Those articles dive right into using APIs to produce nifty HTML output, something every IT shop will soon have to deal with.

As a writer, I am sometimes so excited to share new technology that I don’t realize how fast I may be going. I hope I can make up for that in this article, in which I show you, step by step, how to take an everyday program and convert it into a CGI application. Keep in mind that the only real difference between RPG programs and CGI applications is the way they read input and write output. To make this transition as painless as possible, I use a basic invoice-printing program, an application many people are familiar with. With this program, the user can enter either the number of an invoice to be printed or a customer number that prints all open invoices. An extra parameter allows the user to specify an invoice reprint. In this article, I discuss the files used and the RPG and CGI applications. I also show you the similarities and differences between these applications. You can download the source for all the files and both applications at

The Data Files

Because the data files used in this article are exactly the same for each application, let me give you a quick rundown of what they are. The Order Header file (ORDHDRPF) contains basic order information, such as the invoice and customer numbers, and a flag that tells the system whether the invoice has been printed. The Order Detail file (ORDDETPF) contains line-item information, such as the item number, description, and invoice quantity. Finally, the Order Shipment file (ORDSHPPF) contains address information for the invoice.

The RPG Application

RPG program PRTINV1RG prompts the user for an invoice number or customer number and asks if the user wants to reprint the invoice(s). PRTINVDF1 is the display file that goes along with this program. PRTINV1RG checks errors to make sure that either an

invoice or customer number has been entered and verifies that the Reprint Invoices field contains either Y or N.

After the data is validated, the invoice number, customer number, and reprint flag are passed to RPG program PRTINV2RG, which uses these parameters to build an Open Query File (OPNQRYF) command that selects records from ORDHDRPF for printing. The files are then processed, and the invoices are printed. Printer file PRTINV2PT contains the DDS source for the printer file.

The CGI Application

HTML file CGIINV.HTML lets the user enter the invoice or customer number and the reprint flag. (Figure 1 shows how this entry screen appears in a browser.) CGIINV.HTML also performs error checking to ensure that an invoice or customer number is entered and uses JavaScript to verify that the Reprint Invoices field contains either Y or N. Don’t let this scare you off, however. CGIINV.HTML is not Java and does not require compilation or loading of classes onto your machine. JavaScript is an interpreted scripting language that can be embedded in HTML documents.

When a user clicks on Print, control is passed to CGI program CGIINVRG if no errors are found. This program uses the Get Environment Variable (QtmhGetEnv) API to read the query string environment variables. The Convert to Database (QtmhCvtDB) API parses the received data into a data structure that you provide. Once you have these values, an OPNQRYF command is built and run on ORDHDRPF. The data retrieved is then read, and the Write to Standard Output (QtmhWrStout) API uses that data to write the invoice information to a Web page.

Compare and Contrast

These RPG and CGI applications perform the same functions yet use different methods of input and output. The RPG application uses a display screen for input, an RPG program for processing, and a printer file for output. In contrast, the CGI application uses an HTML file (Web page) for input and initial error checking, an RPG program for processing, and a dynamically created Web page for output. To show the differences and similarities in these applications, let me walk you through each section step by step.

In each application, a front-end allows the user to input data, verifies that the data is correct, and passes it to the processing program. Figures 2 and 3 contain partial source for the RPG program and HTML file, respectively. Each section is labeled and color-coded to relate each section together. For example, section A represents error checking, and section B represents passing parameters and control to the processing program.

All the action in the HTML file takes place when the user clicks the Print button. The Print button is associated with the onClick event, which tells the browser to execute the Validate() function when the user clicks Print. The parameter this.form tells the browser to pass the values from the form to the JavaScript function. Validate() uses properties from the form to retrieve the invoice number, customer number, and reprint flag from each element and performs a series of checks, building an error message if it encounters any errors. When error checking is done, Validate() uses the Alert() method to prompt a dialog box to appear with the errors listed if the error field contains anything but blanks. Alert() is best compared to the DISPLAY op code in RPG; it’s built into JavaScript and doesn’t need to be declared anywhere. The data it receives is the data it displays.

An error field with no value tells Validate() that no errors were encountered. Validate() then uses the window.location method to redirect the page to the URL of the CGI program you wish to run (CGIINVRG, in this case). The data collected from the form is also passed as a parameter in the form of query string environment variables.

Now, I’ll examine the processing programs. These programs receive the parameters passed into them and display the invoice. However, the RPG program prints the invoice, whereas the CGI program displays the invoice on a browser. Figures 4 and 5 are partial

representations of the RPG and CGI code for each application. The important source for each application is labeled and color-coded as before. Label C represents the parameter processing, and Label D represents the code that processes data and produces output.

The major differences between these code examples are evident. Again, because you are probably already familiar with the RPG program, I will focus on the CGI program CGIINVRG.

Section C shows the code for two subroutines. The first, $GetQS, uses the QtmhGetEnv API to read the query string data passed into it. This API reads environment variables, such as query string data in this case. The second subroutine, $CvtDB, converts this data into data structure EnvDS so the CGI program can use it. Because the field names on the HTML form match the field names in the EnvDS data structure, this API knows to parse the data into the correct fields. For more information on how these APIs work, see the Web Programming Guide V4R3.

Section D contains code used to output the information. In the case of CGIINVRG, information appears on a Web browser via the QtmhWrStout API, which writes the data passed into it to the Web browser. This data can be any type of code that can be written to a browser (usually JavaScript or HTML). Figure 6 shows a sample of the invoice produced by CGIINVRG.

The similarities between the two applications are obvious. Both perform the same operations: display, error checking, record selection, and display of information. If you download the complete source code for this article, you will notice that the code that creates the OPNQRYF command and reads the data files is nearly identical in each example. This is the meat and potatoes of the application and doesn’t change from RPG to CGI applications, making the learning curve smaller for CGI applications written in RPG.

Time for a Change?

The point is, despite all the new technology available, RPG may still be your best bet. You can use most of the tools you’re familiar with, and you have to learn only the basics of HTML and JavaScript, both of which have countless resources available on the Internet. Providing information via a browser is much more versatile than trying to format it into an email and distribute it to multiple users. With the Internet, you can create it once and simply point people to it. If you are creating output-only applications, you need only the QtmhWrStout API, and if you require input, you need a minimum of two more APIs.

Use the applications provided here to start your CGI programming. Once you get the hang of it, dig into IBM’s books and the many articles written on the subject to get even more results from your CGI applications. After all, managers and users dig Web pages!


Web Programming Guide V4R3 (GC41-5435-02, CD-ROM QB3AEQ02)

Related Materials

• “RPG and CGI: Code Word—Dynamic!” Bradley V. Stone, MC, April 1999
• “RPG and HTML: Another Winning Team,” Bradley V. Stone, MC, May 1999

Figure 1: The HTML file lets the user enter the invoice or customer number and the reprint flag.

C if (WSINV 0) and (WSCUST 0)
C eval ERROR = ‘Cannot enter both Invoice Number ‘ +
C ‘and Customer Number’
C endif
C if (WSINV = 0) and (WSCUST = 0)
C eval ERROR = ‘Enter an Invoice Number or a ‘ +
C ‘Customer Number’
C endif
C if (WSREPRT ‘Y’) and (WSREPRT ‘N’)
C eval ERROR = ‘Reprint Invoice(s) must be Y or N’
C endif


Untangle_the_Web_with_RPG_and_CGI04-00.png 858x554



Figure 2: The RPG program contains code for input and error checking.

function Validate(form) {
var error = “”;
if ((form.wsinv.value != “”) && (form.wscust.value != “”)) {
error = “Cannot enter both Invoice Number and Customer Number ”;

if ((form.wsinv.value == “”) && (form.wscust.value == “”)) {
error = “Enter an Invoice Number or a Customer Number ”;

if ((form.wsreprt.value.toUpperCase() != “Y”) &&

(form.wsreprt.value.toUpperCase() != “N”)) {
error = error + “Reprint Invoice(s) must be Y or N ”;

if (error != “”) {
error = “The following error(s) exist: ” + error;


else {
window.location=”/cgi-bin/cgiinvrg?wsinv=” +
form.wsinv.value + “&wscust=” +
form.wscust.value + “&wsreprt=” +




Figure 3: The HTML file also contains code for input and error checking.


C dow (not %eof)
C eval GRDTOT = 0

C dow (not %eof)
C enddo *

C enddo *




Figure 4: The RPG program handles processing and printing.

C CALLB 'QtmhGetEnv'
C PARM EnvRecLen
C PARM EnvName
C PARM EnvNameLen
C if (EnvLen = 0)
C eval EnvLen = %size(EnvRec)
C endif
C CALLB 'QtmhCvtDb'
C PARM EnvFile
C PARM CvtStat

C dow (not %eof)
C eval GRDTOT = 0



C dow (not %eof)
C enddo *

C enddo *



C eval WrtDta = '

' +
C '
' +
C '
' +
C '
' +
C '
' +
C '
' +
C '
' +
C '
' +
C '
' +
C '
' +
C '
Customer:' + %editc(OHCUST:'Z') +
C '
Invoice:' + %editc(OHINV:'Z') +
C '
' + %trim(OSNAME) + 'Rec Date:' +
C %editw(OHRECDAT:' / / ') +
C '
' + %trim(OSADDR1) + 'Due Date:' +
C %editw(OHDUEDAT:' / / ') +
C '
' + %trim(OSADDR2) + 'Total Due:' + %editc(OHTOTDUE:'3') +
C '
' + %trim(OSCITY + OSSTATE + OSZIP) +
C '
' + NewLine
C EXSR $WrStout
C eval WrtDta = '' +
C '' +
C '' +
C '' +
C '' +
C '' +
C NewLine
C EXSR $WrStout

C eval WrtDta = '

' +
C NewLine
C EXSR $WrStout

C eval WrtDta = '

' +
C '
QtyItemDescriptionPriceTotal Due
' +
C %editc(ODQTY:'3') + '
' +
C %trim(ODITEM) + '
' +
C %trim(ODDESC) + '
' +
C %editc(ODPRICE:'3') + '
' +
C %editc(EXTPRICE:'3') + '
Grand Total:' +
C %editc(GRDTOT:'3') + '
' +
C NewLine
C EXSR $WrStout

C $WrStout BEGSR
C eval WrtDtaLen = %len(%trim(WrtDta))
C CALLB 'QtmhWrStout'
C PARM WrtDtaLen


Figure 5: The CGI program also handles processing and printing.

Figure 6: This is what an HTML invoice looks like.

Untangle_the_Web_with_RPG_and_CGI09-00.png 899x647


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    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.