Sat, Jul
4 New Articles

RPG Academy: /FREE Your Code - Converting Fixed-Format Code to Free-Format, Part 2

  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

Most fixed-format op codes are available in free-format, but IBM left a few behind (rightfully so, if you ask me). This article will help you replace COMP, CASXX, CABXX, TAG, and GOTO when converting to free-format.


The operation codes discussed in the previous article were the easier ones. Let’s move on to more-complicated operation codes, which will certainly require some time to properly convert to free-format.


When it comes to comparing stuff, RPG’s options go well beyond other languages; most languages don’t have anything like COMP or CASXX. In an effort to bring RPG a step closer to the norm, IBM decided to drop these operation codes. They don’t have a BIF alternative, but you can emulate their functionality using logical expressions. Let’s start with COMP:


C     W_AFld       COMP     W_OtherFld                         101112


In case you don’t remember how to use it, here goes:

  • If the second field is greater than the first, then *IN11 (the one in the middle of the indicator group in this example) is set to *ON, while the other two are set to *OFF.
  • If the situation is reversed, then *IN10 (the one on the left side) is set to *ON, while the other two are set to *OFF.
  • Finally, if both variables contain the same value, *IN12 (the one on the right side) is set to *ON, and the other two are set to *OFF.


If you read these rules carefully, it gets easy to translate them into free-format, and to get rid of the indicators at the same time!


Suppose you want to do something when the second field is greater than the first. Writing this in free-format is simple:



IF W_OtherFld > W_AFld;

   // do something here…




Before moving on to CASXX operations and because I mentioned indicators, let me just say that SETON and SETOFF were also excluded from free-format. However, much like the arithmetic operation codes I mentioned in the previous TechTip, you can have the same functionality with EVAL:


C                 SETON                                         10


This can be replaced by the following:


*IN10 = *On;


I hope that after what you’ve read so far, you don’t feel the need to use indicators in the code that you write or convert to free-format. As I said before, there are only a handful of situations in which you can’t escape indicators—mainly related to display and printer files—so please, when modernizing your code, ban the indicators, or at least use named indicators. If you’re not familiar with the named indicators technique, don’t worry because I’ll explain it in a future article.


Replacing CASXX operation codes is also fairly simple. If you think about the functionality they provide—compare two things and execute a subroutine if the condition implied in the instruction is met—you’ll see that this can be replaced by an IF block with a EXSR inside. Let’s look at an example:


C     W_CurLine   CASGE     W_MaxLines     PAG_BRK


This is replaced by the following:



IF W_CurLine >= W_MaxLines;





That’s a straightforward and elegant solution when compared with the cryptic, fixed-format equivalent.


Goodbye Spaghetti Code: No More CABXX, TAG, and GOTO

The next three operation codes don’t have a replacementdirect or indirectin free-format. And if you ask me, that’s a good thing.


First, I’m talking about the CABXX operation code. “Compare and Branch” has been around for ages; it’s one of the workhorses of “old” RPG. If you’re not familiar with it, the functionality provided by CABXX is similar to CASXX. The difference is that it doesn’t execute a subroutine; it “jumps” to a label somewhere else in the code. The thing is—and this is why I mentioned three operation codes that don’t have a free-format replacement—TAG (the way to indicate a label) and GOTO (another way to jump to a label) were dropped for the sake of readability (and getting rid of the dreaded spaghetti code, hallmark of older versions of RPG). So, you’ll need to reengineer your code to “convert” the CABXX, TAG and GOTO operations to free format. Let’s explore the options.


Sometimes, a TAG and a GOTO delimit a piece of code that could be a subroutine or even a procedure in better-structured source code; using the CASXX free-format alternative might be a solution for these cases. However, there are times when you just need to “jump” to a particular place in the code—leave a cycle or a subroutine, for instance. For these cases, there is ITER (iterate), which jumps to the top of a loop. It can be any type of loop: DOWXX, DOUXX, or FOR. There’s also LEAVE, which jumps out of the loop, and LEAVESR, which (you guessed it) leaves the subroutine.


For the rest of the GOTO situations, you need to take a good hard look at the code and decide what to do. It’s not the best of solutions, but you can decide to leave it as-is (for a while, at least), because you can mix fixed- and free-format code, as long as you signal the beginning and end of your free-format code with the appropriate directives. I’m not encouraging you to leave those GOTOs permanently—just until you get some experience with the whole ILE thing.


What’s your take on this? I know that this is a controversial topic, probably as much as the file-related indicators, so feel free to speak you mind in the comments sections below!


The next TechTip will close the fixed-to-free format conversion topic, with a discussion about array-related operation codes in free-format.

Rafael Victoria-Pereira

Rafael Victória-Pereira has more than 20 years of IBM i experience as a programmer, analyst, and manager. Over that period, he has been an active voice in the IBM i community, encouraging and helping programmers transition to ILE and free-format RPG. Rafael has written more than 100 technical articles about topics ranging from interfaces (the topic for his first book, Flexible Input, Dazzling Output with IBM i) to modern RPG and SQL in his popular RPG Academy and SQL 101 series on mcpressonline.com and in his books Evolve Your RPG Coding and SQL for IBM i: A Database Modernization Guide. Rafael writes in an easy-to-read, practical style that is highly popular with his audience of IBM technology professionals.

Rafael is the Deputy IT Director - Infrastructures and Services at the Luis Simões Group in Portugal. His areas of expertise include programming in the IBM i native languages (RPG, CL, and DB2 SQL) and in "modern" programming languages, such as Java, C#, and Python, as well as project management and consultancy.

MC Press books written by Rafael Victória-Pereira available now on the MC Press Bookstore.

Evolve Your RPG Coding: Move from OPM to ILE...and Beyond Evolve Your RPG Coding: Move from OPM to ILE...and Beyond
Transition to modern RPG programming with this step-by-step guide through ILE and free-format RPG, SQL, and modernization techniques.
List Price $79.95

Now On Sale

Flexible Input, Dazzling Output with IBM i Flexible Input, Dazzling Output with IBM i
Uncover easier, more flexible ways to get data into your system, plus some methods for exporting and presenting the vital business data it contains.
List Price $79.95

Now On Sale

SQL for IBM i: A Database Modernization Guide SQL for IBM i: A Database Modernization Guide
Learn how to use SQL’s capabilities to modernize and enhance your IBM i database.
List Price $79.95

Now On Sale



Support MC Press Online

$0.00 Raised:

Book Reviews

Resource Center

  • SB Profound WC 5536 Have you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application. You can find Part 1 here. In Part 2 of our free Node.js Webinar Series, Brian May teaches you the different tooling options available for writing code, debugging, and using Git for version control. Brian will briefly discuss the different tools available, and demonstrate his preferred setup for Node development on IBM i or any platform. Attend this webinar to learn:

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • FORTRA Disaster protection is vital to every business. Yet, it often consists of patched together procedures that are prone to error. From automatic backups to data encryption to media management, Robot automates the routine (yet often complex) tasks of iSeries backup and recovery, saving you time and money and making the process safer and more reliable. Automate your backups with the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution. Key features include:

  • FORTRAManaging messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. Messages need a response and resources must be monitored—often over multiple systems and across platforms. How can you be sure you won’t miss important system events? Automate your message center with the Robot Message Management Solution. Key features include:

  • FORTRAThe thought of printing, distributing, and storing iSeries reports manually may reduce you to tears. Paper and labor costs associated with report generation can spiral out of control. Mountains of paper threaten to swamp your files. Robot automates report bursting, distribution, bundling, and archiving, and offers secure, selective online report viewing. Manage your reports with the Robot Report Management Solution. Key features include:

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

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

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

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

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

  • Profound Logic Have you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application.

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

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