Mon, Jun
3 New Articles

RPG IV Style: Free-Format Syntax

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

If you use the free-format specification, good standards will result automatically.


Editor's Note: This article is an excerpt from the book Programming in RPG IV, 4th Edition.


At current releases, RPG IV is primarily a free-format language, especially in the area of calculation processing. While it's not perfect, the free-format specification effectively renders the traditional fixed-format Calculation specification obsolete. IBM has introduced many new RPG IV features exclusively in free format.


The advantages of free format are well proven. It's easier to read, document, and maintain than fixed-format code, and its syntax is consistent with other modern computer languages. You should use it exclusively, especially when writing new programs or performing extensive maintenance on existing programs. In many cases, if you use the free-format specification, good standards will result automatically, because the free-format specification doesn't allow much of the obsolete baggage and poor practices that fixed-format C-specs allowed.


Avoid mixing fixed-form style and free-form style in your programs. The result is inconsistent and difficult to read. Take full advantage of the more natural order and expanded space afforded by the free-form specification.

Indent Code in Loops and Groups

When you're coding loops and groups, indent the code within a group by a couple of spaces to highlight the structure of the code group, as the following examples illustrate:


If %Found;

Eval(h) Totalpay = Regpay + Ovtpay;




When Hours <=40;

   Totalpay = Hours * Rate;

When Dblhours = 0;

   Totalpay = (Hours * Rate) + ((Hours - 40) * Rate * 1.5);


   Totalpay = (Hours * Rate) + ((Hours - 40) * Rate * 1.5) +

               (Dblhours * Rate * 2);



Dou %Eof(Master);

Read(e) Master;


   When %Eof(Master);


   When %Error;

     Exsr Errsubr;


     Exsr Process;




But don't completely abandon columnar alignment as a tool to aid readability in expressions. Especially when an expression must continue onto subsequent lines, align the expression to make it easier to understand:


Totalpay = (Reghours * Rate)      +

           (Ovthours * Rate * 1.5) +

           (Dblhours * Rate * 2);


If your program includes embedded SQL statements, integrate the SQL completely by using the same indenting standards for the SQL statements that you use for the rest of the program:


If Instate = 'TX';

Pgmaccount = 'G5X67';

Exec SQL Select Firstname, Lastname, City, State

           Into :Infirstname, :Inlastname, :Incity, :Instate

           From Master

           Where Account = :Pgmaccount;

Exsr Process;



If the SQL statement is a long one, as in the above example, consider coding the individual SQL predicates on separate lines and aligning them as you would multiline expressions.

Use Mixed-Case Source

Closely related to using free-format syntax is the standard to use mixed uppercase and lowercase characters in the source code. Take advantage of this capability to make your program source easy to read. When coding a symbolic name, use mixed case to clarify the named item's meaning and use. Do not code in ALL UPPERCASE or all lowercase characters. Instead, use a logical combination of uppercase and lowercase, perhaps capitalizing each word in the code line:


Chain Postalcode Citymaster;


Another possibility is to use a notation commonly called "CamelCase," which joins compound words without spaces, capitalizing each section of the compound:


Chain PostalCode CityMaster;


If—but only if—your installation integrates Java programs into its applications, you might consider Java's traditional "Hungarian" notation, a variation of CamelCase in which the name of the variable indicates its type; the name begins with lowercase characters. Using Hungarian notation, the name "unsCounter" might indicate an unsigned integer, while "decAmount" might indicate a packed decimal number.


For RPG-reserved words and operations, as well as named constants, consider using ALL UPPERCASE characters. No matter which standard you use, be consistent.



James Buck
Jim Buck's career in IT has spanned more than 35 years, primarily in the college education, manufacturing, and healthcare industries. Past president (13 years) of the Wisconsin Midrange Computer Professional Association, he has served on several teams developing IBM and COMMON certification tests. Jim has co-authored several IBM i textbooks with Bryan Meyers that are used by many companies and in colleges worldwide. Other accomplishments include: recipient of the 2007 IBM System i Innovation - Education Excellence Award, 2014 COMMON President's Award, and 2013/2016/2017 IBM Champion - Power Systems.

Jim is the president and founder of imPower Technologies, where he provides professional IBM i training and consulting services. He is active in the IBM i community, working to help companies train their employees in the latest IBM technologies and develop the next generation of IBM i professionals.

MC Press books written by Jim Buck available now on the MC Press Bookstore.

Control Language Programming for IBM i Control Language Programming for IBM i
Master the A-Z of CL, including features such as structured programming, file processing enhancements, and ILE.
List Price $79.95

Now On Sale

Mastering IBM i Mastering IBM i
Get the must-have guide to the tools and concepts needed to work with today's IBM i.
List Price $85.95

Now On Sale

Programming in ILE RPG Programming in ILE RPG
Get the definitive guide to the RPG programming language.
List Price $95.95

Now On Sale

Programming in RPG IV Programming in RPG IV
Understand the essentials of business programming using RPG IV.
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: