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Free-Form RPG Surprises

June 11, 2014

It is nice to know that we can still be surprised.

When we first heard that IBM intended to release a completely** free-form version of RPG, we braced ourselves for the seemingly inevitable flood of negativism that past history indicated would follow the announcement. And to be sure there were a few comments along the lines of "Why are they bothering - that's already available in XXX (insert language of choice here) so why add it to RPG?" and "If IBM thinks that will make the language attractive to new programmers they are nuts." But overall the noise level was far less than we had anticipated, which was a pleasant surprise.

Since then, we have continued to be surprised by how well this new support has been received. In fact the vast majority of programmers we have talked to at conferences and in our private classes have embraced the changes, as have most who commented on the changes in the various online forums we monitor. At the most recent RPG & DB2 Summit, we had to move Barbara Morris's session on the new free-form support to a much bigger room to handle the number of attendees who wanted to attend.

Even those who claim that they probably won't be using the new support themselves have agreed that it will make life much easier for the new programmers in their shop who "really struggle with the fixed-form F and D specs." And that, after all, is the real point of these changes. We need new blood and we need it fast.

In a few weeks we will be delivering an "Introduction to RPG and IBM i" class to a group of Java programmers. This will be the first time where we be teaching nothing but the free-form version of the language in the initial training. Once they have the basics under their belts their co-workers will (hopefully gently) be initiating them in the dark and arcane art of traditional F specs. They will need to learn D specs as well, of course, but they're at least somewhat simpler. Luckily for these RPG newbies, the shop already owns a copy of Linoma's RPG Toolbox so converting existing code to the new format will be easy for them. We're looking forward to it and are sure that the learning curve will be shorter for them than it was for the COBOL, C++ and Java programmers that we have taught in the past year.

Talking of surprises, we've uncovered quite a few pleasant ones (and a couple of "gotchas") in the new support over the past few months. So in this month's IBM i Extra we've put together a list of those we have discovered to date. If you have found any that we have missed please let us know via the comments here or with the article.


(** Yes, we know that I and O specs are still fixed format but if you're still using those, you really shouldn't be.)

Posted June 11, 2014| Permalink

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