Looksoftware Introduces Open Access to COBOL Development
May 6, 2014 Dan Burger
Time reveals all secrets. RPG Open Access is a good example. It didn’t take long for COBOL developers to hear about RPG OA and soon they began asking for an Open Access of their own. So this week, looksoftware, one of the early pioneers in RPG OA, is adding Open Access for COBOL to its product line, which has had a singular RPG orientation up to this point. What’s good for RPG is good for COBOL. Makes sense.
Open Access for COBOL was something IBM talked about as a potential project, says looksoftware product manager Eamon Musallam. “The level of interest amongst COBOL shops has motivated us to provide a solution,” he says. “We’ve architected our solution so that it will be compatible or convertible to anything IBM would be likely to do in the future.”
COBOL developers have had limited development options for creating applications for the Web, smartphones, tablets and integration with non-COBOL applications. Screen scraping is one option and migrating to different languages and environments is another. Both were necessitated because a better alternative wasn’t available.
Following in the footsteps of Open Access for RPG, looksoftware designed Open Access for COBOL so developers can create applications using familiar syntax and techniques. The API that is invoked provides the hook into modern devices and interfaces. The conversion of COBOL source code to support modern devices, according to looksoftware, is automatic, making existing applications an easy transformation to support modern devices.
“It’s similar to screen scraping in that it automatically converts existing applications to work with Open Access, which in turn can be used to create graphical environments,” Musallam explains. “The reason it is different is that it exposes all the benefits of Open Display Files to COBOL applications. It doesn’t convert and constrain. It converts and then opens up an enhanced development environment.”
Open Display Files is looksoftware terminology that distinguishes drag-and-drop development from the old and labor-intensive method that required defining the fields and files on a screen in DDS. The drag-and-drop screen designer looksoftware created generates XML, which replaces the DDS.
To use Open Access for COBOL requires the looksoftware independent development environment (IDE) known as newlook, which was updated to version 10 in August with the capability to integrate with modern mobile devices and interfaces. The company describes the newlook design tool as proficiently providing “quick and easy layout of high-quality, intuitive graphical interfaces and multiple devices with a single effort.” In addition to COBOL, the IDE supports graphical layout for RPG Open Access and existing 5250 (non-RPG OA) screens and the capability to alternate among these different environments at runtime.
Along with the newlook IDE, the use of Open Access for COBOL requires openlook server and deployment options based on whether the client devices are desktops, HTML-based thin clients, and/or mobile clients.
Open Access for COBOL will be supported on the openlook server in June, according to the company.