RDi and RPG Enhancements in the 2023 Fall TRs
October 25, 2023 Alex Woodie
RPG developers will see some compelling new features coming out of the recent Technology Refresh (TR) announcement from IBM, including enhancements to the RDi development environment as well as new capabilities in the RPG language itself.
RPG is nearly 65 years old, but like old dogs, the programming language can learn new tricks. The enhancements that IBM has brought to its venerable language with IBM i 7.5 TR3 and 7.4 TR9 continue a strong run of improvements, according to IBM i Product Manager Alison Butterill.
“Every one of the TRs since we announced 7.5 has had at least some RPG content in it,” Butterill told IT Jungle. “We continue to add new things.”
With this release, IBM has added support for enumerations as well as new built-in functions in IBM Rational Developer Studio for i, which includes the compilers for RPG and other ILE languages.
Many languages have support for enumeration, which is a data type consisting of a set of named values that function as constants and can be used with variables and properties. IBM is delivering the new enumeration capability in free-format RPG through the new DCL-ENUM definition group.
According to this RPG Café article, enumeration constants can be used anywhere that a named constant can be used. The enumeration name can be used as an array in most calculation operations where an array can be used, IBM says. While the enumeration can be defined only in free format, the constants can be defined in free format or fixed format, IBM says. The enumeration can be called with the new DCL-C operation code.
Meanwhile, the new %LEFT and %RIGHT built-in functions give RPG programmers more options. The new BIFs return the left-most and right-most characters in a string. As IBM explains in its RPG Café article, the new BIFs also work with double-character byte strings.
Support for the new RPG functions will be added to Rational Developer for i (RDi), which continues to be the most widely used integrated development environment (IDE) in the IBM i community, despite the rising popularity of Web-based development tools, such as VS Code.
IBM says it has made several enhancements to RDi 22.214.171.124. One of those is giving developers more control over the documentation they create using the iDoc format, which IBM added support for with RDi 126.96.36.199. Developers are given more control over how their documentation is seen and IBM makes it easier to get help.
IBM added an iDoc tag to suppress individual RDi “not used” annotations. It also added new “@IGNORE” tag for un-used annotations, and made it available through the Quick Fixes feature. Quick Fixes also now works on any un-used annotation; there is no need to compile or verify first, IBM says.
The addition of an empty line may not seem like much, but when placed between the header and the first definition beneath it, it helps to better define the separation. It also now allows “Refactor Rename” to wrap lines when the new length is longer than the record length.
Developers will also find that RDi’s IBM i search function now retains the last member filter, and it also defaults the member’s name to the generic value. Developers who want to identify the connection name can now do so by hovering their mouse over a tab, which used to show the system name.
IBM also is providing quick links to helpful resources from the RDi help menu, including the capability to report an issue by launching IBM Support from inside RDi; ask questions or search on existing questions and answers through the IBM RDi Community Portal; and submit new ideas or vote on existing ones within the IBM Ideas portal.
You can access the announcement for IBM i 7.5 TR3 here and the announcement for IBM i 7.4 TR9 here. You can also read more about all of the enhancements that IBM plans to begin shipping at the IBM i Technology Updates webpage.