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An Easy First Step - the Remote System Explorer
Author: Inge Weiss - IBM

It's easier than you think to get started with a new generation of workstation tools for developing and maintaining RPG and COBOL programs on the iSeries. The IBM WebSphere Development Studio Client for iSeries Version 5.1.2 (Development Studio Client) is based on Eclipse and contains everything you need to develop Java and Web applications, as well as powerful workstation tools for RPG and COBOL. The Remote System Explorer is a perfect starting point, so why not try it out?

Development Studio Client includes these features:

  • The Remote System Explorer (RSE), which gives you access to all your objects on the iSeries host.
  • iSeries Projects to organize your work.
  • The LPEX Editor.
  • The ability to check your RPG, COBOL, and DDS source locally.
  • An interface to the host compilers.
  • The Integrated iSeries Debugger.
  • Online help including reference manuals for RPG, COBOL, DDS, and CL.

This article is meant for RPG and COBOL programmers who don't have any experience with Development Studio Client yet and want to know what they can do with it and how to get started.

To change an application, you typically start by opening the source in an editor of your choice. You type your changes, compile the program, correct any errors that the compiler may have found, and then run the program to verify that it behaves as expected. If there are problems, you analyze the program using a debugger. For all these steps, you can use WebSphere Development Studio.

WebSphere Development Studio consists of two parts: the host part, which runs on the iSeries system, and the workstation part. You install the Development Studio Client on your PC. Installation notes are on the first product CD as well as on the DVD.

After a successful installation, you start the workbench by choosing Start | Programs | IBM WebSphere Studio | Development Studio Client for iSeries. You see a dialog box that lets you specify the location where you want the workspace to reside on your PC. Specify the directory of the workspace and click OK to bring up the workbench.

Figure 1. The Workbench.

If you have not used Development Studio Client before, you should start with the Remote System Explorer perspective and work with your iSeries objects from there. In case this perspective is not displayed already, you can open it or any other perspective from the Window menu. Choose Window | Open Perspective and then select the perspective you are interested in. Or you can select Other to get a list of all available perspectives.

The Remote System Explorer perspective, like all of the other perspectives, consists of a workbench window with a group of views and an editor. You can configure any perspective the way you like to work. You can, for example, close views that you don't need, add other views, and move them into a different position inside the workbench window.

On the left side of the Remote System Explorer perspective, you find the Remote Systems view, which contains a list of all existing connections. Access to your local files is available by default; all other systems require that you define a connection first.

The large space in the middle of the window is taken up by the editor. Here you can work with your source code. At first, the editor contains the Welcome text with a short overview of the product and other useful information. The Outline view on the right side helps you navigate your RPG and COBOL source code. The Properties view in the lower left corner contains additional information about the currently selected object. The lower right corner of the window is taken up by a notebook with the tabs Remote System Details, Tasks, iSeries Table view, and iSeries Commands Log. You click a tab to display the corresponding notebook page. I explain more details about this notebook a little later.

To work with your iSeries objects, you first have to create a connection to your iSeries system. In the Remote Systems view, expand the node New Connection and then iSeries by clicking the '+' sign in front of the node. Double-clicking the iSeries node itself works as well. This displays the Remote iSeries System Connection wizard (see Figure 2). The 'Parent profile' field is pre-filled with the name of your PC and in the beginning, just accept this value by clicking Next. The communication between PC and iSeries uses TCP/IP. On the second page of the wizard, you only have to specify the host name. This name is also automatically entered as the connection name. The connection name is the name that identifies the connection when it is listed in the Remote Systems view. Click Finish to create the connection. You can define multiple connections to the same iSeries host, as long as you choose different connection names.

Figure 2. Remote iSeries System Connection wizard.

Expanding the newly defined connection by clicking the '+' sign in front of it, displays your iSeries objects. In the expanded list, you now see four subsystems, iSeries Objects, iSeries Commands, iSeries Jobs und IFS Files, which can be expanded as well. Each subsystem contains a number of pre-defined filters. Right-clicking a subsystem displays a pop-up menu, which contains actions applicable to that subsystem, such as adding a new filter.

Figure 3. Default filters for iSeries Objects.

The 'Library list' for example is a default filter, which first expands to all libraries in your library list and then to all objects in each library.

Before you can look at any object in a library, you have to sign on to the iSeries system. To avoid getting the sign-on dialog box multiple times, you can save your user ID and password locally.

If you want to change the saved information later, for example, to change your password, you can do this in the Preferences window. Choose Window | Preferences, expand the Remote Systems node, and click Passwords.

Now you can right-click one of the listed objects and choose the action you want for your program development from the pop-up menu. The actions that are available depend on the type of object you right-click. For editing DDS source code for example, you have three choices: the integrated Remote Systems LPEX Editor, the CODE Editor, or the CODE Designer.

Figure 4. Available actions for DDS Source.

If you select the Remote Systems LPEX Editor, your source code appears in the workbench editor area. As with the classic CODE Editor, different colors are used to highlight the different elements of the programming languages.

In the editor, you can choose among a large range of functions. You can, for example, filter the displayed source code according to different criteria to make it easier to find relevant parts in your code. Here, like everywhere else in the workbench, you can use the F1 function key to access context-sensitive help.

The Verify action runs the first part of a compile on your PC. Your program gets checked for syntax and semantic errors, but the program object will not be created at this point. All errors are displayed in the iSeries Error List, which gets added to the notebook at the lower right. Double-clicking an error positions the source code in the editor so the line that caused the problem is visible. This way you can see exactly where the error occurred.

Figure 5. The iSeries Error List.

Once the Verify action finds no errors, it is time to compile the program on the iSeries host using the Compile action. You know beforehand that there will be no compile errors.

After that, you can use the Run As or Run(Prompt) action to verify the behavior of your program. If further analysis of your program is required, you can use the Debug As or Debug (Prompt) action and, depending on the type of your application, select Batch, Interactive, or Multi-threaded, to start the debugger for your program. The debugger is completely integrated into the workbench and opens its own perspective.

Finally, you can use an action that is available for subsystems, libraries, and source files: Show in Table. This action lists all objects of the selected subsystem or library, or all source members of the selected source file in the iSeries Table View in the notebook at the lower right. This view probably looks more familiar to everyone who is used to working with PDM than the tree structure in the Remote Systems view. In addition, the iSeries Table View contains an interface to some of the PDM Options (see Figure 6).

Figure 6. PDM Options in the iSeries Table View.

For more information about the IBM WebSphere Development Studio Client for iSeries, go to:

© Copyright International Business Machines Corporation, 2005. All rights reserved.


Inge Weiss is a software engineer in the iSeries Application Development Tools Center at the IBM Canada Toronto Laboratory. She has a degree in Computer Science from the University in Hamburg, Germany. Inge worked as a systems engineer for mid-range systems at IBM Germany and joined the IBM Canada Toronto Laboratory in 1985. She has worked on different projects but spent most of the time in the iSeries tools area. Currently she is a member of the team that develops problem determination tools for the iSeries. Inge is a frequent speaker at COMMON and user group conferences and has published a series of articles on Websphere Development Studio.