Top 5 best kept secrets in Visual COBOL for Eclipse

by in Application Modernization & Connectivity

The Eclipse Integrated Development Environment (IDE) is so jam packed full of features for COBOL developers, you’d be forgiven for not knowing them all. To make life easier, we've compiled the top 5 features for COBOL development you didn't already know about:

1.     Quick Browse

The Quick Browse feature is a powerful tool for searching COBOL programs. Not only can you search for fields and data names, you can also search for use of specific COBOL verbs within your program. For example, to find all the places in your code you’re performing file I-O, just type I-O as the search term to find all open, read, write, close and other I-O verbs your code.

How do I find it?


Results of the Quick Browse query showing where and how field is used in your program


2.     Find All References

Hesitating about that edit you’re just about to make? Where else might that field be used?

Find all references shows you at a glance, all the locations in the program a particular field is being used and it also lets you know if that line of code is modifying the value or just referencing it. 

Where do I find it? Context menu on a field in the editor and choose Find All References

The results of a find all references query shown in the search pane on the right


3.     Go To Definition

Want to see the definition of a field? Hit the CTRL key and place the cursor over the item and if the definition is known, a hyperlink will appear just click to go there. You can even use this command to open a copybook .

Where do I find it:  Just press the CTRL key and move the mouse over the item


4.     Column Block Marking

Sometimes regular block selection won’t cut the mustard and what you really need to do is mark a group of columns. No problem. Better still, there’s a neat copy and paste trick you can do. 

Where do I find it? On the toolbar as Toggle Block Selection mode or Alt-Shift-A


Results of a block selection paste in Eclipse


5.     Quick Outline view

Quick outline shows you all the fields and sections in your program. Once you’ve invoked it, just start typing the first few letters of the name you’re looking for and you can jump straight to that location.

Where do I find it? CTRL O

The quick outline window – find what you need fast


Of course we couldn’t just stop at 5, here’s a few more you should know about too...

6.     View Whitespace

Want to see whitespace such as tabs and space characters in your source files?

Where do I find it? On the Toolbar Show Whitespace Characters


7.     Navigate Backward and Forward Keys

Just navigated somewhere in your program and want to go back to where you came from? Use the navigate forward and backward keys to take you back to where you’ve just come from.

Where do I find it? On the standard toolbar. Look for the yellow arrows or press ALT-LEFT and ALT-RIGHT


8.     Memory Window

If you’re debugging native code and what to get a closer look at the memory in and around a data item, try the memory window. Just type in an field name to get HEX, ASCII or EBCDIC dumps of the memory at that address.

Where do I find it? Window -> Show View -> Other -> Memory.


Try it out

Get started - Visual COBOL 2.2 for Visual Studio has just been launched and you can try these top 5 tips for yourself by taking a free trial.

Thanks to Product Manager Scot Nielsen for posting this.