Recently, I have been receiving quite a few questions about qualified data structures and whether or not they are of much use. They are and you should be using them, let me tell you why.
V5R1 of OS/400 saw the introduction of qualified data structures and the LIKEDS keyword in RPG IV. At glance these appeared to be "neat" enhancements but not something to get too excited about. But, when you start to use them you discover that qualified data structures have a lot more to offer then just a "beefed up" means of prefixing field names. They allow you to use the same field name in multiple structures without name conflict, provide a means of defining standard structures (the most obvious use of this is for APIs), and they lead to self documenting code.
Qualified data structures continued to be enhanced since V5R1 with the introduction of nested data structures, data structure arrays and the EVAL-CORR (Assign corresponding subfields) operation.
Let's look at the definition of qualified data structures and some of their uses.
The basics (V5R1)
Figure 1 shows the definition and usage of a qualified data structure. The data structure contains the components of a phone number. The use of the QUALIFIED keyword on the DS line identifies the data structure as being qualified. This means that all references to the subfields in the data structure must be qualified with the data structure name using a dot notation (data structure name dot field name – DSNAME.SUBFIELD). The subfields in the qualified data structure may not be referenced by their field name alone.
D Phone DS Qualified D CountryCode 5 Varying D NDDPrefix 5 Varying D AreaCode 5 Varying D Number 9 Varying D Extension 4 Varying D IDDPrefix 5 Varying Dim(5) If Phone.CountryCode <> '353' ; DialNumber = Phone.IDDPrefix(1) + Phone.CountryCode; Else; DialNumber = Phone.NDDPrefix; EndIf; DialNumber = DialNumber + ' ' + Phone.AreaCode + Phone.Number; Figure 1: Definition and use of a qualified data structure
Qualified data structures mean that you can now have the same field name in multiple data structures. It is even possible to have different definitions (data type, length) for a field in different data structures (possible but not desirable).
The LIKEDS keyword allows you to define a data structure like another data structure; just as the LIKE keyword allows you to define a field like another field. The example in Figure 2 shows the definition of three data structures for phone numbers, each one being like the phone data structure. Data structures that are defined using LIKEDS are implicitly qualified (even if the parent data structure is not qualified) and do not need the QUALIFED keyword. Each data structure has the same subfields but the data structure name is used as a qualifier to identify which one you are using.
D Phone DS Qualified D CountryCode 5 Varying D NDDPrefix 5 Varying D AreaCode 5 Varying D Number 9 Varying D Extension 4 Varying D IDDPrefix 5 Varying Dim(5) D HomePhone DS LikeDS(Phone) D CellPhone DS LikeDS(Phone) D WorkPhone DS LikeDS(Phone) If HomePhone.CountryCode <> '353' ; DialNumber = HomePhone.IDDPrefix(1) + HomePhone.CountryCode; Else; DialNumber = HomePhone.NDDPrefix; EndIf; DialNumber = DialNumber + ' ' + HomePhone.AreaCode + HomePhone.Number; Figure 2: Using LIKEDS to define data structures like a data structure
Figure 2 also demonstrates the self documentation features of qualified data structures. When you see a subfield used in the calculation code you are in no doubts as to where it is coming from.
You should note that LIKEDS does not duplicate the initialization of any subfields defined in the parent data structure but you can achieve this by specifying INZ(*LIKEDS) for the data structure.
Using qualified data structures
The LIKEDS keyword provides a means of defining standard structures that may be used throughout an application. In the same way as you have a copy member containing all prototypes you may also have a copy member containing a set of standard definitions (see "Compiler directives -- reap the benefits").
The initial problem would be that all of these standard definitions are occupying space in a program when the program is only using one or two of the definitions.
The key here is that these "standard definitions" are for definition purposes only; they are intended only to be used as the parent for a LIKEDS. To ensure that a parent data structure does not occupy any space in a program you base the data structure on a pointer which is never assigned a value, as shown in Figure 3; therefore, the data structure never occupies any space but may still be used as the basis for a LIKEDS.
D Phone DS Qualified D Based(Dummy_Ptr) D CountryCode 5 Varying D NDDPrefix 5 Varying D AreaCode 5 Varying D Number 9 Varying D Extension 4 Varying D IDDPrefix 5 Varying Dim(5) Figure 3: A data structure defined for use as a standard definition
This technique has a lot of uses in your applications. As you move into the world of Integrated Language Environment (ILE) and start to use subprocedures more; you will find that you have more requirements to pass data structures as parameters between subprocedures.
But let's look at using this technique for something you might be more familiar with -- an information data structure. Assuming that the sample shown in Figure 4 is coded in a copy member named BASEFORMAT, the code shown in Figure 5 shows the definition of three files, each with a file information data structure. LIKEDS is used to define each of the file information data structures based on the standard definition in BASEFORMAT.
D Base_InfDS Ds Qualified D Based(Bummy_Ptr) D FileName 8 D Open 1 D EOF 1 D Status 5S 0 D OpCode 6 // etc. etc. etc. Figure 4: A standard definition for a file information data structure FMyFile1 IF E K Disk InfDs(DS_MyFile1) FMyFile2 IF E K Disk InfDs(DS_MyFile2) FMyFile3 IF E K Disk InfDs(DS_MyFile3) /Copy BaseFormat D DS_MyFile1 Ds LikeDS(Base_InfDS) D DS_MyFile2 Ds LikeDS(Base_InfDS) D DS_MyFile3 Ds LikeDS(Base_InfDS) Figure 5: Defining file information data structures based on a standard definition
The other obvious use of this technique is with APIs. How about defining standard definitions for the different formats used as parameters?
This technique of defining standard structures for definition purposes is very useful and is one that I use in nearly every program that I write.
Nested data structures (V5R2)
Qualified data structures also made possible the introduction of nested data structures which means you can define a data structure, within a data structure, within a data structure…
D ContactInfo DS Qualified D HomePhone LikeDS(Phone) D CellPhone LikeDS(Phone) D WorkPhone LikeDS(Phone) If ContactInfo.HomePhone.CountryCode <> '353' ; DialNumber = ContactInfo.HomePhone.IDDPrefix(1) + ContactInfo.HomePhone.CountryCode; Else; DialNumber = ContactInfo.HomePhone.NDDPrefix; EndIf; DialNumber = DialNumber + ' ' + ContactInfo.HomePhone.AreaCode + ContactInfo.HomePhone.Number;
Figure 6 shows an example of the three phone data structures being defined in a data structure. A fully qualified name (DSNAME1.DSNAME2.SUBFIELD) must be used to reference any of the subfields.
D ContactInfo DS Qualified D HomePhone LikeDS(Phone) D CellPhone LikeDS(Phone) D WorkPhone LikeDS(Phone) If ContactInfo.HomePhone.CountryCode <> '353' ; DialNumber = ContactInfo.HomePhone.IDDPrefix(1) + ContactInfo.HomePhone.CountryCode; Else; DialNumber = ContactInfo.HomePhone.NDDPrefix; EndIf; DialNumber = DialNumber + ' ' + ContactInfo.HomePhone.AreaCode + ContactInfo.HomePhone.Number; Figure 6: Defining nested data structures
Nested data structures may only be defined in a qualified data structure. Subfields in nested data structures may only be referenced in free form and Factor 2 C specs. The traditional C spec, I spec and O spec and keyword on F specs and D specs only allow you to refer subfields in a single level qualified data structure (DSNAME.SUBFIELD).
Data structure arrays (V5R2)
Qualified data structures also led to data structure arrays -- you need never use a multiple occurrence data structure again! Defining a data structure as an array is just as it is for a field, you use the DIM keyword as shown in Figure 7 for the WorkPhone data structure. The data structure name is indexed as with any array. ContactInfo.WorkPhone(x).CountryCode refers to the CountryCode field in the xth element of the WorkPhone data structure array in the data structure ContactInfo. ContactInfo.WorkPhone(x).IDDPrefix(1) refers to the element of the IDDPrefix array in the xth element of the WorkPhone data structure array in the data structure ContactInfo (a multi dimensional array).
D ContactInfo DS Qualified D HomePhone LikeDS(Phone) D CellPhone LikeDS(Phone) D WorkPhone LikeDS(Phone) Dim(5) If ContactInfo.WorkPhone(x).CountryCode <> '353' ; DialNumber = ContactInfo.WorkPhone(x).IDDPrefix(1) + ContactInfo.WorkPhone(x).CountryCode; Else; DialNumber = ContactInfo.WorkPhone(x).NDDPrefix; EndIf; DialNumber = DialNumber + ' ' + ContactInfo.WorkPhone(x).AreaCode + ContactInfo.WorkPhone(x).Number; Figure 7: Defining and using data structure arrays
I am not advocating that you should use multi dimensional arrays (they are not the easiest code to read) but it is as well to be aware that they are there if you need them.
QUALIFIED and LIKEDS are not the only ways of defining a qualified data structure. The LIKEREC keyword defines a data structure like a record format of a file defined on the file specs and, as with LIKEDS, the data structure is implicitly qualified. Figure 8 shows the definition of three data structures using the LIKEREC keyword. The parameter identifies the MyFileRec record format (i.e. the name of the record format on the file MyFile). The second parameter identifies which fields are included in the data structure; *KEY for key fields, *INPUT for input fields and *OUTPUT for output fields. The ForKey data structure is used as an argument for the *KDS built in function when chaining to the file and the record is placed in the ForInput data structure. The data in the ForOutput data structure is written to the file.
FMyFile UF A E K Disk D ForKey DS LikeRec(MyFileRec:*Key) D ForInput DS LikeRec(MyFileRec:*Input) D ForOutput DS LikeRec(MyFileRec:*Output) Chain %KDS(ForKey) MyFileRec ForInput; Write MyFileRec ForOutput; Figure 8: Using the LIKEREC keyword
Note that the record format name must be used on all file operations that read a record into or output a record from a data structure. Also, the *INPUT value must be specified for any data structure that will be used for an input operation and *OUTPUT must be specified for any data structure that will be used with an output operation.
And finally, there is the EVAL-CORR operation. A feature that has long been available in COBOL and now has a role to play in RPG. The EVAL-CORR operation copies the contents of fields from one data structure to fields of the same name and compatible data definition in another data structure. Figure 9 shows an example of using the EVAL-CORR operation to copy the contents of fields from the DS1 data structure to the DS2 data structure. The contents of the Name and Balance fields are copied since they are the same field names and data types (even though the length of the Name field is longer in Ds2). The content of the field is not copied since it is a packed numeric field in DS1 and a character field in DS2. Of course, the more fields you have in the data structures the more useful EVAL-CORR is.
D Ds1 DS Qualified D Name 30A D Address1 30A D Balance 11P 2 D 5P 0 D Ds2 DS Qualified D Balance 13P 2 D Name 35A D City 30A D 5A Eval-Corr Ds2 = Ds1; // This is the same as // Ds2.Balance = Ds1.Balance; // Ds2.Name = Ds1.Name; Figure 9: Using the EVAL-CORR operation
The compiler generates messages identifying which fields are and are not copied and why.
You may also specify extenders of H, M and R but they are only available in free format, there is not enough room for EVAL-CORR and an extender in the 10 character operation code in fixed format or factor 2.
It's a wrap
There you have it. Qualified data structures a whole set of features to RPG IV and, as you continue to enhance and modernize your applications, you will find them to be an invaluable tool. You will soon be wondering how you managed to survive without them!
About the author: Paul Tuohy is CEO of ComCon, an iSeries consulting company. He is the author of "Re-engineering RPG Legacy Applications", "The Programmers Guide to iSeries Navigator" and the self teach course "iSeries Navigator for Programmers". He is also an award winning speaker who speaks regularly at US Common conferences and the renowned RPG World conferences.