CICS Explorer - new, improved, it's z business !
JoeWinchester 110000DQA0 Visits (1218)
CICS Explorer - version 1.1 - lots of new function has been put in to support CICS Transaction Server 4.2. I'll blog about this later as there's a ton of super cool stuff, but this blog is about the System z stuff. The response to this area, which was introduced September last year, was pretty amazing. Folks were very interesting in being able to edit JCL, submit jobs, create data set members, and work with z/OS UNIX file system. What was just as good was that users let us know what bits we hadn't done - which areas of function they still had to use ISPF or TSO or OMVS to use. This feedback is great - we love it when users tell us what function to add as this sort of stops us doing any guesswork - so for the CICS Explorer 1.1 we put a bunch of new stuff in this area - and that's what this blog is going to cover.
z/OS - "The perspective formerly known as System z"
The first thing is that the perspective isn't called System z anymore - it's called z/OS. This is because System z encompasses a lot more than just z/OS - it has VSE, z/Linux, TPF, and a ton of other cool bits and bobs. The perspective and its views are all about accessing z/OS function so once someone pointed out we'd named it incorrectly, we went and called it by its rightful name. "The perspective formerly known as System z".
Support for Multi Byte Character Sets
Customers who use DBCS characters in their text files needed a way to tell the connection their codepage so that these were displayed correctly.
Multi Byte Character support is enabled on the connection preference page, which allows you to select which character set is being used. If you select a character set which isn't supported by the z/OS you connect to, then the connection will fail with an error message. This is a protection against it being accidently set or set to a value that doesn't match one which is installed on the z/OS host,
Symbolic Links supported for z/OS UNIX Files
Symbolic links allow a file or directory to be created which has a level of indirection, so the actual file or directory is somewhere else. This link can be to a relative or absolute path.
Symbolic links are shown with a cute little decoration on the folder or file icon, and the target that it links to is shown in a different colour - a sort of light brown. Although it's a symbolic link, you can still work with it as though the file is there, so you can expand directories to see their contents, or edit and save files.
As well as symbolic links being supported, if you are not authorized to see the entries in a directory when you expand it an equally cute little graphic shows up letting you know that you can't view the children - beforehand we showed no children which isn't as good as showing the reason why you can't the children - they're there but now you can see you just don't have permission to see them
Permissions - see and change
which segues nicely into the next change, which is the ability to see and change permissions on z/OS UNIX Files. This is important because folks wanted to set the permission for execute correctly so that the user of a CICS region could run files containing code - such as for dynamic scripting or for CICS bundle content.
As well as the permnissions, which are shown as the ones you have, either "read, write, execute" or a subset thereof, you can see other useful stuff such as how big the file is - who owns it - when it was last changed - and so forth
To change permissions you open the properties dialog on the thing you want to change permissions for - this can either be a directory or a file.
And then on the dialog you can fool around with the check boxes for the various permissions and press Apply. The developer who wrote this wanted to make sure that people who liked used check boxes would find this dialog nice and intuitive, but also for the die-hard UNIX guys who often seem to hate all things GUI and have bumper stickers with slogans like "VI rules !", they'd like it too. To appease them he put the octal value box which not only updates as you fool around with the checkboxes, but accepts input - so you can type 777 and it will set everything to read, write, execute. The ocal value is a binary number with read being 4, write 2, and execute 1, so to make something write and execute the value would be 3. Hopefully we'll now see bumper stickers saying "z/OS perspetive in CICS Explorer rules !".
Save As.. for z/OS UNIX files
One thing people asked for was the ability to copy files - we didn't implement this (yet) with the traditional copy and paste - but we did provide as Save As.. function. This is available either when you're in the editor for a file, shown below, or also from the menubar at the top of the Window.
What this means is that you can open a file and then Save As..., choose a different location, and it's sort of the same as a copy. One of the reasons we didn't do copy and paste is because of code page issues we though we'd run into and we might end up with a user experience where code pages had to be asked for and it would become too obtuse - currently we don't ever ask for codepages on files, we auto-detect based on analyzing the content in a file which works pretty well and means users just double click files and it works - which users did say they liked. Thus you double click - we work out the code page - you do save as... - and we put the new file in the same codepage. Sweet.
The Save As.. dialog lets you specify a new folder and name - it validates the name so you can't enter stuff like "CICS Explorer Rocks !" in the name which isn't allowed - not because the CICS Explorer doesn't rock, but because exclamation marks aren't allowed in z/OS file names.
and just to prove it does rock, the newly copied file shows in the explorer z/OS UNIX Files view after you've pressed OK - no need for a refresh button (the true hallmark of cool polished well crafted code) and the editor which previously was on the file being copied, now switches to the file you just created. This is nice because I've lost count of the number of times I've done save as and then made a change and wanted to change the new file, but ended up changing the old file.
Previously we let you edit and delete z/OS UNIX files, but we didn't let you create directories. No more though - you can bring the pop-up on a directory and select new directory...
whereupon you will be greeted with a nice dialog asking you for the name of the new directory. You can navigate around in here to select a new parent folder - either typing in the path in the parent directory text box - double click a directory in the tree to make that the new parent - press the up arrow button to the right of the text box to go to the parent directory. The folder name is validated to stop you entering a bad one.
and once you've press Finish the new folder is shown in the z/OS UNIX Files explorer and, just to make things totally awesome, it's pre-selected ready for you to begin working with.
Fantastic - as the saying goes - "When it comes to creating a new directory - it does what it says on the tin", or in our case "It does what it says on the pop-up menu option".
The console window shows activity for everything that goes down the wire - so each time you create something, save something, delete something, or submit a job it logs an entry in the console. So you can later re-open it this is done with a hyperlink, shown as underlined blue so it grabs your attention the way a browser hyperlink makes you go "aha - I can click that" and makes you go and click it. The hyperlink takes you to an editor, so if you hyperlink a data set it opens it - if you hyperlink a z/OS UNIX file it opens it. What's pretty cool is that if you hyperlink a partitioned data set - which can't be opened in an editor as it has members - it makes the Data Sets Explorer show the members for the partitioned data set. This is pretty cool and you sort of have to try it out to appreciate how good it is. Another cute touch is that you can log the time - so in the screen shot below you can see the date and time on the left - or you can switch this off if you think it's annoying and gets in the way. The toggle toolbar button with the picture of the clock flips this time stamp logging on and off.
Generation Data Groups
One of the first bits of feedback we got from the Data Sets explorer, was that a customer opened it on their data sets which included some generational dat sets and we didn't work :-( However this isn't the case any more - the generational data groups are shown like a folder but with a slightly different icon - shown below for GDGONE.GDGROUP1 - and you expand to see the generations.
Please let us know what you think of these and other things in the z/OS perspective - we're very keen to have more folks using it in anger so we want to know what's broken - what's missing - and what features we could add that would mean you'd use it for your day job and spend less of your time in ISPF and more in the CICS Explorer. Enjoy !!!