The COMMAREA specifies the name of a data area (known as a communication area ) in which data is passed to a program or transaction. It is an option of the LINK, XCTL, and RETURN commands.

The COMMAREA option of LINK and XCTL commands specifies the name of a data area in which data is passed to the program being invoked.

The COMMAREA option of a RETURN command specifies the name of a communication area in which data is passed to the transaction identified in the TRANSID option. The TRANSID option specifies a transaction that is initiated when the next input is received from the terminal associated with the task.

The invoked program receives the data as a parameter. The program must contain a definition of a data area to allow access to the passed data.

In a receiving COBOL program, you must give the data area the name DFHCOMMAREA. In this COBOL program, if a program passes a COMMAREA as part of a LINK, XCTL, or RETURN command, either the working-storage or the LINKAGE SECTION can contain the data area. A program receiving a COMMAREA should specify the data in the LINKAGE SECTION. This applies when the program is either of the following:
  • The receiving program during a LINK or XCTL command where a COMMAREA is passed
  • The initial program, where a RETURN command of a previously called task specified a COMMAREA and TRANSID

In a C or C++ program that is receiving a COMMAREA, the COMMAREA must be defined as a pointer to a structure. The program then must issue the ADDRESS COMMAREA command to gain addressability to the passed data.

In a PL/I program, the data area can have any name, but it must be declared as a based variable, based on the parameter passed to the program. The pointer to this based variable should be declared explicitly as a pointer rather than contextually by its appearance in the declaration for the area. This prevents the generation of a PL/I error message. No ALLOCATE statement can be processed within the receiving program for any variable based on this pointer. This pointer must not be updated by the application program.

In an assembler language program, the data area should be a DSECT mapping. The register used to address this data area must be loaded from DFHEICAP (communication area pointer), mapped by the DFHEISTG DSECT. A COMMAREA cannot be in 64-bit storage.

The receiving data area can the same length as, or shorter than, the original communication area, but must not be longer. If access is required only to the first part of the data, the receiving data area can be shorter. If the receiving data area is longer than the original communication area, your transaction might attempt to read data outside the area that has been passed. It might also overwrite data outside the area, which might cause CICS® to abend.

To avoid this happening, your program should check whether the length of any communication area that has been passed to it is as expected, by accessing the EIBCALEN field in the EIB of the task. If no communication area has been passed, the value of EIBCALEN is zero. Otherwise, EIBCALEN always contains the value specified in the LENGTH option of a LINK, XCTL, or RETURN command, regardless of the size of the data area in the invoked program. Ensure that the value in EIBCALEN matches the value in the DSECT for your program, and ensure that your transaction accesses data in that area.

You can also add an identifier to COMMAREA as an additional check on the data that is being passed. This identifier is sent with the sending transaction and is checked for by the receiving transaction.

When a communication area is passed by using a LINK command, the invoked program is passed a pointer to the communication area itself. Any changes made to the contents of the data area in the invoked program are available to the invoking program, when control returns to it. To access any such changes, the program names the data area specified in the original COMMAREA option.

When a communication area is passed by using an XCTL command, a copy of that area is made, unless the area to be passed has the same address and length as the area that was passed to the program issuing the command. For example, if program A issues a LINK command to program B, which in turn issues an XCTL command to program C, and if B passes to C the same communication area that A passed to B, program C will be passed addressability to the communication area that belongs to A (not a copy of it), and any changes made by C will be available to A when control returns to it.

When a lower-level program that has been accessed by a LINK command issues a RETURN command, control passes back one logical level higher than the program returning control. If the task is associated with a terminal, the TRANSID option can be used at the lower level to specify the transaction identifier for the next transaction to be associated with that terminal. The transaction identifier comes into play only after the highest logical level has relinquished control to CICS using a RETURN command and input is received from the terminal. Any input entered from the terminal, apart from an attention key, is interpreted wholly as data. You can use the TRANSID option without COMMAREA when returning from any link level, but it can be overridden on a later RETURN command. If a RETURN command fails at the top level because of an invalid COMMAREA, the TRANSID becomes null. Also, you can specify COMMAREA or IMMEDIATE only at the highest level, otherwise you get an INVREQ with RESP2=2.

In addition, the COMMAREA option can be used to pass data to the new task that is to be started.

The invoked program can determine which type of command invoked it by accessing field EIBFN in the EIB. This field must be tested before any CICS commands are issued. If the program was invoked by a LINK or XCTL command, the appropriate code is found in the EIBFN field. If it was invoked by a RETURN command, no CICS commands have been issued in the task, and the field contains zeros.