Try Your Hand at Editing COBOL in the Browser



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Have you ever wondered what software development might be like in 10 years and what tools you might be using? With much of the IT world moving to HTML5 and browser based delivery, we may find our development tools following a similar path sooner than we thought.

Developing COBOL applications has, until now, been largely constrained to the desktop environment. One of the latest projects from the Eclipse Foundation is an online code editor named Orion. The Orion project aims to provide an environment for web based development tools. This means producing a platform that can be extended by developers, like us, to enable users to edit their code on the web.

The aim is to have something that feels more natural to people familiar to the web rather than to try porting the Eclipse IDE to the web, an approach which we have tried to maintain in our extension to the project we created over the summer. We set out to change the limitations of developing COBOL applications on the desktop environment, with a team of interns from Southampton and Cambridge Universities.

We created an extension, which is a prototype that allows you to edit COBOL files in your browser. The extension supports a number of great features:

  • Error marking –the server will warn you about any syntax errors when you are editing code
  • Code formatting – your code will be automatically formatted to make it cleaner and easier to read
  • Syntax highlighting – variable syntax highlighting is available for a range of dialects
  • Copybook support – allows you to open copybooks side by side or in a new window

To get a feel for it we recommend that you follow the ‘Getting Started’ steps on the first page of the demo: You can also try out an online samples browser we built using the same technology:

There are a number of advantages to editing COBOL online. A significant one is that you can edit your code from anywhere and share it more easily between team members. The only software you need to access it is a browser. This makes it very accessible from different platforms and also means that there are no significant hardware requirements, as the vast majority of processing happens remotely.

There are no plans to turn the prototype into a product offering but we would love to hear your feedback via this thread:

The Micro Focus Internship Program

Are you interested in using your programming and problem solving skills to build innovative solutions like these this summer? Are you looking to enhance your résumé and leap ahead of others with some hands-on experience? If so, apply for an internship at Micro Focus for an opportunity to work alongside our friendly software development team:

We look forward to sharing some skills with you.

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