Reading “dynamic” filenames in Cobol programs

Cobol is good at dealing with files, and processing records. Original Cobol programs didn’t always have the facility to obtain a user specified filename, and as such relied on hard-coded filenames. One way of bypassing this is to use dynamic filenames. Consider a file called student.dat  containing the following information:

Skywalker      6543287Ackbar         1189283Chewbacca      9882870Palpatine      0000001

Now imagine a program which could take any type of file formatted in the same manner, read it in, and print out the names in the data file. Here is the program:

identification division.
program-id. fileio.

environment division.
input-output section.
select ifile assign to dynamic ws-fname.

data division.
file section.
fd ifile
    record contains 88 characters.
*> Specify the structure of the records in the file
*> In this case there are 4 records, each containing two 
*> elements.
01 student-info.
  05 student-name occurs 4 times.
    10 stdnt-name pic x(15).
    10 stdnt-idno pic x(7).

working-storage section.
*> Define the loop index
01 i        pic 9.
77 ws-fname pic x(30).

procedure division.
    display "Filename containing book information? ".
    accept ws-fname. 

*> Open the file, read in the data into the structure 
*> and close the file
    open input ifile.
    read ifile
    close ifile.

    move 1 to i. 
*> Loop four times
    perform print-out 
        until i is greater than 4.
    stop run.

    display "Student name is " stdnt-name(i).
    add 1 to i.

The file descriptor ifile is associated with dynamic ws-fname in the statement:

select ifile assign to dynamic ws-fname.

In the working-storage division, the filename variable  ws-fname is declared – as an array of characters (x), 30 elements in length.

77 ws-fname pic x(30).

Later, in the procedure division, the program then reads the users input and stores it in the variable ws-fname. After this, the file descriptor ifile is used exclusively to deal with the file.

accept ws-fname. 

If the file doesn’t exist (e.g. student1.dat), the program will throw an exception of the form:

libcob: File does not exist (STATUS = 35) File : 'student1.dat'



3 thoughts on “Reading “dynamic” filenames in Cobol programs

  1. Viktoria says:

    I was wondering if you can read more than one file in this manner by looping through different file names, from for example a file containning the different file names, instead of getting the names from input by a user?
    Can you empty ws-fname and open a different file?

    • spqr says:

      Yes, I don’t see why not. It would just involve opening up the first file, and potentially storing the filenames in an array of some sort, then using this data to open and process the files. I’ve never had the need to do it, but I would imagine it could be done.

      • Viktoria says:

        Is there a way to make the file definition (FD) dynamic? I have the definitions for the different files in copy books and all the files do not have the same definition.

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