COBOL Report Writer

Please bear with me as I demonstrate my ignorance of things IBM. I searched the Enterprise COBOL for z/OS Version 6.3 manual for “Report Section”, but nothing of substance was found. IDz gave me a wag of the finger when I introduced some report writer syntax. I’m fairly certain I used the report writer with COBOL-74 on Honeywell mainframes in the 1980s. Is there something special about the report writer in IBM COBOL?

Thank you for your assistance.


I did COBOL in the 80’s too. I read about Report Writer in the manuals, but never actually used it. I did notice that it was for simple reports and really didn’t provide any significant benefit over well designed standard code, especially when one could just copy a similar report and modify it faster.

I suspect it was dropped from later versions all over, as being simply unnecessary. I can see how it was a good idea for basic reports in the 50’s, 60’s & 70’s when code was written by hand on coding forms, and then punched into cards. Less writing and fewer cards was worth a lot back then. And less code used less memory, probably.

With video terminals and convenient editor programs, Report Writer just didn’t offer much anymore.

When I started with COBOL, there was no Report Writer (RW). Every report was a “roll your own” effort made somewhat easier, as you said, by cloning and modifying an existing piece of code. I did try the RW in later years, and found it convenient for those quick and dirty one-time requests.

At some point, Report Writer was dropped from IBM Cobol, as it was not adopted as part of the ANSI Cobol Standard. I believe it was always an IBM Extension, and as I mentioned, was eventually dropped. As a consolation, DFSORT / ICETOOL has a report writing capability, albeit I believe, for fairly straightforward reports.

Thank you for the insights. After some sleuthing, I found a copy of ISO/IEC 1989:20xx FCD 1.0, which categorizes Report Writer (RW) as an optional feature. Other vendors implemented it; HP states explicitly RW is an extension. Back to 1974 I go. :wink:


Report writer was never popular and thus was dropped as a feature of COBOL.

Thank you for your insights. After reviewing Appendix H of the Enterprise COBOL Language Reference manual (SC27-8713-02), I see it’s still “supported with the optional IBM COBOL Report Writer Precompiler and Libraries (5798-DYR)”.

As documented at, note that starting with COBOL V5.1, the COBOL Report Writer Precompiler v1.6.1 or later is REQUIRED due to changes to the compiler architecture. The precompiler exit can fail with an ABENDU4083 or ABENDS0C4 in CXRRWINX otherwise. (If a V5.1+ program happens to compile with Report Writer V1.5, it will be just luck. Some will.)

Hope this helps.

Thank you for the details, Linda. I’ve reverted to “rolling my own” reports for this project. :wink:

Best wishes, Peter

A lot of companies do too. I in my 50 years in programming, I only ran into the report writer once.