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Tools and Resources for z/OS Training

By Destination Z posted Mon December 23, 2019 03:42 PM

Pursuing a career in z Systems? Here are some things you can use to support your ongoing journey of mainframe learning.

On z/OS

TSO Help consists of a list of time-sharing option (TSO) commands and individual help for those commands. From the ISPF command line and ISPF option 6 (TSOCMD) use TSO HELP or TSO HELP command_name to access the help files. Pressing ENTER on a TSO help display moves forward, but there’s no backward scrolling. The REXX program TSOV places the TSO output into a temporary file and opens it in ISPF view mode where F7/F8 keys will move backward/forward. This is comparable to using the UNIX/Linux man command.

ISPF Help consists of tutorials, screen oriented help, and an alphabetic index of ISPF Help topics. ISPF display screens are called panels, and the panel definition may include specific tutorials and help screens. To access these, use the F1 help key or type help in the command line on the screen you want help with. To access the alphabetic index, you can enter the letter “I” in any help screen command line or open the help menu if the screen has one. The Index option is the last option listed in ISPF Help menus. SDSF also has a Help Index.

When using the Help Index, enter a single letter on the command line to change the alphabetic listing, and a letter and number to display a specific help topic. For example, entering the letter ‘i’ displays help entries beginning with ‘i’, then entering ‘i8’ displays the help for ISPF commands. The function keys are set up differently in the help panels used for the index. F7/F8 may be set to Previous Topic/Next Topic, while F10/F11 move backward/forward through the current topic. F12 should be a CANCEL command to return to the previous topic, and F3 exits the Help Index completely. This is comparable to the F1/Help options found in desktop OSes from Microsoft, Apple and UNIX/Linux distributors.

IBM Knowledge Center for z/OS and ChicagoSoft QuickRef
As of z/OS V2.2, KC4z (Knowledge Center for z/OS) is a base element of z/OS which can search and display documentation in the local environment. It may be connected to IBM Support on the web or use locally installed documents residing in a z/OS UNIX directory.

QuickRef is licensed through ChicagoSoft and has its own documentation database covering a wide range of z/OS topics. Both products support the addition of site-specific documentation.
Information on using KC4z is not readily available at the time of this writing, but you can learn how to use QuickRef through the QuickRef Academy website.

On the Web

IBM Knowledge Center for z/OS
IBM’s Knowledge Center consolidates more than 850 URLs from the IBM Information Center websites and includes several new features. You can sign in with your user ID and password to save search queries and create your own documentation collections. Sign in isn’t required to access the documentation on more than 2,200 products.

For access to z/OS documentation it may still be easier to use the z/OS Internet Library, but there are also links under products in the upper right of the Knowledge Center main screen that address popular z/OS topics. A simple Windows script may also be used to quickly access the Knowledge Center from your Windows desktop, and since the site is optimized for mobile devices, a shortcut on your smart phone is a plus.

Search Engines
Internet search engines work well for reaching the z/OS Message documentation. Try searching for IEC030I (one of the common JCL SPACE errors). Voice recognition interfaces may have issues distinguishing the letters that start z/OS messages.

You’ll find user forums (i.e., listservers) under Yahoo! Groups and Google Groups as well as at university sites. Popular listservers include:

Communities, Forums and Blogs
Most software vendors offer a user community and/or user forum on their website. These offer the opportunity to submit queries and receive a response from other users of the product. Blogs offer tips and tricks, and user comments. The Destination z community features a forum and this blog.

IBM’s YouTube channel has videos and playlists related to all things z, and a search for z/OS on YouTube returns over 2.5 million results. “The Screen Ain’t Green” YouTube video summarizes the resources discussed in this post.

On Mobile Devices

IBM has many apps for mobile, but two stand out in this context:

  1. The IBM Redbooks app provides access to the numerous Redbook publications that provide detailed instructions for product implementation. You can save Redbooks to your device for offline access or connect to the web and search for books by subject. The subject “software” includes “z System Software” with documentation for everything from setting up an Apache server to the zPDT hardware emulator that facilitates the Rational Development and Test [[LINK: ]] environment for z/OS running under Linux on x86 hardware.
  2. The IBM Doc Buddy app targeting the z/OS Messages documentation. You must download the message manuals to your device before searching, but this does mean you’ll have access even when an internet connection is unavailable.
Evolution Continues

Formal training for z/OS is offered by institutions associated with the IBM Academic Initiative, and may also be provided by your employer, but the mainframe is not a static system. The evolution of the OS and hardware require on-going education, and I hope, the resources listed here will serve you well in your pursuit of mainframe knowledge.

John Kelley is the president of Kelley-Dalton Inc. and works as an instructor and consultant specializing in cross-platform scheduling software, various enterprise automation tools, the REXX programming language, TSO/ISPF and MVS/JCL. Kelley has over 40 years of enterprise computing experience, including z/OS, z/VM and various UNIX/Linux OSes. He has also served as an instructor under IBM’s Academic Initiative and is a certified ScrumMaster professional. Email him at