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What is uni-SPF?
uni-SPF is a UNIX implementation of IBM's ISPF System Product for MVS/TSO and VM/CMS. It provides a panel-based user interface to the underlying environment as well as an editor and browse facility.

For what UNIX platforms is uni-SPF available?

uni-SPF is available on the vast majority of UNIX machines - IBM's AIX, H/P's HP/UX, Sun's Solaris,and Linux Intel and S390.

Why should uni-SPF be part of our migration to UNIX?

If your company's staff use ISPF on the mainframe, they are accustomed to interacting with the computer through a panel interface based on menu selections and providing input parameters to commands that are executed automatically. They are also familiar and productive with a full-screen editor that has English-like command syntax and non-modal operation. uni-SPF provides the same familiar panel interface and editor. There is no need for users to learn the underlying UNIX system commands or the "vi" editor -- they can be immediately productive in the new environment. uni-SPF thus removes one of the obstacles often associated with downsizing.

Why shouldn't we just use the "vi" editor that is part of the operating system?

vi was originally designed for use on teletype terminals that did not have a modern screen display or keyboard and that operated at very slow communication speeds. In such an environment, the overriding principle of any editor was to minimize keystrokes. Thus, vi evolved with an extremely cryptic syntax. Also as a result of its origins, vi is a modal editor: commands are executed in one mode, data entry or modification in another - and the user must be responsible for insuring the correct mode for the next operation to be performed. Identical keystrokes produce different results, depending on the current mode. This can be extremely perplexing to users accustomed to a full-screen mainframe editor and can bring their productivity to a virtual stand-still. The screen display format is fixed, automatic startup processing is not available, and macros are based on the cryptic command syntax. The user may view or edit only one file at a time.

uni-SPF provides a modern full-screen editor for the UNIX environment. It is entirely non-modal. A command line and prefix area are available for command entry at all times. Data entry or modification is accomplished by typing directly into the file or by executing commands. Commands are English- like and may be entered in full or abbreviated. Profiles for various file types allow you to set configuration options that are invoked automatically at startup. You may edit a number of files simultaneously using the "edit ring" feature.

What features, besides the editor, are available in uni-SPF?

Througn the familiar panel interface, uni-SPF Basic provides all of the following options:

  • session parameter specifications including PF key definitions, keyboard mappings, print and logfile options, display preferences, and editor profile settings; these settings are preserved from one session to the next
  • browse facility that allows you to view (but not modify) files, including very large files or those with extremely long records
  • utilities, including directory management, move/copy, recursive search, and tape archive management
  • foreground and background processing
  • direct execution of UNIX commands
  • dialog and panel test facilities for user-written applications

The product also includes complete Dialog Management facilities that allow you to customize the user interface, add local applications, or provide a panel interface to other applications.

With basic uni-SPF, Dialog Management applications must be written in a compiled language. C, Fortran, Cobol, and PL/I are supported.

With uni-SPF Extended, Dialog Management applications may also be written in Rexx.

Will uni-SPF work with all the various terminal types we have?

uni-SPF uses the functions from the UNIX curses library and the terminal definitions from the terminfo database to manage all terminal I/O functions. As a result, the variety of terminals you can use is limited only by the definitions supplied with the operating system by your hardware vendor. This normally includes hundreds of different terminal types from VT52 through modern X terminals and X-windows. You need only be sure that the current setting of the environment variable TERM matches the terminal type you are actually using. With the exception of dial-up connections, this is usually automatic. You should also look at the question later in this document about support for graphical environments.

Will the keys on my keyboard automatically function as I expect them to? For example, will the "F7" key automatically perform the function assigned to PF7?

In general, the answer is yes. There may be exceptions, however, which are related to the accuracy of the terminfo definitions provided with your operating system and the accuracy of your terminal emulator. Most hardware vendors provide very accurate terminfo definitions, though there may be the occasional exception. Problems usually occur when the user is running a terminal emulator on a PC. In that case, the terminal emulator may trap certain keys for its own purposes, or the emulation may not be sufficiently complete. And if you are emulating a VT100, it is important to remember that there are only 4 function keys defined for this standard, so F5-F12 are rarely defined for this terminal type.

For all these instances, uni-SPF includes a keyboard mapping utility, accessible through the "Parameters" panel, that allows you to associate specific keys on your keyboard with uni-SPF functions. It puts the mapping into a special table so that the keys are automatically recognized every time you start the editor. In addition, the uni-SPF documentation files include a soft-copy of the "curses Application Primer" that discusses all the issues of terminal emulators, how they might affect your use of the editor, and what you can do about them. And the TWG Technical Support staff is available to answer your questions and help you with mapping your keyboard.

What about telnet connections to the UNIX platform?

Regardless of how you connect to the UNIX workstation (login, rlogin, or telnet), your session looks to the UNIX workstation like a terminal of some type. The specific type is identified by the current setting of the environment variable TERM. If this setting matches the terminal or emulation that you are actually using, you should be able to use uni-SPF normally.

Can we port existing Dialog Management applications from the mainframe?

Dialog Management applications are generally portable to uni-SPF.

Applications written in a compiled language are portable to both uni-SPF and uni-SPF Extended. They require minor modifications to the source to insure compatibility with uni-SPF calling sequences. These calling sequences are fully documented in the uni-SPF Programmer's Reference. TWG Technical Support is available to assist you if you have questions or problems with these modifications. You must also rebuild uni-SPF to include your compiled language programs - an automated procedure for this purpose is included with the product.

Dialog Management applications written in Rexx are generally portable to uni-SPF Extended. Some minor modifications may be required if your application includes

  • references to disk file names, which are different on UNIX file systems
  • execution of operating system commands

Dialog Management applications written in CLIST should be converted to Rexx and are portable to uni-SPF Extended.

We do not have existing dialogs, but I expect that we will need to customize uni-SPF to make UNIX easier for our end users. What kind of help is available to get me started with Dialog Management Services?

uni-SPF includes a directory of sample panels and dialogs that illustrate, in simple examples, the techniques one would use for various types of customization. All of the examples are fully executable so that you can see the results from each. The examples in Rexx require uni-SPF for execution. TWG Technical Support is also available to answer your questions and offer suggestions for how to approach your customization requirements.

Our UNIX platforms are HP/9000 boxes, and we use SoftBench for our development projects. Is there any way we can use the uni-SPF editor in this environment?

The HP-UX version of uni-SPF includes a SoftBench encapsulation of the uni-SPF editor. You need only install the encapsulation and all your SoftBench editing operations will automatically use uni-SPF.

What if I have problems or questions?

Technical support is available by telephone, email, and FAX. Product specialists with experience in both the mainframe and UNIX environments are available to assist you with a broad range of technical issues. Telephone support is available from 8:30 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Central time Monday through Friday. We'll also be happy to answer your questions by email or FAX.

What about warranties, maintenance, and upgrades?

uni-SPF is delivered with 90 days' free support. This entitles you to technical support during the period in which you install and begin to use the product. It also entitles you to any upgrades that may be distributed during that time. An extended maintenance contract is also available for technical support and automatic upgrades. For those who do not choose extended maintenance, upgrades may be purchased at a percentage of the current list price.