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Mainframe - Using TSO and ISPF

This article describes how to use the Time Sharing Option (TSO) and Interactive System Productivity Facility (ISPF) software environments to create, store, print, and delete datasets, as well as to submit and examine jobs.



Very Important Number

Technical support is available through the Technical Support Line 702-7622. Assistance is available Monday through Friday from during normal business hours, 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. The people who staff the line will either answer your question of refer it to someone who can.

What Are TSO and ISPF?

TSO and ISPF are all software environments in that they are the settings in which you work. They allow you to create, store, print and delete data sets, and to submit and examine jobs.

TSO (which stands for Time Sharing Option) is a facility that actually allow multiple users to use the operating system at the same time. These are the facilities that actually submit jobs and store data sets via the computer's operating system. TSO allows you to execute most programs like SAS interactively.

ISPF stands for Interactive System Productivity Facility. Through ISPF you can manage data sets and submit jobs. ISPF is menu-driven, which means the facility presents a series of menus from which you may pick the options you want. This document will deal mainly with functions that are possible to perform through ISPF. We will explain TSO only as a means of accessing ISPF.

A Few More Definitions before We Begin


JCL: JCL (Job Control Language) is the control language that describes the environment for a particular batch job, such as the data sets to use, etc. It is used to submit batch jobs to the operating system so that they may be executed. JCL is what tells the computer to perform such tasks as allocating (i.e., setting up) and printing data sets. You will use JCL directly when setting up printing within the ISPF environment. Depending on the technical nature of you job, you may also use JCL for a variety of other functions.


CLIST: CLISTs (command lists) issue certain TSO commands that then perform certain tasks. They also use other features of programming languages, such as if-then-else statements. CLISTs are a way of automating a repetitively needed series of commands.

REXX EXEC: These are interpreted programs created though the REXX program development product. REXX EXECs are easier to write than CLISTs and are more portable. They can be used to issue TSO commands just like CLISTs.

Logging On to TSO and ISPF

This section explains how to log onto TSO via the TPX facility at the University of Chicago, and how to invoke the ISPF facility once you are in TSO.

In order to log on, you will need a person ID and a password. If you do not have a person ID, you will need to go to 1155 E. 60th Street room 395 with identification. It is recommended that you call 702-6721 in advance.

We often refer to your userid (pronouced: user ID). The userid consists of a three-character project code plus your persons ID, For instance, the project code might be XIS and the person ABCD. In this case the userid would be XISABCD. You must supply this userid when logging on to the MVS machine.

The MVS Mainframe Sign On Screen

Once you are connected, MVS will display the screen shown above. To sign on, enter your MVS userid and password in the fields provided and press Return. If either the userid or password is incorrect you will get a message from the MVS security system and TPX will deny you access to the mainframe. Extra help dealing with changing passwords and expired passwords is available from the Password document.

TPX will sign you on and display the TPX menu.

  • To enter TSO from the TPX menu, simply type TSO a the Command = = = > prompt and press Return.
  • Tab down to TSO and Press Return

TPX will open a TSO session for you. A session is a connection between your userid and a particular region of the MVS mainframe.

At this point TSO will display the logon parameter screen. The correct response for most people is to simply press the Return key. You may overtype some of these fields before logon or select logon options such as RECONNECT from this screen. To get detailed information on the fields displayed on this screen type HELP LOGON after you log on to TSO. The Logon Parameter Screen

  • A series of broadcast messages will appear. If the broadcast messages are numerous enough to fill the screen, a row of asterisks (***) will appear a the bottom of the screen. When this happens, press Return to proceed.
  • When the READY prompt appears, you have successfully logged on to TSO .

Getting Help in TSO

A HELP facility exists within TSO that provides information about TSO commands, as well as their operands and subcommands, if any.

TSO Help is not to be confused with the Help Tutorial facility that exists within ISPF.

Learning About Help

TSO Help comes in two flavors, regular and full screen.

  • Regular:To learn about the regular HELP command itself, enter the command HELP HELP, and press Return.
  • Full screen: The FSHELP command and its alias FSH provide a full screen interface to the TSO help facility. This allows users to scroll back and forth through Help information on TSO commands. For more information on FSHEPL enter the command fshelp fshelp and press Return.

Obtaining a List of TSO Commands

Typing the command help or the command fshelp alone, with no operands, and pressing Return will produce a list of currently supported TSO commands.
List of TSO commands available through TSO help

Getting Around in ISPF

Some Things to Know About ISPF

ISPF is an easy-to-use menu-driven facility that allows you to do every thing you would otherwise do in TSO. This document is intended to be a springboard to get you started and more information can be discovered through the IBM manuals, which are available through ISPF under LOCAL Options Panel BOOK.

ISPF Function Keys

ISPF uses certain standard program function keys, numbered 1 through 24. Unless you change them, the first 12 and the last 12 will do exactly the same thing so sometimes it's easier to think of having just 12 function keys.

  • PF 1 = Help
  • PF 2 = Split: Split the session (lets you use two functions of TSO at the same time.)
  • PF 3 = End
  • PF 4 = Return
  • PF 5 = Rfind (repeat last find)
  • PF 6 = Rchange (repeat lst change)
  • PF 7 = Move Backward
  • PF 8 = Move forward
  • PF 9 = Switch between screens during a split session; goes with PF 2
  • PF 10 = Move left
  • PF 11 = Move right
  • PF 12 = Retrieve

ISPF Menu Structure

Once you give the TSO the command ISPF (after you see the TSO READY prompt), TSO displays the menus associated with the ISPF facility. ISPF uses a hierarchical system of menus beginning with the ISPF Primary Option Menu.
Primary Option Menu Screen

The Primary Option menu shows several options that you may select, each of which leads to other options, until the desired function has been selected and a panel, or screen appears.

Each menu in the ISPF menu hierarchy corresponds to a numerical equivalent, for example, the Utility Selection menu (option #3 on the Primary Option menu) is menu number 3.

This menu presents a list of choices as well, which correspond to menus labeled 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, etc. The numerical equivalents for menus are not shown on the actual screens, but they are important because they make it easy to jump around between menus and screens.

Getting Around in ISPF Menus

A number of methods are provided for getting around in ISPF menus. The simplest (but not the fastest), is to type the desired Option Number on the OPTION = = = > line of the Primary Option menu and press Return then, from that menu, to select the number of the next menu, and so on until the desired screen appears.

A FASTER METHOD is to go directly to the desired function, skipping the intermediary screens, by supplying the full numerical equivalent of the function. For example, if you wished to go to the Hardcopy Utility in this way, you would simply type 3.6 on the OPTION = = = > line of the Primary Options Menu and press Return. ISPF/PDF would then present the Hardcopy Utility, and skip menu number 3 in between.

Once you are inside the menu structure, you can either climb out one menu at a time by pressing PF3 (end) repeatedly, or you can type an equal sign and the number of the function to which you wish to jump on the COMMAND = = = > line. This is called the JUMP FUNCTION . For example, to go from the Hardcopy Utility to the Allocation utility, you could simply type = 3.2 on the OPTION = = = > line. You can also type the equal sign ( = ) followed by the menu number from other places on the screen if you follow it with a blank space. See IBM BookManager under Local ISPF Options Panel for more information.

An Aside: Using TSO Temporarily from within ISPF

If you would like to issue a command directly to TSO while working in ISPF, you may do so in either of two ways:

  • Select option 6 on the Primary Options Menu. When the operation has finished and the READY prompt has reappeared, press PF3 ( the End Key) to go back to ISPF.
  • On any ISPF screen from which you originated, you can type TSO followed by the name of the command you wish to issue.

To return to the ISPF screen from which you originated, proceed in either of two ways, depending on the type of command you issued.

  1. The messages accompanying some TSO commands are written to the bottom of the screen one line at a time. An example of this is TSO regular help. If you issue a command of this type, three asterisks (***) will appear to tell you to press Return at the bottom of each screen-full of information. When the final three asterisks for this command have appeared, pressing Return will take you back to the screen in ISPF from which you originated.
  2. The message accompanying other TSO commands are presented as a full screen of information at a time. An example of this is TSO full screen help. If TSO presents a full screen of information at a time, press PF3 to return to your previous screen.

Changing Settings Within ISPF

Option 0 on the ISPF Primary Option menu allows you to specify various parameters for ISPF. You can use these options to change the settings on your terminal or to change your PF Keys.

At first, you will probably be content to let things stay the way they are, but you may want to change things later on. There is one easy setting that you should change, however, because it will make your life a lot easier when it comes to exiting from ISPF.

Changing the Log/List Setting

To make this change, first select Option Number 0 on the Primary Option menu by typing 0 on the Option = = = > line at the top of the screen and pressing Return.
ISPF Setting Screen

Tab to Log/List and press Return.
Log/List Screen

Your cursor will be at Log Data set defaults press Return.
Log Data Set Defaults Screen

This is asking you what you want to do with the record of your activities that ISPF will keep for you during each session. We recommend deleting the data set unless you have reason to keep a record of your session (such as if you wish to know what data sets you deleted).

To instruct the system to delete the log every time you exist from ISPF, type 2 in the Process Option field and exit (F3). This will save you several key strokes every time you log off. If you ever want to print and save the log, you can change this setting for a single session as you exit, or you can come back to this screen and change your default if you decide later that you want a different setting.

Customizing the Print JCL

You can also take this opportunity to customize your Print JCL, which will save you the trouble of changing it if you print something later on. To do this, Tab to the 4. JCL . . .You will see the following screen:
Print JCL Screen

Fill in the required information for the job card. Check the Printing a Data Set section of this document and look under Setting Print Parameters . Once you have set up your JCL, you can print from a list of data sets whenever you want without having to customize your JCL when you exist.

When you have finished changing the settings and editing the JCL, press PF3 to exist the screen.

Getting Help in ISPF

Help is never far away once in ISPF. Just tab over to the Help on top of any screen. Here is the list of topics available from the Primary Option screen:
Help Topics

When ISPF presents an error or informational message, it will be located in the top right corner of the screen. The message will initally be very short. If you press PF1 in response to a error or informational message, the system will present a longer message as further explanation of the brief message already shown. If you press PF1 yet again, while this long message is displayed, the system will take you to the appropriate section of the tutorial. Press PF3 to get out of the tutorial.

Sample ISPF Sessions

Accessing the ISPF Environment

This section reviews how to get into the TSO and ISPF environments.

Logging On to the Environment

Select TSO from the TPX menu.

Press return to get the TSO screen. Press return again

You will get to the READY prompt.

At the READY prompt type ISPF.

Data Management

This section deals with creating, saving retrieving, printing and changing data sets. Data sets may contain any information, including data, text, or programs.

Creating a Data Set

Before typing data into an ISPF data set, it is necessary to allocate the data set. Allocation with create the space for the data set.

To allocate the data set, with the Primary Option menu displayed, either:

  • Type 3 on the Option = = = > line of the Primary Option menu and press Return, then type 2 and press Return again.


  • Type 3.2 on the Option = = = > line of the Primary Option menu to go directly to sub-menu number 2 of menu number 3, which is the Data Set Utility menu.

( NOTE: From now on in this tutorial we will assume that you wish to go directly to menus and screens using the second method. However, remember that you can use method one whenever you want. To exit out of a screen to the next level of menus, just press PF3.)
Data Set Utility Menu - Set to Allocate

The Data Set Utility menu, set to allocate a data set. It is easiest if you make use of the ispf three-level-naming scheme.

  • Level 1 is normally your userid. It is also referred to as the high-level qualifier.
  • Level 2is the name your remember.
  • Level 3describes the format of the data set.
Data Allocation Screen

The Data Allocation Screen lets you specify the size of your data set. The IBM manuals available through BookManager will give you more information about possible settings and use of this screen.

Unless you have reason to use some other settings, we recommend the following allocation settings (which are different from those shown in the screen example above). These settings should be satisfactory for most data sets.
Volume =
Generic Unit =
Space Units = Blocks
Primary Quantity = 15
Secondary Quantity = 10
Directory Blocks = 0
Record Format = FB
Record Length = 80
Block Size =
Expiration Date =

These settings will be saved from session to session, so that you may only have to type them once.

Directory Blocks: If the field Directory Blocks is set to s number other than 0, this will results in a partitioned data set (PDS), which means that information within the data set is divided into pieces. PDSs are very useful for saving space, however, they may require more management.

Press Return when you have complete this screen. You should then see the following screen telling you that your data set has been allocated.

Data Set Allocated Screen
To obtain a list of data sets in ISPF, type 3.4 on the OPTION = = = > line of the Primary Option menu. The Data Set List Utility screen will appear.

Data Set Utility Screen
Except for the first time, if you with to see a list of the data sets with your userid as the first qualifier, you may usually just press return, since your userid will already be filled in the DSNAME LEVEL field.

If you wish to see data sets with qualifier(s) other than your userid.Tab to the DSNAME LEVEL field, type the desired qualifier(s) and press Return.

A list of the data sets beginning with the appropriate qualifier will appear.

Editing a Data Set

If you do not know the Data Set Name:

  • Obtain a list of data sets using screen 3.4, as described above.
  • Tab to the left of the desired data set, type e for edit and press Return.
  • This will bring the data set up in a full-screen editor.

If you know the Data set Name:

  • Choose Option Number 2, "edit" from the Primary Option menu, and Tab to the Data Set Name field.
  • If Level 1 of the data set name contains your userid, simply type in the data set name you assigned (Levels 2 and 3). If you specified a "Level 1" other than your userid,type 'Level1.Level2. Level3', enclosing the entire data set name in single quotes.

Deleting a Data Set

If you do not know the Data Set Name:

  • Obtain a list of data sets using screen 3.4 .
  • Tab to the left of the unwanted data set and type d, then press Return.
  • A confirmation screen will appear. Press Return to confirm, or end (PF3) to cancel the deletion.
If you know the Data Set Name:
  • Go to the Data Set Utility screen (screen 3.2 ) and type d on the OPTION = = > line.
  • Tab to the Data Set name field.
  • Type the name of the unwanted file and press Return
  • A confirmation screen will appear. Press Return to confirm, or end (PF3) to cancel the deletion.

Printing a Data Set

Before you can print using ISPF, you must set up appropriate JCL. However, if you always get output from the same printer and never change the number of copies of other parameters, you will only need to set it up once.

Method One:

From the Primary Option menu, go to menu 3.6, which is the and Copy (Printing) Utility screen. At the Process Option line type 1 for print and keep. (NOTE: Usually this option will already be selected and the cursor will already be resing in the Data Set Name field).

Tab, if necessary, to the Data Set Name field and type in the desired name.

If this is the first time you have printed using this method, Tab to the bottom of the screen and follow the directions given below before exiting. Otherwise, simply press Enter followed by PF3 to exist the screen and print the data set.

The bottom of the screen contains a small JCL program used to print your output for print and keep.


The bottom of this screen contains room for a small JCL program used to print your output. You need to fill it in with information: Jobname, Account, name and ROOM.
= = = > //Jobname JOB (Account),'name'

OSBIN - gives the public bins
HOLD - ask the operators
there are also private bins for various groups.

Method Two:

Go to menu 3.4 from the Primary Option menu and obtain a list of data sets. You may then print from the list by typing p to the left of the desired data set name and pressing Return. The data set will be printed when you log off. If this is the first time you have used this method, see the note below.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Unless you have already customized your PRINT JCL, as recommended in the section, "Changing Settings Within ISPF", you will need to set up Print JCL the first time you use method two. To do this, follow these instructions when you are ready to exist from ISPF.

With the Primary Option menu displayed press PF3 instead of typing x and pressing Return. The Log/List Parameters screen will appear. Notice the JCL section at the bottom of this screen. To customize this, Tab to the JCL section, then follow the directions given under SETTING PRINT PARAMETERS. When you are finished, press Return to finish logging out.

Handling Jobs

Submitting a Job

With the Primary Option menu displayed, type 2 to go to the Edit Entry Panel. Tab to the Data Set Name field and type in the name of the data set containing the JCL you wish to submit.

After making any desired changes to the JCL, Tab to the COMMAND = = = > line within the editor and type sub (short for submit). TSO will return the job number.

With the Primary Option menu displayed, type 3.4, press Return. A list of the data sets beginning with the appropriate qualifier willl appear. If the data set needs to be edited Tab to the left of the desired data set, type e for edit and press Return. After making any desired changes to the JCL, Tab to the COMMAND = = = > line within the editor and type sub (short for submit). TSO will return the job number. If you do not need to change any JCL just Tab to the desired data set and type sub.

IMPORTANT NOTE: You may also submit the job directly form an ISFP COMMAND = = = > line by typing TSO submit dsname . This is more efficient, and sometimes easier than bringing the JCL into the editor.

Examining a Job

Type I on the Option = = = > line of the Primary Option menu. I is short for IOF. A list of those jobs currently submitted under your userid will appear. Notice the number at the left of each job. This number, not the job ID is the number should refer to jobs in IOF.
IOF Screen

If you wish to examine a job, Tab down to the desired job and press Return. You will get the expanded IOF screen showing the details of the jobs you requested.
IOF Job Summary

Information concerning the status of the jobs will appear. RC refers to the return code. A Return Code of 0 usually denotes a successful jobs. STEP refers to steps within the job.

Stopping a Job

If you wish to stop a job and/or purge output the command is cancel c for short.

With the IOF job list menu displayed on your screen on the COMMAND = = > using the following form, for instance:
COMMAND = = > 1c

or, for multiple cancellations:
COMMAND = = > 1 2 3c
Then press Return.

NOTE: The iof-assigned number is shown at the far left of the job. You may also Tab down to the job and type c.

Printing a Job

If you wish to print your output the command is release r for short.

With the IOF job list menu displayed on your screen on the COMMAND = = > using the following form, for instance:
COMMAND = = > 1r
or, for multiple releases:
COMMAND = = > 1 2 3r
Then press Return.

NOTE: The iof-assigned number is shown at the far left of the job. You may also Tab down to the job and type r .

Logging Off

Logging Off from ISPF

There are two different ways of logging off from ISPF: with the Primary Option menu displayed, you may either press the End key (PF3), or you may type x on the Option = = > line and press Return. The results of each are described below:

  • Typing x, then pressing Return with the Primary Option menu displayed: This tells ISPF that you want to use your defaults and get out to the READY prompt. This is the fastest way to exit from ISPF.
  • Pressing the End key (PF3) with the Primary Option menu displayed: This tells ISPF that you might want to change some of the defaults on your Log/List screen. You might want to use this if, for instance, you normally delete your activities log, but this time wish to print it to keep a record of your session (in that case type 1 over the usual 2). After you have changed he settings, if any, press Return to exist to the READY prompt.

IMPORTANT NOTE: You must use this method of exiting the first time you print from a list of data sets (Method Two) unless you have already customized the Print JCL as recommended in the section "Changing Setting Within ISPF. See section "Printing a Data set" for more information.

Logging Off from TSO and TPX

  • With the READY displayed on your screen, type LOGOFF.
  • The TPX menu screen will reappear.
  • Type /F and Return
  • The TPX logo screen will reappear.
  • At this point you can turn off your terminal, exit your terminal emulator program, or otherwise hang-up or disconnect from the mainframe.

Index of Screens

Keywords:z/os rexx   Doc ID:19482
Owner:Todd L.Group:University of Chicago
Created:2011-08-02 19:00 CDTUpdated:2017-04-04 14:49 CDT
Sites:University of Chicago, University of Chicago - Sandbox
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