GnuCOBOL 3.2 Improves Dialect Handling
Written by Kay Ewbank   
Tuesday, 08 August 2023

GnuCOBOL has been updated to add improved dialect handling including changed defaults to better match the selected dialect, a complete new dialect GCOS. The new version also has  support for more COBOL statements, intrinsic functions and syntax from both "old" and new dialects. 

GnuCOBOL is a free, modern COBOL compiler. It translates COBOL into C and compiles the code using a native C compiler. The developers say it's best to use GCC, but you're not limited to it. 

When researchers from Microfocus surveyed organizations about COBOL use and further plans, 92 percent of the respondents reported that they view COBOL as strategic, and the amount of COBOL code in daily use had increased to 775-850 billion lines.


GnuCOBOL started life as OpenCOBOL, and was renamed as GNUCOBOL 1.1 in 2013. GnuCOBOL implements a substantial part of the COBOL 85, COBOL 2002, and COBOL 2014 standards, as well as many extensions of the existent COBOL compilers. Various platforms are supported, including Unix/Linux, Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, OS/400, and z/OS 390 mainframes.

The language improvements start with support for the Line Sequential file type as used by COBOL 2023. You can also now use Open Input-Output, and Rewrite for files. Variable-length record sequential files now have data validation on reads, and Line Sequential files have automatic handling of errors for lines that are too long or null lines.

Support has been added for the GCOS 7 (Bull) dialect, including Picture strings with the L character to provide variable length fields; full support for Control Division with Substitution Section, and partial support for its use with Default Section.

There are a number of new intrinsic functions including Bit-Of, Bit-To-Char, Hex-Of and Hex-To-Char. Bit operation support has also been added for COBOL 2023 compatibility.

You can now use Occurs with multiple Values, and there's support for the COBOL 2023 directive COBOL-WORDS. A new function has been added that lets you call COBOL from C, and that doesn't abort the program if runtime errors occur.

The developers say the new release offers highly improved run-times for several statements, along with less memory usage, especially if runtime checks are enabled.

There are also improvements for source-level debugging via GDB, and coredump support, along with improvements for reproducible builds.

GnuCOBOL 3.2 is available now. 

More Information

GnuCOBOL Website

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Last Updated ( Tuesday, 08 August 2023 )