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Job Control Language

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Title: Job Control Language  
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Job Control Language

Job Control Language (JCL) is a name for scripting languages used on IBM mainframe operating systems to instruct the system on how to run a batch job or start a subsystem.

There are two distinct job control languages: one for the operating system lineage that begins with DOS/360 and whose latest member is z/VSE; and the other for the lineage from OS/360 to z/OS. They share some basic syntax rules and a few basic concepts, but are otherwise very different.

Other mainframe batch systems had some form of job control language, whether called that or not; their syntax was totally different from IBM versions, but they usually provided similar capabilities. Interactive systems include "command languages"—command files (such as PCDOS ".bat" files) can be run non-interactively, but these usually do not provide as robust an environment for running unattended jobs as JCL. On some computer systems the job control language and the interactive command language may be different. For example TSO on z/OS systems uses CLIST or Rexx as command languages along with JCL for batch work. On other systems these may be the same.


  • Features common to DOS and OS JCL 1
    • Jobs, steps and procedures 1.1
    • Basic syntax 1.2
    • In-stream input 1.3
    • Complexity 1.4
  • DOS JCL 2
    • Positional parameters 2.1
    • Device dependence 2.2
    • Manual file allocation 2.3
  • OS JCL 3
    • Rules for Coding JCL Statements 3.1
    • Keyword parameters 3.2
    • Data access 3.3
    • Device independence 3.4
    • Parameterized procedures 3.5
    • Referbacks 3.6
    • Comments 3.7
    • Concatenating input files 3.8
    • Conditional processing 3.9
    • JCL utilities 3.10
  • Job Entry Control Language 4
    • OS/360 4.1
    • z/OS 4.2
      • JES2 JECL 4.2.1
      • JES3 JECL 4.2.2
    • z/VSE 4.3
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Sources 7

Features common to DOS and OS JCL

Jobs, steps and procedures

For both DOS and OS the unit of work is the job. A job consists of one or several steps, each of which is a request to run one specific program. For example, before the days of relational databases, a job to produce a printed report for management might consist of the following steps: a user-written program to select the appropriate records and copy them to a temporary file; sort the temporary file into the required order, usually using a general-purpose utility; a user-written program to present the information in a way that is easy for the end-users to read and includes other useful information such as sub-totals; and a user-written program to format selected pages of the end-user information for display on a monitor or terminal.

In both DOS and OS JCL the first "card" must be the JOB card, which:

  • Identifies the job.
  • Usually provides information to enable the computer services department to bill the appropriate user department.
  • Defines how the job as a whole is to be run, e.g. its priority relative to other jobs in the queue.

Procedures (commonly called procs) are pre-written JCL for steps or groups of steps, inserted into a job. Both JCLs allow such procedures. Procs are used for repeating steps which are used several times in one job, or in several different jobs. They save programmer time and reduce the risk of errors. To run a procedure one simply includes in the JCL file a single "card" which copies the procedure from a specified file, and inserts it into the jobstream. Also, procs can include parameters to customize the procedure for each use.

Basic syntax

Both DOS and OS JCL have a maximum usable line length of 80 characters, because when DOS/360 and OS/360 were first used the main method of providing new input to a computer system was 80-column punched cards. It later became possible to submit jobs via disk or tape files with longer record lengths, but the operating system's job submission components ignored everything after character 80.

Strictly speaking both operating system families use only 71 characters per line. Characters 73-80 are usually card sequence numbers which the system printed on the end-of-job report and are useful for identifying the locations of any errors reported by the operating system. Character 72 is usually left blank, but it can contain a nonblank character to indicate that the JCL statement is continued onto the next card.

All commands, parameter names and values have to be in capitals, except for USS filenames.

All lines except for in-stream input (see below) have to begin with a slash "/", and all lines which the operating system processes have to begin with two slashes // - always starting in the first column. However, there are two exceptions: the delimiter statement and the comment statement. A delimiter statements begins with a slash and an asterisk (/*), and a comment statement in OS JCL begins with a pair of slashes and asterisk (//*) or an asterisk in DOS JCL.

Many JCL statements are too long to fit within 71 characters, but can be extended on to an indefinite number of continuation cards by:
Ending all actual JCL cards except the last at a point where the syntax requires a comma (,) Ending all actual JCL cards except the last at a point where the syntax requires a comma (,) and a non-blank character in column 72
Starting each continuation card with // in column 1 and then at least 1 space Starting each continuation card with spaces and continuing in column 15
The structure of the most common types of card is:
  • //
  • Name field for this statement, following // with no space between. If this statement does not have a name at least one blank immediately follows the //.
  • Space(s)
  • Statement type
  • Space(s)
  • Parameters, which vary depending on the statement type, separated by commas and with no space between them.
  • // (spaces if this is a continuation of a previous line)
  • Statement type for this statement, following // with a space between.
  • Space(s)
  • Name of resource
  • Space(s)
  • Parameters, which vary depending on the statement type, separated by commas and with no space between them. Positional parameters, followed by keyword parameters.

In-stream input

DOS and OS JCL both allow in-stream input, i.e. "cards" which are to be processed by the application program rather than the operating system. Data which is to be kept for a long time will normally be stored on disk, but before the use of interactive terminals became common the only way to create and edit such disk files was by supplying the new data on cards.

DOS and OS JCL have different ways of signaling the start of in-stream input, but both end in-stream input with /* at column 1 of the card following the last in-stream data card. This makes the operating system resume processing JCL in the card following the /* card.

OS JCL DD statements can be used to describe in-stream data, as well as data sets. A DD statement dealing with in-stream data has an asterisk (*) following the DD identifier, e.g. //SYSIN DD *. JCL statements can be included as part of in-stream data by using the DD DATA statements.

DOS JCL Simply enter the in-stream data after the EXEC card for the program.


Much of the complexity of OS JCL, in particular, derives from the large number of options for specifying dataset information. While files on unix-like operating systems are just an arbitrary collection of bytes, files on OS/360 and successors have defined file types and sizes, record types and lengths, block sizes and device-specific information such as magnetic tape density and label information. Although there are system defaults for many options there is still a lot that has to be specified by the programmer, through a combination of JCL and information coded in the program. The more information coded in the program the less flexible it is, so most information is usually supplied through JCL.

For example, to copy a file on Unix the user enters a command like:

cp oldFile newFile

JCL like the following might be used to copy a file on OS/360:

//            DISP=(NEW,CATLG,DELETE),
//            SPACE=(CYL,(40,5),RLSE),
//            DCB=(LRECL=115,BLKSIZE=1150)

A second explanation for the complexity of JCL is the different expectations for running a job than are found in a PC or unix environment.

  • Low-end System/360 CPUs were less powerful and more expensive than the mid-1980s PCs for which MS-DOS was designed. OS/360 was intended for systems with a minimum memory size of 32 KB and DOS/360 for systems with a minimum of 16 KB. A, 360/30 CPU—low-end when System/360 was announced in 1964—processed 5K to 13K instructions per second.[1] The first IBM PC in 1981 had 16 KB or 64 KB of memory and would process about 330,000 instructions per second.[2][3] As a result, JCL had to be easy for the computer to process, and ease of use by programmers was a much lower priority. In this era, programmers were much cheaper than computers.
  • JCL was designed for batch processing so it has to tell the operating system everything, including what to do depending on the result of the step. For example DISP=(NEW,CATLG,DELETE) means "if the program runs successfully, create a new file and catalog it; otherwise delete the new file." Programs run on a PC frequently depend on the user to clean up after processing problems.
  • System/360 machines were designed to be shared by all the users in an organization. So the JOB card tells the operating system how to bill the user's account (IS198T30500), what predefined amount of storage and other resources may be allocated (CLASS=L), and several other things. //SYSPRINT DD SYSOUT=* tells the computer to print the program's report on the default printer which is loaded with ordinary paper, not on some other printer which might be loaded with blank checks. DISP=SHR tells the operating system that other programs can read OLDFILE at the same time.

Later versions of the DOS/360 and OS/360 operating systems retain most features of the original JCL—although some simplification has been made, to avoid forcing customers to rewrite all their JCL files. Many users save as a procedure any set of JCL statements which is likely to be used more than once or twice.

The syntax of OS JCL is similar to the syntax of macros in System/360 assembly language, and would therefore have been familiar to programmers at a time when many programs were coded in assembly language.


Positional parameters

// ASSGN SYS005,200
// EXTENT SYS005,VOL01,1,0,800,1600

DOS JCL parameters are positional, which makes them harder to read and write, but easier for the system to parse.

  • The programmer must remember which item goes in which position in every type of statement.
  • If some optional parameters are omitted but later ones are included, the omitted parameters must be represented by commas with no spaces, as in the TLBL statement above.

DOS JCL to some extent mitigates the difficulties of positional parameters by using more statements with fewer parameters than OS JCL. In the example the ASSGN, DLBL and EXTENT statements do the same work (specifying where a new disk file should be stored) as a single DD statement in OS JCL.

Device dependence

In the original DOS/360 and in most versions of DOS/VS one had to specify the model number of the device which was to be used for each disk or tape file—even for existing files and for temporary files which would be deleted at the end of the job. This meant that, if a customer upgraded to more modern equipment, many JCL files had to be changed.

Later members of the DOS/360 family reduced the number of situations in which device model numbers were required.

Manual file allocation

DOS/360 originally required the programmer to specify the location and size of all files on DASD. The EXTENT card specifies the volume on which the extent resides, the starting absolute track, and the number of tracks. for z/VSE a file can have up to 256 extents on different volumes.


OS JCL consists of three basic statement types:

  • JOB statement, which identifies the start of the job, and information about the whole job, such as billing, run priority, and time and space limits.
  • EXEC statement, which identifies the program to be executed in this step of the job, and information about the step.
  • DD (Data Description) statements, which identify a data file to be used in a step, and detailed info about that file. DD statements can be in any order within the step.

Right from the start, JCL for the OS family (up to and including z/OS) was more flexible and easier to use.

The following examples use the old style of syntax which was provided right from the launch of System/360 in 1964. The old syntax is still quite common in jobs that have been running for over 20 years with only minor changes.

Rules for Coding JCL Statements

Each JCL Statement is Divided into 5 fields.

 Identifier-Field Name-Field Operation-Field Parameter-Field Comments-Field
                 ^          ^               ^               ^
              no space     space          space           space

Identifier-Field should be concatenated with Name-Field, i.e. there should be no spaces between them.

  • Identifier-Field (//): The identifier field indicates to the system that a statement is a JCL statement rather than data. The identifier field consists of the following:
    • Columns 1 and 2 of all JCL statements, except the delimiter statement, contain //
    • Columns 1 and 2 of the delimiter statement contain /*
    • Columns 1, 2, and 3 of a JCL comment statement contain //*
  • Name-Field: The name field identifies a particular statement so that other statements and the system can refer to it. For JCL statements, it should be coded as follows:
    • The name must begin in column 3.
    • The name is 1 through 8 alphanumeric or national ($, #, @) characters.
    • The first character must be an alphabetic.
    • The name must be followed by at least one blank.
  • Operation-Field: The operation field specifies the type of statement, or, for the command statement, the command. Operation-Field should be coded as follows:
    • The operation field consists of the characters in the syntax box for the statement.
    • The operation follows the name field.
    • The operation must be preceded and followed by at least one blank.
    • The operation will be one of JOB, EXEC and DD.
  • Parameter-Field: The parameter field, also sometimes referred to as the operand field, contains parameters separated by commas. Parameter field should be coded as follows:
    • The parameter field follows the operation field.
    • The parameter field must be preceded by at least one blank.
    • The parameter field contains parameters which are keywords that used in the statement to provide information such as the program or dataset name.
  • Comments-Field: This contains comments. Comments-Field should be coded as Follows:
    • The comments field follows the parameter field.
    • The comments field must be preceded by at least one blank.

Keyword parameters

//           DCB=(LRECL=100,BLKSIZE=1000),
//           DISP=(NEW,CATLG,DELETE)

All of the major parameters of OS JCL statements are identified by keywords and can be presented in any order. A few of these contain two or more sub-parameters, such as SPACE (how much disk space to allocate to a new file) and DCB (detailed specification of a file's layout) in the example above. Sub-parameters are sometimes positional, as in SPACE, but the most complex parameters, such as DCB, have keyword sub-parameters.

Positional parameter must precede keyword parameters. Keyword parameters always assign values to a keyword using the equals sign (=).

Data access

The DD statement is used to reference data. This statement links a program's internal description of a dataset to the data on external devices: disks, tapes, cards, printers, etc. The DD may provide information such as a device type (e.g. '181','2400-5','TAPE'), a volume serial number for tapes or disks, and the description of the data file, called the DCB subparameter after the Data Control Block (DCB) in the program used to identify the file. Information describing the file can come from three sources: The DD card information, the dataset label information for an existing file stored on tape or disk, and the DCB macro coded in the program. When the file is opened this data is merged, with the DD information taking precedence over the label information, and the DCB information taking precedence over both. The updated description is then written back to the dataset label. This can lead to unintended consequences if incorrect DCB information is provided.[4]

Device independence

From the very beginning, the JCL for the OS family of operating systems offered a high degree of device independence. Even for new files which were to be kept after the end of the job one could specify the device type in generic terms, e.g., UNIT=DISK or UNIT=TAPE. Of course, if it mattered one could specify a model number or even a specific device address.

Parameterized procedures

OS JCL procedures were parameterized from the start, making them rather like macros or even simple subroutines and thus increasing their reusability in a wide range of situations.


In this example, all the values beginning with ampersands "&" are parameters which will be specified when a job requests that the procedure be used. The PROC statement, in addition to giving the procedure a name, allows the programmer to specify default values for each parameter. So one could use the one procedure in this example to create new files of many different sizes and layouts. For example:

//JOB01  JOB ..........


//JOB02  JOB ..........


In multi-step jobs, a later step can use a referback instead of specifying in full a file which has already been specified in an earlier step. For example:

//MYPROC ................
//MYPR01 EXEC PGM=..........
//MYPR02 EXEC PGM=..........

Here, MYPR02 uses the file identified as NEWFILE in step MYPR01 (DSN means "dataset name" and specifies the name of the file).

In jobs which contain a mixture of job-specific JCL and procedure calls, a job-specific step can refer back to a file which was fully specified in a procedure, for example:

//MYJOB JOB ..........
//STEP01 EXEC MYPROC             Using a procedure
//STEP02 EXEC PGM=.........      Step which is specific to this job

where DSN=*.STEP01.MYPR01.NEWFILE means "use the file identified as NEWFILE in step MYPR01 of the procedure used by step STEP01 of this job". Using the name of the step which called the procedure rather than the name of the procedure allows a programmer to use the same procedure several times in the same job without confusion about which instance of the procedure is used in the referback.


JCL files can be long and complex, and the language is not easy to read. (JCL has been described as "user hostile".) OS JCL allows programmers to include two types of explanatory comment:

  • On the same line as a JCL statement. They can be extended by placing a continuation character (usually "X") in column 72, followed by "// " in columns 1–3 of the next line.
  • Lines which contain only comment, often used to explain major points about the overall structure of the JCL rather than local details. Comment-only lines are also used to divide long, complex JCL files into sections.
//MYJOB JOB ..........
//*  Lines containing only comments.
//******** Often used to divide JCL listing into sections ********
//STEP01 EXEC MYPROC             Comment 2 on same line as statement
//STEP02 EXEC PGM=.........      Comment 3 has been extended and       X
//         overflows into another line.

Concatenating input files

OS JCL allows programmers to concatenate ("chain") input files so that they appear to the program as one file, for example


The 2nd and third statements have no value in the name field, so OS treats them as concatenations. The files must be of the same basic type (almost always sequential), and must have the same record length.

Conditional processing

OS expects programs to set a return code which specifies how successful the program thought it was. The most common conventional values are:

  • 0 = Normal - all OK
  • 4 = Warning - minor errors or problems
  • 8 = Error - significant errors or problems
  • 12 = Severe error - major errors or problems, the results (e.g. files or reports produced) should not be trusted.
  • 16 = Terminal error - very serious problems, do not use the results!

OS JCL refers to the return code as COND ("condition code"), and can use it to decide whether to run subsequent steps. However, unlike most modern programming languages, conditional steps in OS JCL are not executed if the specified condition is true—thus giving rise to the mnemonic, "If it's true, pass on through [without running the code]." To complicate matters further, the condition can only be specified after the step to which it refers. For example:

//MYJOB JOB ...........


  1. Run STEP01, and collect its return code.
  2. Don't run STEP02 if the number 4 is greater than STEP01's return code.
  3. Don't run STEP03 if the number 8 is less than or equal to any previous return code.
  4. Run STEP04 only if STEP01 abnormally ended.
  5. Run STEP05, even if STEP03 abnormally ended.

This translates to the following pseudocode:

run STEP01
if STEP01's return code is greater than or equal to  4 then
    run STEP02
end if
if any previous return code is less than  8 then
    run STEP03
end if
if STEP01 abnormally ended then
    run STEP04
end if
if STEP03 abnormally ended then
    run STEP05
    run STEP05
end if

Note that by reading the steps containing COND statements backwards, one can understand them fairly easily. This is an example of logical transposition.

However, IBM later introduced IF condition in JCL thereby making coding somewhat easier for programmers while retaining the COND parameter (to avoid making changes to the existing JCLs where COND parm
is used).

JCL utilities

JCL uses a number of IBM utility programs to assist in the processing of data. Utilities are most useful in batch processing. The utilities can be grouped into three sets:

  • Data Set Utilities - Create, print, copy, move and delete data sets.
  • System Utilities - Maintain and manage catalogs.
  • Access Method Services - Process Virtual Storage Access Method (VSAM) and non-VSAM data sets.

Job Entry Control Language

On IBM mainframe systems Job Entry Control Language or JECL is the set of command language control statements that provide information for the spooling subsystem – JES2 or JES3 on z/OS or VSE/POWER for z/VSE. JECL statements may "specify on which network computer to run the job, when to run the job, and where to send the resulting output."[5]

JECL is distinct from job control language (JCL), which instructs the operating system how to run the job.

There are different versions of JECL for the three environments.


An early version of Job Entry Control Language for OS/360 Remote Job Entry (Program Number 360S-RC-536) used the identifier  ..  in columns 1–2 of the input record and consisted of a single control statement: JED (Job Entry Definition). "Workstation Commands" such as LOGON, LOGOFF, and STATUS also began with  .. .[6]


For JES2 JECL statements start with /*, for JES3 they start with //*, except for remote  /*SIGNON  and  /*SIGNOFF  commands. The commands for the two systems are completely different.


The following JES2 JECL statements are used in z/OS 1.2.0.[7]

JECL statement Function Example
/*$command Enters an operator (console) command /*$S PRINTER3
/*JOBPARM Specifies values for job-related parameters /*JOBPARM TIME=10
/*MESSAGE Sends a message to the operator console /*MESSAGE CALL JOE AT HOME IF JOB ABENDS
/*NETACCT Specifies account number for network job /*NETACCT 12345
/*NOTIFY Specifies destination for notification messages /*NOTIFY SAM
/*OUTPUT Specifies SYSOUT dataset options /*OUTPUT FORMS=BILL
/*PRIORITY Sets job selection priority /*PRIORITY 15
/*ROUTE Specifies output destination or execution node /*ROUTE PRT RMT5
/*SETUP Requests volume mounting or other offline operation /*SETUP TAPE01,TAPE02
/*SIGNOFF Ends remote session /*SIGNOFF
/*SIGNON Begins remote session /*SIGNON REMOTE5 password
/*XEQ Specifies execution node /*XEQ DENVER
/*XMIT Indicates job or dataset to be transmitted to another network node /*XMIT NYC


The following JES3 JECL statements are used in z/OS 1.2.0[8]

JECL statement Function Example
//**command Enters a JES3 operator (console) command
//*DATASET Marks the beginning of an in-stream dataset
//*ENDDATASET Marks the end of an in-stream dataset
//*ENDPROCESS Marks the end of a series of  //*PROCESS  statements
//*FORMAT Specifies  SYSOUT  dataset options
//*MAIN Specifies values for job-related parameters
//*NET Identifies relationships among jobs using JES3 dependent job control
//*NETACCT Specifies account number for network job
//*OPERATOR Sends a message to the operator console
//*PAUSE Stops the input reader
//*PROCESS Identifies a non-standard job
//*ROUTE Specifies the execution node for the job
/*SIGNOFF Ends remote session /*SIGNOFF
/*SIGNON Begins remote session


For VSE JECL statements start with '* $$' (note the single space). The Job Entry Control Language defines the start and end lines of JCL jobs. It advises VSE/POWER how this job is handled. JECL statements define the job name (used by VSE/POWER), the class in which the job is processed, and the disposition of the job (i.e. D, L, K, H).

JECL statement[9] Function Example
* $$ CTL Establishes a default input class * $$ CTL CLASS=A
* $$ JOB Specifies attributes of a job * $$ JOB JNM=PYRL,PRI=9
* $$ EOJ Marks the end of a job * $$ EOJ
* $$ RDR Inserts a file from a 3540 diskette into the input stream * $$ RDR SYS005,'fname',2
* $$ PRT Specifies characteristics of spooled print files
"LST' is a synonym for "PRT"
* $$ PUN Specifies characteristics of spooled punch files * $$ PUN DISP=T,TADDR=280
* $$ SLI Inserts data ("book") from source statement libray into the input stream * $$ SLI A.JCL1
* $$ DATA Inserts data from the card reader into a book retrieved from the source statement library * $$ DATA INPUT1


 [some JCL statements here]
 * $$ EOJ

See also


  1. ^ CPU MIPS ratings
  2. ^ IBM PC
  3. ^ IBM-compatible computers History of PCs
  4. ^ IBM Corporation (August 1978). OS/VS MVS Data Management Services Guide. Retrieved Oct 17, 2014. 
  5. ^ Brown, Gary DeWard (2002). zOS JCL. John Wiley & Sons,. Retrieved 2014-05-05. 
  6. ^ IBM Corporation (1968). IBM System/360 Operating System Remote Job Entry. Retrieved 2014-05-05. 
  7. ^ IBM Corporation. "Job Entry Subsystem 2 (JES2) Control Statements". z/OS V1R2.0 MVS JCL. Retrieved February 25, 2013. 
  8. ^ IBM Corporation. "Job Entry Subsystem 3 (JES3) Control Statements". z/OS V1R2.0 MVS JCL. Retrieved February 25, 2013. 
  9. ^ IBM Corporation (1974). DOS/VS POWER/VS Installation and Operations. 


  • "z/OS V1R6.0 MVS JCL User’s Guide" (PDF) (5th ed.). IBM. September 2004. 
  • "z/OS V1R7.0 MVS JCL Reference" (PDF) (11th ed.). IBM. April 2006. 
  • Johnston, Jerry (1 April 2005). "VSE: A Look at the Past 40 Years". z/Journal. Thomas Communications. Archived from the original on 4 March 2009. 
  • "Computer Chronicles: 1972 - 1981". ThinkQuest.  
  • DeWard Brown, Gary (7 June 2002). zOS JCL (5th ed.). Wiley.  
  • "JCL Statement Fields". z/OS V1R11.0 MVS JCL Reference z/OS V1R10.0-V1R11.0. IBM. 2010. 
  • IBM Corporation (March 2007). Introduction to the New Mainframe: z/VSE Basics.  
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