SimpList™  - The number 1 ISPF productivity tool!


SimpList is a productivity tool that vastly improves the traditional ISPF™ mainframe interface. Instead of constantly moving between many different panels and vendor products, tasks are completed in one location using simple point-and-shoot selection. Remembering and re-keying object names is a thing of the past, and selecting objects and executing commands is as easy as clicking a mouse.

The look and feel of SimpList as a mainframe application is immediately understood by ISPF users. At the same time, the point-and-shoot workstation concepts used by SimpList are instantly recognized by workstation users. For example:

SimpList combines the power of the mainframe with easy-to-use workstation concepts to create an environment where productivity is unsurpassed. By allowing each user to focus on what they need to do rather than how they need to do it, projects are completed far more quickly, using much less effort, and at greatly reduced cost. The massive reduction in keystrokes, navigation time, and system interaction time makes SimpList a must-have product for every mainframe site.

What sets SimpList apart from other productivity tools

The feature-rich and highly intuitive SimpList interface offers power and functionality beyond anything found in other productivity tools. For example:

Ease of use.
Some productivity tools have no user interface, and require learning cryptic commands to invoke customized versions of regular ISPF panels. They also require prior knowledge and understanding of ISPF menu structures (e.g. 3.3 = Copy). In contrast, SimpList has an extremely intuitive point-and-shoot interface that requires no cryptic commands to be learned and no previous knowledge of ISPF menus. All SimpList panels have field-level-help and context sensitive tutorials, making them extremely easy to learn and use with no formal training required.

No interference with regular ISPF.
Some productivity tools require customizing a large number of ISPF panels, which means reapplying the customization each time a new release of ISPF is installed. Other tools replace regular ISPF panels and commands with their own completely different versions, causing user confusion and making fall-back to regular ISPF options difficult or impossible. In contrast, SimpList requires no customization to any existing ISPF panels, and does not interfere with or change the use of regular ISPF in any way. Instead, SimpList has its own unique set of stand-alone panels that users can transition to as their time and schedules permit.

The most powerful point-and-shoot facility.
A major feature of some productivity tools is the ability to point-and-shoot at values on a panel; e.g. to browse or edit data sets by pointing the cursor at a data set name. For SimpList, point-and-shoot selection is just one of many hundreds of features. Nevertheless, SimpList is the only product on the market that can do all of the following:

  1. Supports point-and-shoot selection of data set names displayed anywhere on a panel, including those in ISPF messages.
  2. Supports point-and-shoot selection of newly entered names; i.e. names that don’t exist in the ISPF screen buffer.
  3. Supports point-and-shoot selection of members whose names appear in other members; e.g. programs and copybooks called by other programs (etc.). This works even if the calling and called members exist in different libraries.
  4. Supports both nested and newly started sessions. For example, entering ED and pointing the cursor at an object name edits the object in a nested session (i.e. one that runs on top of the current session), while EDS edits an object in a newly started session (i.e. one that supports swapping between the original and newly started session).

The most powerful labeling facility.
Some productivity tools allow objects to be given an ‘alias’. This allows objects to be opened using an alias name instead of an object name. For example, 'USER01.DEVELOP.CNTL' could be given an alias called DEVCNTL or JCL or just J (etc.).

In SimpList terminology an alias is called a ‘label’, while other tools might use ‘ID’ or ‘tag’ (etc.). Regardless of terminology, SimpList differentiates itself from other productivity tools in several major ways:

  1. Some productivity tools do not support alias names, while others support only a very limited number of alias names. SimpList imposes no limit whatsoever on the number of alias names that can be assigned to objects.
  2. SimpList is the only productivity tool that allows alias names to be assigned to any type of object; e.g. data sets, BookManager bookshelves, DB2 tables, IMS databases, workstation files, UNIX files, VSAM files (etc.).
  3. SimpList is the only productivity tool that allows labeled objects to include any combination of wild cards and/or symbols.
  4. SimpList is the only productivity tool that allows a list of labels to be browsed, edited, printed or viewed from any command line, anywhere in ISPF. For example, a list of labels can be opened in a standard ISPF edit session where labels can be added, updated or deleted using regular ISPF edit commands.

Much more than just a data set organizer.
Some productivity tools only support data sets. In contrast, SimpList supports many additional objects including BookManager Bookshelves and Books, DB2 tables, DB2 commands, Generation Data Groups, IMS databases, IMS commands, ISPF commands, workstation files, workstation commands, TSO commands, UNIX files, VSAM files, Web sites, and much more. During every step of a process (e.g. when working in an object list or DSLIST or advanced member list or extended edit and view sessions, etc.), SimpList adds many functions and enhancements that are not available in regular ISPF or any other productivity tool.

Permanently stores more than 2,500 object names, patterns, and commands.
Some productivity tools keep a brief history of recently selected data sets. Once a data set rolls off the list, the name is no longer available. In contrast, each SimpList user can permanently store more than two and a half thousand object names. Each object (not just data sets) can include system and user-defined symbols. Optional comments can be entered after any object to serve as a reminder of the contents. Wild cards can be used in every type of object to generate unlimited lists of additional objects. Different types of objects can be categorized and grouped in different lists to make them easily accessible; e.g. JCL data sets could be grouped in one list and DB2 tables grouped in another list (etc.). Any list can be opened from any ISPF command line. If the location of an object is forgotten, FIND can be used to search every list for any part of an object name or comment. Labels can be used to select objects from any ISPF command line.

Allows ‘surfing the mainframe’™.
SimpList heavily exploits the use of point-and-shoot fields and host emulation software to allow each user to 'surf' through all SimpList panels using a mouse. For example, any object in any list can be selected for any function without ever having to touch a keyboard. Scrolling, executing commands, navigating tutorials (etc.) can all be accomplished by simply clicking a mouse.

Supports cross-platform development.
SimpList has extensive cross-platform support, allowing mainframe files to be viewed, edited, printed (etc.) on a workstation running Windows or Linux/WINE, and workstation files to be viewed, edited, printed (etc.) on a mainframe. If a selected file has a proprietary workstation format (such as a Word document or PDF file etc.), the selected file opens in the appropriate application on the workstation.

If a workstation file has a wild card in the name, a list of all files matching the pattern is displayed on the mainframe. From the list, files can be selected for many different functions including transfer to or from a mainframe and workstation.

In addition to files, many other types of workstation objects are supported. This includes workstation commands that can be executed in a command window (e.g. IPCONFIG), commands that can be executed at a Run prompt (e.g. WINVER), applications that can be run on a workstation (e.g. Notepad), web sites that can be visited (e.g. HTTP and HTTPS), and much more.

Low cost.
SimpList is licensed by mainframe serial number at a flat annual cost. There are no limits on the number of users or number of LPARs, and no additional charges when upgrading to bigger/faster mainframes. Because of the extremely low and attractive pricing, return on investment can occur with a single user.


The SimpList workbench is a fully-integrated environment where multiple objects can be selected for multiple functions. For example, SimpList removes the need to navigate between all of the following options:

In addition to the above, SimpList interfaces with tools and utilities such as AMBLIST, BookManager, DB2, DSNTIAUL, HSM, IMS, SuperC, the ISPF Workstation Agent, UNIX System Services Shell, and many different third-party vendor products; e.g. products that handle DB2 tables, IMS databases, VSAM files, and more. For example, if a DB2 table is selected for edit, SimpList automatically launches whichever third-party vendor product is used at the site for editing DB2 tables.

User Defined Functions further extend the capabilities of SimpList, allowing it to seamlessly interface with site-specific objects and products such as change management utilities and in-house tools and procedures (etc.).

By eliminating the need to navigate between many different tools and utilities, SimpList creates an enormously productive environment where tasks are completed far more quickly using much less effort.

Wild Cards

Asterisks and percent signs can be used as wild cards in almost any type of object. When an object with one or more wild cards is selected, a list of all matching objects is displayed. For example, if C:\MYDIR\*.TXT is selected, a list of all matching files in the specified directory is displayed on the mainframe. Files can be selected from the list for functions such as browse, edit, print, transfer, (etc.).

If a data set has wild cards in the name, a DSLIST is automatically displayed. Users can chose between a standard DSLIST (which is the same as a list generated by ISPF option 3.4), or an enhanced DSLIST (which has additional commands and functions available). A brief summary of some of the advantages offered by an enhanced DSLIST include:

The following table compares a few of the major differences between SimpList and ISPF option 3.4. For example, ISPF option 3.4 has a single object entry field where a data set name or pattern can be entered. This means each time a new data set name or pattern is entered, the previous value is lost. In contrast, SimpList has over two and half thousand object entry fields where names and patterns can be permanently stored.

 ISPF option 3.4   SimpList 
Number of fields where objects with wild cards can be entered 1 2,574
Multiple object types are supported (e.g. DB2 tables etc.) No Yes
Symbols are supported No Yes
A default function is supported No Yes


Symbols can be used anywhere in any type of object. This is useful when dealing with objects whose names may change based on different circumstances, such as a logon ID or SYSPLEX name (etc.). Symbols can also be used when it’s desirable to be prompted for parts of an object name that may vary, such as a DB2 table creator or a GDG number or a member name (etc.).

System symbols are resolved automatically; e.g. if 'PROD.D&ZYEAR&ZMONTH&ZDAY..REPORT' is selected for any function, the date symbols are substituted with today’s date. If a command like TSO PROFILE PREFIX(&ZUSER) is executed, the default TSO prefix is set to the value of the &ZUSER system symbol, and so on.

Symbols can also be created using any name that’s desired by a user. For example, if 'USER01.COBOL(&MEM)' is selected from an object list, a pop-up panel prompts for the value of &MEM. Using this example, the value of &MEM could be entered as a member name, member pattern, or left blank for a list of all members. The pop-up panel has a field that determines whether the value for the symbol is used once, or for the remainder of the SimpList session, or forever more. If ‘forever more’ is selected, the user defined symbol is stored in a table that can be updated from any command line, anywhere in ISPF.


A label is a short, easy-to-remember alias that can be given to any type of object, including objects containing wild cards and symbols. The syntax for a label is the same as the syntax for a member name, but prefixed with a leading period. For example, if 'SOME.LONG.COBOL.DATASET.NAME' is given a label called .COB, the data set could be browsed by entering BR .COB on any command line. If a DB2 table called PROD.CUST_PURCHASE_ORDERS is given a label called .PO, the table could be edited by entering ED .PO on any command line, and so on.

If a label name is forgotten the entire list of labels can be displayed from any ISPF command line, and any label can be selected from the list. New labels can be added to the list, and existing labels can be updated or deleted (etc.). There's no limit to the number of objects that can be given a label.



An ‘object’ is anything that can be stored in a list, such as a data set name or VSAM file name (etc.). SimpList has built-in support for many different object types, including user-defined objects.

General Features

Advanced Member List

SimpList displays a single consistent type of member list called an AML (Advanced Member List). The AML supports all regular member list commands, but has many additional commands and functions available. The following is a brief sample of some of the extended AML features:

Extended Edit and View

Additional and enhanced commands are available when editing or viewing data sets, members, UNIX files, and workstation files. This includes:

Workstation Support

In addition to using workstation concepts, SimpList interacts with many different workstation objects. This includes:

Invoking SimpList

As well as invoking SimpList from a standard ISPF menu, an unlimited number of SimpList sessions can be launched from any ISPF command line. For example, SL can be entered to launch a nested SimpList session on top of the current session, or SLS can be entered to launch a newly Started session (i.e. similar to a new split screen session). This means the power and functionality of SimpList is always available, no matter what option a user might be in.

SimpList has a point-and-shoot interface that allows the cursor to be pointed at data set or member names appearing anywhere on any ISPF panel. For example, a data set whose name is displayed in an ISPF message could be opened for view by simply entering VI on the command line and pointing the cursor at the data set name. When the view session ends, control returns to the original session. Alternatively, the data set could be viewed in a newly started session by entering VIS, where the trailing ‘S’ means Start a new session. This allows swapping back and forth between the original and newly started session.

Other available commands include BR (Browse nested), BRS (Browse Started), ED (Edit nested), and EDS (Edit Started). All of these commands can be followed by an object name, object pattern, or label. For example, a DB2 table could be edited by simply entering ED followed by a DB2 table name or label. The same commands can also be used to select members whose names appear in other members. For example, if a program calls another program, the called program can be edited by entering ED on the command line and pointing the cursor at the called program name. If a program uses a copybook, the copybook could be viewed in a newly started session by entering VIS on the command line and pointing at the copybook (etc.). Note that this works even when the calling and referenced members are in completely different libraries.

In summary, every type of object, function, and vendor product supported by SimpList is completely accessible from every command line, everywhere in ISPF.

The benefits of installing SimpList

Some benefits are easy to quantify while others are more difficult. Examples of benefits that occur from installing SimpList that are difficult to quantify include things like enhanced morale, the ability to retain employees and attract new ones by offering a better working environment, and the ability to retain customers and attract new ones by getting products to market faster. Each of these benefits alone can pay for SimpList many times over. However, some of the more quantifiable benefits are noted below:

Increased productivity:
Far less time is spent moving between options and typing in object names, and much more time is spent doing actual productive work. Customer feedback shows that SimpList saves about 4 hours per week per user, or roughly 5 weeks per year. If the cost of hiring an employee is $1,000 a week, this means SimpList saves approximately $5,000 per year per employee, or roughly half a million dollars a year for every 100 employees.

Reduced training costs:
Very few of today’s IT graduates have any mainframe training. Whether training is performed by professionals or co-workers, costs can be substantial. With SimpList, the time required to teach each employee how to use a mainframe is dramatically reduced.

Fast set-up:
The built-in context-sensitive tutorials and field-level-help allow each user to study SimpList by themselves, with no formal training required. The object oriented, point-and-shoot concepts are so intuitive that even new users are instantly productive. Users who are new to an area can import object lists from other users, thereby making them instantly aware of objects used within a project team. Comments can be entered after any object name, allowing the contents and purpose of each object to be readily understood. When certain types of objects are selected (e.g. DB2 tables and VSAM files), third-party vendor tools that support that type of object are automatically launched. This means users do not have to waste time navigating to third-party vendor products or learning where they’re kept.

Reduced hardware costs:
When data sets run out of space, regular ISPF users are forced to perform multi-step processes to increase the allocation size. To avoid the time and complexity of doing this, it’s common practice for data sets to be allocated with much more space than actually required. The over-allocated space might never be used, and when multiplied by tens of thousands of data sets the amount and cost of wasted space can be enormous. SimpList solves this problem by allowing data set attributes to be changed very easily. When a data set is selected using function I (Information), attributes are displayed on a panel where any of the displayed attributes can easily be changed by simply entering new ones. For example, the type of allocation could be changed from Tracks to Cylinders or the primary and secondary space could be increased (or decreased). Record length, block size, number of directory blocks, data set organization, SMS attributes (and so on) can all be changed. As a result, over-allocation of size is no longer required and this can lead to substantial cost savings.

When a migrated data set is selected it's usually recalled in foreground. This can tie up a terminal and add overhead to a system. The user might decide to cancel the wait for the recall, but the system recalls it anyway. This means valuable disk space is often wasted by recalling unwanted data sets. With SimpList, a pop-up panel warns whenever a selected data set is migrated. The user can recall the data set in foreground or background, or cancel the recall. This prevents terminals being tied up in foreground, eliminates unnecessary recalls, and helps conserve disk space.

When PDS members are saved, an entirely new copy of each member is written to disk. This happens even if no changes are made to a member. For example, if a member contains 1000 lines and no changes are made but the member is saved, the amount of storage increases to 2000 lines. If another save is made, the amount of storage increases to 3000 lines, and so on. The only way to free the wasted space is to compress the data set. Meanwhile, when wasted space is multiplied by many users across many different data sets, storage capacity can rapidly diminish. With SimpList, members are only saved if actual changes are made. This reduces I/O, prevents data sets going into unnecessary extents, reduces the need to compress, reduces the number of needless space abends, and conserves storage space.

Each time an interrupt key is pressed (e.g. ENTER), the mainframe is called to process the request. While the request is being processed, the user has to wait. The wait time, when multiplied across many users throughout a day, can be substantial. In addition, if enough interrupts are sent, mainframe response can significantly degrade. Poor response increases the hidden cost of human wait time, and eventually results in the need for faster hardware. SimpList helps reduce these expenses by requiring far fewer system interrupts to perform any given task. For example, a user can simply click a DB2 table and the table opens directly in the editor of a third-party vendor product. This single interrupt takes the user directly where they need to be, instead of the many interrupts that would normally be required to navigate through a series of menus and panels. As another example, a user might enter ED .J on a command line to edit an object associated with the ‘.J’ label. Again, this single interrupt takes the user directly where they need to be. This minimization of interrupts allows mainframe resources to be used for other more important tasks.

Reduced printing costs:
SimpList has a print facility that allows an optional line and/or column range to be entered. Instead of printing an entire file, users can print just the actual range of lines and/or columns they’re interested in.

Fast return on investment:
Unlike many tools that target a specific audience (e.g. programmers) or a specific phase of a project (e.g. testing), SimpList is used throughout the day by everyone who uses ISPF. This includes analysts, developers, systems programmers, DBA’s, help desk, end-users, and so on. This results in a very early and substantial return on investment. In addition, because SimpList is licensed at a single flat cost regardless of mainframe size or speed, the return on investment usually occurs with a single user.

Technical information

SimpList is compatible with z/OS™ 1.5 and above. No changes are required to SimpList when upgrading from one level of an operating system to another. SimpList does not interfere with the operation of regular ISPF in any way, and does not require customization to any IBM supplied panels or utilities.

Installing SimpList

SimpList is easily installed in a matter of minutes, and requires no special installation skills or privileges. The installation instructions explain how to upload 5 XMI (Transmit) files to a mainframe, and RECEIVE them into 5 partitioned data sets. Once the data sets have been attached to their respective DD names, SimpList is available. Nothing needs to be compiled or linked, no programs need to be authorized, no customization is required to any ISPF panels, and no installation settings need to be changed. SimpList does not override any existing tools or options, and all regular ISPF panels remain fully accessible at all times.

Contact Information

For a free trial download contact your SimpList supplier today:

Canada and the United States: MacKinney Systems
U.S. 417-882-8012
Austria, Germany and Switzerland: McLicense
Germany +49 (0)69-801015-56
Elsewhere in the world: Soft-Center Solutions Inc.
Canada 905-430-6956

Don’t delay; it’s time to finally experience just how productive the mainframe can be!

ISPF and other trademarks of IBM acknowledged.
Windows and other trademarks of Microsoft Corporation acknowledged.