RPG Programming Language: All You Need to Know

rpg programming language

Did you know that RPG, originally developed as the Report Program Generator, played a pivotal role in streamlining business operations on IBM mainframes in the 1960s? Today, RPG stands as a powerful high-level programming language, renowned for its efficiency in crafting business applications.

RPG, short for Report Program Generator, has evolved into a versatile language tailored for developing robust business applications. In this blog, we’ll unravel the intricacies of RPG programming, exploring its syntax, features, and practical applications. 

Whether you’re a seasoned programmer or a curious novice, join us on a journey to unlock the potential of RPG programming language and unleash your creativity in solving real-world challenges.

What is RPG?

RPG stands for Report Program Generator. It’s a high-level programming language used primarily for business applications and data processing on IBM midrange computers. RPG was originally developed by IBM in the late 1950s and has undergone several revisions since then, with RPG IV being the latest version.

RPG programming language is known for its simplicity and ease of use, especially for tasks like generating reports and manipulating data files. It features a fixed-format syntax, where columns are used to indicate specific parts of the program, such as operation codes, fields, and comments.

Overall, RPG is valued for its efficiency, reliability, and suitability for business-oriented applications, making it a popular choice among programmers working with IBM midrange systems.

Key Features of RPG Programming

Here are some key features of RPG (Report Program Generator):

1. Simplicity

RPG is known for its straightforward syntax and easy-to-understand structure, making it accessible to programmers of all levels, especially those with a background in business or data processing.

2. Fixed-format

RPG follows a fixed-format syntax, where specific columns are used to denote different elements of the program, such as operation codes, fields, and comments. This format helps maintain consistency and readability across programs.

3. Built-in Functions

RPG provides a wide range of built-in functions for performing common tasks like string manipulation, mathematical calculations, and date/time operations. These functions simplify coding and reduce the need for complex programming logic.

4. Data Manipulation

RPG excels at working with data files and performing database operations. It offers powerful features for reading, writing, updating, and querying data, making it well-suited for business applications that rely heavily on data processing.

5. Program Cycle

RPG programs typically follow a cycle of input, processing, and output. This cycle aligns well with the typical flow of business applications, where data is received, processed, and then presented in a meaningful format, such as reports or screens.

6. Integration with IBM Systems

RPG is tightly integrated with IBM midrange systems, such as the IBM i (formerly AS/400 or iSeries). It leverages the capabilities of these systems, including native database management, security features, and system APIs, to provide a seamless development experience.

7. Modernization Support

Despite its long history, RPG has evolved to incorporate modern programming concepts and features, such as structured programming, modularization, and object-oriented programming. This enables developers to write more maintainable and scalable code using RPG.

Also Read: Top 10 Programming Languages That Will Go Extinct In 2030

Syntax and Structure of RPG Programs

The syntax and structure of RPG Programming Language are based on a fixed-format layout, where specific columns are used to denote different elements of the program. Here’s an overview of the syntax and structure of RPG programs:


RPG programs are divided into fixed-format columns, with each column serving a specific purpose. The first column is reserved for sequence numbers, while the remaining columns are used for various elements of the program.


RPG programs consist of specifications that define different parts of the program, such as file definitions, data declarations, calculations, and output formats. Each specification begins in a specific column range.

Operation Codes

RPG uses operation codes to perform specific actions or operations within the program. Operation codes are typically placed in the first position of each statement and are followed by additional information or operands, depending on the operation.

Calculation Specifications

RPG programs use calculation specifications to perform calculations and manipulate data. Calculation specifications include operation codes and operands arranged in a fixed-format layout. Common operation codes include addition (ADD), subtraction (SUB), multiplication (MULT), division (DIV), and comparison (COMP).

Data Definitions

RPG programs include data definitions to declare variables, fields, and data structures used in the program. Data definitions specify the names, types, lengths, and attributes of data elements and are typically placed in the source file’s header or in separate data definition sections within the program.

Control Structures

RPG supports various control structures, such as conditional statements (IF, ELSEIF, ELSE), iterative loops (DO, DOU, DOW), and program flow control (GOTO, LEAVE, ITER). These control structures allow programmers to implement decision-making and looping logic in their RPG programs.

Advantages of Using RPG Programming Language

Here are some advantages of using RPG Programming Language:

1. Community Support

Despite being a niche language, RPG has a dedicated community of developers, enthusiasts, and resources. Online forums, user groups, and educational materials provide support, knowledge sharing, and collaboration opportunities for RPG developers, helping them stay updated on best practices, techniques, and innovations in the field.

2. Rapid Development

RPG’s built-in functions and data manipulation capabilities allow developers to quickly create applications for business processes, such as generating reports, processing transactions, and managing data files. This rapid development cycle is essential for meeting tight deadlines and adapting to changing business needs.

3. Native Integration with IBM Systems

RPG is tightly integrated with IBM midrange systems, such as the IBM i (formerly AS/400 or iSeries). This integration provides seamless access to system resources, including native database management, security features, and system APIs. It enables developers to leverage the full capabilities of IBM systems without additional complexity.

4. Efficient Data Handling

RPG excels at handling data files and performing database operations. Its native support for file input/output operations, data manipulation, and database access simplifies tasks related to data processing, storage, and retrieval. This efficiency is crucial for business applications that rely heavily on data management.

5. Robust Error Handling

RPG includes features for robust error handling and exception management. Developers can easily define error-handling routines and implement error-checking mechanisms to ensure the reliability and stability of their applications. This helps prevent data corruption, system crashes, and other adverse effects of programming errors.

Getting Started with RPG Programming 

Getting started with RPG (Report Program Generator) Programming Language is an exciting journey into the realm of business application development and data processing on IBM midrange systems. Whether you’re new to programming or an experienced coder looking to expand your skill set, here’s a step-by-step guide to help you embark on your RPG programming adventure:

  1. Learn the Basics: Understand RPG’s purpose and history.
  2. Set Up Environment: Install RPG tools like IBM Rational Developer for i.
  3. Grasp Syntax: Study RPG’s fixed-format syntax and structure.
  4. Explore Concepts: Master data types, variables, and arithmetic operations.
  5. Handle Files: Learn file specifications and operations.
  6. Use Control Structures: Practice conditional statements and loops.
  7. Build Apps: Start with simple projects like basic reports.
  8. Find Support: Utilize online resources and join RPG communities.
  9. Practice Regularly: Continuously write RPG code to improve skills.
  10. Stay Updated: Stay curious and keep learning about RPG advancements.

Follow these steps to embark on your RPG programming journey confidently.

Common Applications of RPG Programming Language

RPG (Report Program Generator) Programming Language finds extensive usage in various business applications and data processing tasks. Here are some common applications where RPG is frequently employed:

1. Business Reporting

RPG is widely used for generating reports, such as financial statements, sales summaries, inventory reports, and customer transaction histories. Its capabilities for data manipulation and formatting make it ideal for processing and presenting large volumes of business data.

2. Transaction Processing Systems

RPG is employed in developing transaction processing systems for handling business transactions, such as sales orders, invoices, purchase orders, and payroll processing. Its efficient file handling and database access features enable real-time processing of transactional data.

3. Inventory Management

RPG is utilized in building inventory management systems for tracking and managing inventory levels, stock movements, and replenishment orders. It helps businesses optimize inventory levels, minimize stockouts, and improve overall inventory accuracy.

4. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) 

RPG is integrated into CRM systems for managing customer interactions, tracking sales leads, and analyzing customer data. It facilitates personalized marketing campaigns, customer segmentation, and sales forecasting based on historical data.

5. Order Entry Systems

RPG is employed in developing order entry systems for processing customer orders, managing order fulfillment, and tracking order status. It streamlines the order-to-cash process, improves order accuracy, and enhances customer satisfaction.

6. Financial Management

RPG is used in financial management applications to handle accounting transactions, manage budgets, and generate financial reports. It supports functions such as general ledger accounting, accounts payable/receivable, and financial analysis.

7. Human Resources Management

RPG is integrated into HR management systems to manage employee data, process payroll, administer benefits, and track employee performance. It helps HR departments streamline administrative tasks and ensure compliance with labor regulations.

RPG vs. Other Programming Languages

Comparing RPG (Report Program Generator) with other programming languages reveals distinct differences in terms of syntax, purpose, and usage. Here’s a comparison:

1. Syntax and Structure:

RPG: Characterized by a fixed-format syntax with specific columns indicating different elements of the program, such as operation codes, fields, and comments.

Other Languages: Varied syntax structures, including free-form, object-oriented, and procedural, with flexible formatting options.

2. Purpose and Application:

RPG: Primarily used for business applications and data processing tasks on IBM midrange systems, such as generating reports, managing databases, and handling transactional data.

Other Languages: Widely used across diverse domains, including web development, mobile app development, scientific computing, artificial intelligence, and gaming.

3. Data Handling:

RPG: Well-suited for handling data files and database operations, with built-in features for data manipulation, file access, and record-level processing.

Other Languages: Offer various data handling capabilities, including support for relational databases, object-relational mapping frameworks, and data processing libraries.

4. Platform Dependency:

RPG: Tightly integrated with IBM midrange systems (e.g., IBM iSeries), often requiring specific compilers and development environments.

Other Languages: Platform-independent or compatible with multiple platforms, such as Windows, Linux, macOS, and various web servers.

5. Community and Support:

RPG: Has a dedicated community of developers and resources, primarily focused on IBM midrange systems, with specialized forums, user groups, and documentation.

Other Languages: Benefit from larger and more diverse communities, extensive online resources, open-source ecosystems, and widespread adoption across industries.

Learning Resources for RPG Programming Language

Here are some learning resources to help you get started with RPG (Report Program Generator) Programming Language:

IBM RPG Programming Guide

Start with IBM’s official documentation and guides for RPG programming. It offers comprehensive insights into the language’s syntax, features, and best practices.

Online Tutorials and Courses

Explore online platforms like Udemy, Coursera, and Pluralsight for RPG programming courses. These courses often include video lectures, quizzes, and hands-on exercises to enhance learning.

RPG Forums and Communities

Join RPG forums and online communities like RPG Reddit or RPG-related LinkedIn groups. Engage with experienced programmers, ask questions, and share knowledge.


Look for RPG programming books such as “The Modern RPG IV Language” by Bob Cozzi or “Programming in RPG IV” by Jim Buck and Bryan Meyers for in-depth understanding and practical examples.

Practice Projects

Develop your skills by working on small RPG projects. Utilize online platforms like GitHub to find open-source RPG projects or create your own to apply your knowledge.

Future Trends in RPG Programming

While RPG Programming Language has a long-standing history, its future trends are influenced by advancements in technology and evolving business needs. Here are some potential future trends in RPG programming:

  • Modernization Efforts: Continual efforts to modernize RPG by incorporating features from newer programming languages to enhance productivity and maintainability.
  • Integration with Web Technologies: Integration of RPG with web technologies such as RESTful APIs, JSON, and XML for seamless communication with web applications and services.
  • Cloud Adoption: Increased adoption of RPG in cloud environments, leveraging platforms like IBM i on IBM Cloud or other cloud providers to enhance scalability and flexibility.
  • Mobile Development: RPG programming may evolve to support mobile development, enabling RPG applications to run on smartphones and tablets.
  • AI and Data Analytics Integration: Integration of RPG with AI and data analytics technologies for real-time data processing, predictive analytics, and decision support.
  • Cross-Platform Compatibility: Efforts to make RPG applications more cross-platform compatible, allowing them to run on various operating systems and environments.
  • Community and Collaboration: Greater emphasis on community-driven development and collaboration, with RPG programmers actively contributing to open-source projects and sharing best practices.


RPG Programming Language continues to serve as a stalwart in the realm of business application development and data processing on IBM midrange systems. 

Its simplicity, efficiency, and reliability make it a trusted choice for organizations worldwide. As technology evolves, RPG adapts, integrating with modern advancements while retaining its core strengths. 

With a dedicated community, abundant resources, and ongoing innovation, RPG remains a valuable asset for developers seeking to build robust, efficient, and scalable solutions. Whether modernizing legacy systems or developing new applications, RPG’s enduring relevance ensures its continued role in shaping the digital landscape for years to come.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Is RPG still relevant in today’s software development landscape?

Yes, RPG continues to be widely used, especially in industries where stability and reliability are paramount, such as finance and healthcare.

2. Can RPG programs be integrated with other programming languages?

Yes, RPG programs can be integrated with other languages using various techniques such as APIs, web services, and message queues.

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