Dave's SPF Editor page

"I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound as they fly by."
-- Douglas Adams

Most programmers are fiercely loyal to their editor of choice and that includes us Mainframers. Mainframe editors, unlike ones for most other platforms, are record-oriented instead of byte-oriented. This is a result of the punched card heritage of the mainframe. This page is focused on non-Mainframe implementations of the SPF editor.

What is ISPF?

When on the mainframe,
remember to set RECOVERY on.
The file you save may be your own.


IBM released a full-screen editor on their MVS operating system originally called SPF (Structured Programming Facility) in the early 1970's and later renamed the product to ISPF (Interactive System Productivity Facility). Gilbert Saint-flour sent me his first draft of a History of ISPF.

Non-Mainframe Commercial SPF editors

Disclaimer: These are my opinions of these products gleaned from their web sites. Product features may change when new releases are shipped. Please check with the vendor for up to date information.

Product Vendor Pros Cons
SPF/SE CTC Two versions of the product are available:
  • Graphic Edition (Windows style interface)
  • Standard Edition (character mode 3270 style Interface).
  • Only runs on Windows
  • No Rexx macro support. CTC support sent me this info:
    We have provided a number of library functions and native language extensions to make the conversion from REXX to "C" as close to a 1 to 1 proposition as possible. The majority of our users have found it quite easy to paraphrase their REXX macros into "C".
uni-SPF The Workstation Group
  • User Interface is very similar to the MVS editor
  • Rexx Macro interface
  • Supported platforms as of 2005-12-29 at release 1.40: Solaris 8, HP/UX 11, AIX 4.3 and above, Linux Redhat 7.3 and above, and Windows.
  • Doesn't run on Macintosh

Non-Mainframe Freeware SPF editors

Name Platform
Hybrid Editor XE AIX, DOS, Linux, OS/2, and Windows.
SPF Lite Windows

There are more editors on this IBM Editor Family web page.

Apparently dead Commercial SPF editors

Product Vendor Pros Cons
SPF/UX Uneclipse
  • User Interface is very similar to the MVS editor
  • Run on UNIX: AIX, HP, SUN, Solaris, SGI SCO, Data General, DEC
  • Run on Linux (Intel only)
  • Company is no longer in business?
  • Doesn't run on Macintosh or Windows
  • No Rexx Macro interface
Tritus/SPF Tritus
  • User Interface is very similar to the MVS editor
  • Rexx Macro interface
  • Runs in text mode on DOS, OS/2 and Windows 3.1/95/98/NT. An AIX version was briefly available.
  • Company is no longer in business?
  • Windows 95/98/ME/NT/2000 problems:
    • No long file name support in Windows 95/98/ME and XP
      • Doesn't work on Windows NT and higher (2000 and XP)
      • Puts trash at the end of the paste.
  • Microsoft removed the OS/2 subsystem from Windows XP so you can no longer run the OS/2 version under windows for the long file name support.

Try this at home: I've have successfully run Tritus/SPF on my Macintosh under OS X with the DOSBox x86 emulator!

XEDIT-like editors

The editor on the VM operating system is XEDIT. Many mainframe users use both OS/390 (MVS) and VM. I've included the XEDIT-like editors that I know of.

Product Vendor Notes
KEDIT Mansfield
  • Rexx Macro interface
  • Runs on Windows 3.1/95/98/NT and in text mode on DOS and OS/2
  • Rexx Macro interface
  • Runs on Linux, AIX, HP, Sun, SGI, Alpha and Windows
THE Mark Hessling
  • Rexx Macro interface
  • Runs on UNIX, QNX, OS/2, DOS and Win95/NT.
uni-XEDIT The Workstation Group
  • Rexx Macro interface
  • Runs on most commercial UNIX systems
Text Composition Document
Editor (TCD)
Cullen Software Attempts to merge Xedit and SPF in a Java implementation
PC-Xedit Martien van der Burgt Written in VB6
Trivia: XEDIT was written by Xavier de Lamberterie (That's where the "X" in "XEDIT" came from) -- From Melinda Varian's VM web page: VM and the VM Community: Past, Present, and Future (PDF)

XEDIT links:

Edit Macros

SPF editors, like many other powerful editors, can be extended by the user with edit macros. The most popular language that is used for SPF editor edit macros is Rexx although you can write them in many other languages like Assember, C, COBOL, PL/I, etc. There are many places on the Internet for SPF edit macros but the two most comprehensive sites are:

The ideal SPF editor

IMHO a SPF-Like editor should:

Frequently asked Questions

Where can I get the Tritus/SPF editor?
You are out of luck, they are no longer in business.
Why do you call them SPF editors and not ISPF editors?
All of the products that I know of call themselves SPF editors.
How do I easily work with all occurances of a string in a SPF editor?
Enter the command: "X ALL;FIND 'string' all"

Here is a sample screen from doing this for the string "SPF":
Command ===>                                                   Scroll ===> HALF
****** ***************************** Top of Data ******************************
000001  Once you've gone SPF, you never go back.
- - -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -   100000 Line(s) not displayed
100002  I love the smell of SPF in the morning.  It smells like editing.
- - -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -   100000 Line(s) not displayed
200003  SPF is as SPF does.
****** **************************** Bottom of Data ****************************
I once had a couple of UNIX geeks in my office when I did this and their eyes popped out. This type of facility won't be found in a byte-oriented editor. I say that, I've been told that Notepad++ can do this.

Your site may have the ONLY edit macro available. In this case you would simply issue the command "ONLY string". Sweet!
What mainframe-based editors are available?
I've started an incomplete list of MVS editors.

Interface Zen and SPF

Here is part of a nice essay called Interface Zen written by Tom Christiansen, a well-known Unix developer:
"This blissful state of being one with your computer doesn't actually have much to do with your computer. Paradoxically, the computer just gets in the way, a constant reminder of irrelevant physical constraints and realities. As long as your brain needs to spend time thinking about hardware, like the keyboard or the mouse or a flickering monitor or a whining disk drive, you will be forever denied access to the altered states. That's because it's not the computer itself you're trying to become one with. It's the software world that you're trying to enter. Only when the physical world recedes from conscious awareness can enlightenment become possible."
Okay, I rarely reach bliss when using an SPF editor but occasionaly I notice something approaching it.

Links to other editor pages

All trademarks mentioned in this document are property of their respective owners.
Last Updated: 2011-04-09
This web page is © 1997-2011+ by David Alcock. All Rights Reserved.