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Grace Murray Hopper (1906 ~ 1992) One of the architects of COBOL

Business application language designed at the behest of the USA Department of Defence in the 1950's. In addition to domain specific business language features it has other tools to facilitate the writing of business software such as indexed file system with database like features, typically ISAM but in the case of IBM products VSAM.

Still relatively popular on mainframes due to huge amounts of legacy code and mature tool chains but also sees use on smaller systems for development of custom business applications.


  • COBOL-60 first formal standard
  • COBOL-61 published as "Cobol-1961: Report to Conference on Data Systems Languages (U.S. Department of Defence 1961). - This should be in the public domain as a DoD publication but for some reason is not. Not fully compatible with COBOL-60, but the basis for most COBOL compilers developed in the 1960's.
  • COBOL-61 EXTENDED An extension for COBOL-61 with syntax clarifications and so on, arithmetic extensions mean that the language is not 100% compatible with COBOL-61. First standard that offers the sort and report writer features, although the latter is optional.
  • COBOL-65
  • COBOL-68 (ANSI USA Standard COBOL X3.23)
  • ANSI-74 (ANS X3.23-1974) = ISO 1989:1978
  • ANSI-85 (ANS X3.23-1985) = ISO 1989:1985 = DIN 66 028
  • COBOL 2014 (ISO/IEC 1989:2014)

OS/2 Implementations

Libraries and bindings
GUI builders and Cobol CASE tools
Programmer's utilities
  • Exuberant ctags - Creates index files out of COBOL source files - Open source
Editor support
  • Boxer - COBOL support included by default
  • BRIEF - COBOL support included by default
  • Preditor/2 - COBOL template with syntax highlighting

DOS Implementations

  • 1982: COBOL Compiler Version 1.0
  • 1987: COBOL Compiler Version 2.0
Micro Focus
  • 1985: Professional COBOL
  • 1987: RM COBOL 85
GUI builders and Cobol CASE tools

Implementations that run under WinOS/2

GUI builders and Cobol CASE tools

Java Implementations

  • Heirloom Computing Elastic COBOL
  • LegacyJ PERCobol
  • Micro Focus Visual COBOL
  • Veryant isCobol Evolve

Generic or cross platform source code


  • David Dill: The COBOL Presentation Manager Programming Guide: For OS/2 Versions 1.3 and 2.0 - VNR 1992, ISBN 0-442-01293-4
  • Robert B. Chapman: OS/2 Presentation Manager Programming for COBOL Programmers (Revised edition) – Wiley 1993, ISBN 0-471-56140-1


  • comp.lang.cobol - Still alive (mostly)
  • alt.cobol - By now a dead duck, however during the 90´s a better information resource on COBOL than the traditional comp.lang.cobol group, and since google has most posting of the group archived and searchable, it is a great information resource for those working with older COBOL tools.