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ISPF is a programmers text editing environment for mainframe systems from IBM, while the editor itself has never been ported to any of the smaller systems the company made a number of tools that allowed people to work with the editor from PC based computers. Early versions were basically 3270-type terminal emulators that connected to a mainframe via a serial connection and offered some scripts to help with integration. Later a simple client server of sorts was offered by giving the terminal emulators simple file communication capabilities, a MVS program called IND$FILE handled file transfers and later you could also use the FTPB protocol.

ISPF Client/Server

Commonly referred to as ISPFCS in IBM speak, but with the release of version 4 of ISPF gained full client/server capability, in that case an OS/2 server called Work-station Agent (WSA) is installed on the client computer and that hooks up to a client software that is built into version four of ISPF for Z/OS. The WSA is free and comes installed with ISPF, all you need to do is download the server to your PC, the WSA provides a full GUI editing and file transfer capabilities and is bidirectional in that not only does it allow you to edit mainframe files on the PC, but also allows you to edit PC based files on the mainframe. WSA can be used as a standalone ISPF like editor on the PC as well to a degree.

As of 2016, IBM still uses a small embedded x86 computer inside most of their larger mainframes that runs OS/2 and does householding tasks, one of its function is to run WSA so that UNIX like systems such as AIX and Solaris can be used but the WSA gained a MS Windows port but was never re-written or ported to one of the UNIX like environments.

ISPF clones

OS/2 editors that offer some ISPF compatibility

  • Preditor/2 -ISPF keyboard mappings, window layout and more.

License and availability

  • Discontinued commercial software, ISPF itself is still maintained for mainframe system but the ISPF Client/Server development has been discontinued although it is still supplied with Z/OS systems.


Robert Simpson:

  • ISPF Client/Server — Part I: Download and Startup - Naspa Technical Support (Apr 1996) [1]
  • ISPF Client/Server — Part II: Automatic Startup - Naspa Technical Support (May 1996) [2]
  • ISPF Client/Server — Part III: PF Keys, Pushbuttons, and Other Features - Naspa Technical Support (Jun 1996) [3]
  • ISPF Client/Server — Part IV: Cursor Browse, View, and Edit - Naspa Technical Support (Jul 1996) [4]