Microsoft COBOL

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A COBOL compiler for 16 bit OS/2 and DOS introduced in September 1988 as version 3.0 and with some limited Windows 3 support in version 4.5 introduced in 1990. In addition to adhering to the COBOL-85 standard the compiler comes with some support for IBM's DB2 in version 4 and ANSI 85 definition, X/Open XPG3 COBOL definition, COMP-1 32 and 64 bit floating point extensions as in IBM OSVS COBOL and IBM VS COBOL II in version 4.5.

The actual compiler for versions 3.0 and higher was licensed from Micro Focus, the rest of the tools, like the debugger and editor were in-house developments from Microsoft, and earlier versions were ports of the old Microsoft Cobol-80 compiler for CP/M. The v1 and v2 versions of the DOS compiler have peculiarities of their own so code had to be ported from those versions to later versions, Micro Focus still supports some of those non-standard behaviours in their compilers to aid in porting.

It should be noted that neither the Microsoft 1.x and 2.x compilers nor the later Micro Focus sourced compilers were in general considered very good even in their day and library support and code quality was considered below par, the Microsoft 1.x/2.x series also had a number of peculiarities that meant that considerable time was needed to port COBOL code to and from the system. The systems were mostly bought by people that needed to do mixed language programming but even in version 1 the support for that was already better than most of their competitors in the DOS world, with release 3 and the inclusion of the "Professional series" tools the support was excellent and the tool would also integrate fully with other Microsoft "Pro series" tools.


DOS Compiler by Microsoft
  • 1982: Microsoft COBOL 1.0
ANSI x3.23 1974 standard
  • 1984: Microsoft COBOL 1.1
  • 1985: Microsoft COBOL 2.0
  • 1986: Microsoft COBOL 2.1 / Microsoft COBOL Tools
  • 1987: Microsoft COBOL 2.2
Last release of the in house developed Cobol compiler
DOS & OS/2 Compiler by MicroFocus
  • 1988: Microsoft COBOL Optimizing Compiler Version 3.0 for MS OS/2 and MS-DOS
First release of the Micro Focus developed compiler for OS/2 1.0 and DOS 3.0 (or later).
First Cobol development kit from Microsoft that used the same tools as the other Microsoft "Professional" development toolkits (C, Pascal, Basic PDS etc.), including "Animator" source level debugger, Microsoft Editor and an incremental linker.
OS/2 support includes full library compatibility, i.e. same code will compile on both DOS and OS/2.
ANSI 85 COBOL support. According to MS, up to 10 times faster code and 30% faster I/O than with MS-COBOL v.2.2.
The compiler corresponds to Micro Focus Cobol version 2.5
  • 1989: Microsoft COBOL 4.0
for OS/2 1.1 or higher, DOS 3.0 or higher
Greatly enhanced OS/2 support
Limited support for IBM DB/2 access
  • 1990: Microsoft COBOL 4.5
Conforms to the ANSI 85 and the X/Open XPG3 COBOL specifications
Supports COMP-1 32 and 64 bit floating point extensions as in IBM OS/VS COBOL and IBM VS COBOL II.
Adds limited Windows 3 support
Table Sort added
Enhanced IBM DB2 support
  • 1991: Microsoft COBOL 4.51
Latest version with OS/2 support
Bugfix release
DOS/Windows Compiler by Micro Focus
  • 1992: Microsoft COBOL 5.0
OS/2 Support dropped - Greatly enhanced Windows 3.x support
Last release of the toolkit.

Known issues

As with other Microsoft tools that support both OS/2 and DOS environments you may run into problems if you try to use those tools on Microsoft Windows systems that support the running of OS/2 1.x programs (Windows NT and 2000), as the system tries to run the DOS executable as an OS/2 program and fails. Either make sure that only the DOS executables are installed or if they are already installed or you migrated the install by hand, precede every command with the FORCEDOS command.


  • Discontinued commercial software



  • Seidel: Microsoft Cobol - Dilithium Press 1983, ISBN 0-88056-117-3
  • McCracken; Golden: Simplified Structured Cobol with Microsoft/Microfocus Cobol - Wiley 1990, ISBN 0-471-51407-1