VS Code for Mainframe Starter Kit

David McNierney
Modern Mainframe
Published in
4 min readAug 8, 2023

8 Insights with Resources for VS Code & Code4z Adoption

For mainframe AppDev leaders, introducing VS Code is an effective way to:

  • Accelerate developer velocity
  • Attract new-to-mainframe talent
  • Excite younger team members

But where do you start? Right here!

Important Point #1 — Unrivaled popularity

VS Code’s popularity is unprecedented. If any colleagues are skeptical, share this link: Stack Overflow Developer Survey 2023.

Described as ‘an overnight success a decade in the making’, the reasons for its popularity are many and varied. Mainframe developers deserve the opportunity to use this powerful tool their contemporaries are using to perform at their best.

Important Point #2 —It’s free

Not only is VS Code free and open but the extension pack that transforms VS Code into a mainframe developer cockpit, Code4z, is also free and open meaning you can adopt it without additional budget. No need to wait for the annual planning cycle — adopt Code4z as soon as you’re ready!

An excellent place to begin your journey is the VS Code for Mainframe Glossary and FAQ.

Once you’re familiar with the terminology and concepts, check out what others who have already adopted it are saying: VS Code for Mainframe Roundtable.

VS Code for Mainframe Roundtable

Important Point #3 — Seamless code access

Whether using a mainframe SCM like Endevor or Git version control or even source code in datasets, Code4z works.

While VS Code comes with Git access pre-integrated, check out feature-rich extensions like Explorer for Endevor and ZMF Explorer (Changeman) that make accessing and managing mainframe source code seamless. For datasets, as well as JCL, etc., Zowe Explorer is the option.

For teams using Endevor, Web Services is the key enabler so encourage your team to adopt it, if they haven’t already, by sharing Endevor Web Services, the Modernization LaunchPad, and the follow-up Configure Endevor and Web Services for External Clients.

Important Point #4 — Extensible & configurable

VS Code is highly extensible by design which means users are not limited to a single way of working. Instead, they’re free to choose the extensions and options that best fill their project needs and their personal preferences.

What extensions might a typical COBOL/CICS/Db2 developer use? The Developer Cockpit simulator provides a sample configuration including VS Code extensions, Zowe CLI plug-ins and sample scripts each with a description and marketplace link.

Important Point #5 — Lightweight (easy installation and maintenance)

While previous IDEs were difficult to install and even more difficult to upgrade/maintain, VS Code is super lightweight and, as a result, easy to maintain and upgrade. And unlike older, heavy client IDEs, start-up is lightning fast.

Important Point #6 — Robust extension marketplace

VS Code is made by Microsoft and, as a result, has the backing of the Microsoft user base. For example, the marketplace has ~50,000 extensions covering almost every aspect of software development, including development in languages like JavaScript and Python. VS Code is a safe bet for the long term.

Important Point #7 — Community

You’re not alone. We’re building community around Code4z and, while commercial support is available to licensees of the Broadcom DevOps Suite, you can always engage using the Code4z Slack workspace.

Important Point #8 — ISPF users see value

It’s not just for those already familiar with VS Code. While career ISPF users may be somewhat reticent, if not resistant, at first, the power of VS Code will win most of them over but it’s essential to provide them time to become familiar with it and the flexibility to adopt it when they’re comfortable. See how in this article: Confessions of a Career ISPF programmer. Bottom line: let developers choose the tool they prefer.

An analyst’s perspective can often be helpful in assessing the opportunity. IDC’s Vice President of Software Development Research Arnal Dayaratna has published an InfoBrief entitled, “Harnessing the Power of Visual Studio Code for Mainframe Development”. Download here.

Finally, don’t miss this article that goes more in-depth: From VS Code to Mainframe Developer Cockpit.

Still have an unanswered question? Contact your Broadcom Mainframe Business Specialist or request a consultation with a Modernization Advisor.

Enjoy the benefits of a truly modern developer experience!



David McNierney
Modern Mainframe

DevOps @ Broadcom #devops #zowe #zos #IBMz #mainframe #jenkins #cicd #agile #mhealth #github #vscode