Free COBOL Compilers and Interpreters

Get a free ANSI COBOL compiler and interpreter for your platform


Free COBOL Compilers and Interpreters

Learning the COBOL language? Or perhaps you're faced with the task of maintaining a program written in COBOL? This page lists free implementations of the COBOL language, whether they follow the ANSI 85 COBOL standard, ANSI 74 COBOL standard, ANSI 2002 or otherwise. COBOL, or the "COmmon Business Oriented Language", is a programming language used in the earlier days of computing to write many business (hence its name) and financial programs. It continues to be used today in certain systems. The COBOL 2002 ANSI standard added many modern programming language features to the language, including object-oriented syntax, user-defined functions, pointers, and so on.

If you need a book on COBOL, you may want to check out the selection of books available at Amazon.com.

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Free COBOL Compilers and Interpreters

COBOL12 16-bit COBOL Compiler

This is a 16-bit COBOL compiler for DOS and Windows. It supports some of the ANSI74 specifications, lacks some features like SORT and STRING, and includes other non-standard features such as the modules that allow screen output. Compiled programs use video mode 12h, a 16 colour graphical mode with a resolution of 640x480. The compiler comes with an IDE, linker, a runtime module and a reference manual.

GNU Cobol (formerly OpenCOBOL)

GNU Cobol (formerly OpenCOBOL) implements "a substantial part of the COBOL 85 and COBOL 2002" standards along with many of the vendor extensions used by other COBOL compilers (such as those by MicroFocus, IBM, MVS and BS2000). It translates the COBOL code to C, which can then be compiled using the system's native C compiler (such as the GNU C compiler on Linux systems). Platforms supported include Windows, POSIX systems such as Linux, the various BSD OSes, OpenSolaris, and Mac OS X. The compiler passes many of the tests included in the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) COBOL 85 test suite, although it does not claim conformance to any level of the COBOL suite. With the use of standard I/O redirection, you can also use the code generated by the compiler in CGI programs. It is released under the GNU licences (GPL and LGPL). At the time this is written, the compiler is available in source form only (that is, you need to compile it yourself).

COBOL for GCC

This is an attempt at creating a COBOL 85 compliant compiler for Linux and other operating systems. It generates assembler code which is passed to the GNU C compiler backend. At the time of this writing, the work is still not completed (it can only generate code for a "very small subset of COBOL"), but the source code is accessible for you to tinker with.

Tiny COBOL Compiler

This COBOL implementation intends to be compliant with COBOL 85 standard, in particular, according to their website, the ISO 1985, ISO 1989-1 (Intrinsic Function Module), ANSI X3.23-1985, ANSI X3.23a-1989 (Intrinsic Function Module), X/Open XPG3 (COBOL programming languages extensions). It has, in addition, the ability to read/write from standard input/output/error, read command line parameters, read environment variables, set a file name at runtime, and return a program exit code to the invoking process. It generates Intel x84 assembly language code, and works together with the GNU assembler to generate binaries. Platform supported: Linux. The compiler is licensed under the GNU GPL.

Cevela MX COBOL

Cevela MX COBOL implements ANSI-74 COBOL with some features from ANSI-85, namely "initialize", "end-if" and "end-perform", and ISO 1989:2002, namely the screen section. It is a Windows compiler that generates C code which can be compiled with Turbo C 2.01. It is primarily intended as a tool for learning the COBOL language.

COBOL-IT Compiler Suite

(Requires registration to download.) This COBOL compiler is based on an older version of the open source OpenCOBOL compiler (see elsewhere on this page for OpenCOBOL itself). In spite of what the site claims ("Full ANSI 85 compatibility"), it is probably not fully conformant to the ANSI 85 COBOL standard (like OpenCOBOL, on which it is based) but implements a large part of it. It compiles the source to C and then uses a C compiler to produce the native code. Probably the only reason you may want to try this compiler instead of simply downloading the more up-to-date version from OpenCOBOL is to get a precompiled version for Windows, Linux, HP-UX Itanium2 and PARisc, Sun Solaris Sparc and x86, and IBM AIX. (They do not distribute a Mac OS X version, although OpenCOBOL supports it.) The Windows version requires that you either install the Visual C 2008 Express compiler (which you can get free, legally, from the Free C/C++ Compilers and Interpreters page) or that you use their MinGW version (which comes with the MinGW version of the GNU C Compiler). The Linux versions (and probably the other Unix-based versions too) include a GUI debugger. To get the source code, you will have to request it from them by email. Since the original compiler and libraries were licensed under the GNU licences, this is also likewise licensed.

Wildcat Cobol Compiler for .NET

The Wildcat Cobol Compiler for .NET, Mono (an open source implementation of .NET) and DotGNU Portable .NET runtimes, is an open source COBOL compiler with some extensions that allow your programs to use the .NET Framework and external .NET assemblies such as NUnit. The compiler is released under the GNU GPL.

COBOL650 COBOL Compiler (no longer available)

This is an old free MSDOS COBOL compiler that comes with documentation. It is no longer supported (the author was apparently dying at the time it was released). It conforms with the ANSI COBOL-74 standard although it does not implement the sort/merge feature. It apparently generates OBJ files, so you will need a linker to generate an executable binary. You can get free linkers from the Free Assemblers, Linkers and Object Module Librarians page.

Deskware Cobol Interpreter (no longer available)

This is a very old freeware versions (version 0.001 Apha) of the Deskware COBOL interpreter. The interpreter supports a subset of the ANSI85 COBOL syntax and has some extensions. Alas, the package does not come with any documentation. The freeware version is no longer supported.

MicroFocus COBOL Net Express Personal Edition (no longer available)

(Update: MicroFocus appears to have removed the free Personal Edition.) MicroFocus COBOL Net Express Personal Edition allows you to create COBOL programs for the Windows' .NET Framework. It includes an IDE, a COBOL compiler, debugger (Animator), an object-oriented programming environment, data access via Open ESDL, and support for parts of ISO 2002 COBOL. The compiler will not compile your source code to executable files if it contains more than 2200 lines of source code (excluding comments and blank lines). To download it, click the link at the bottom of the page "product for purchase/download" (it's free, so you don't have to pay). Note that you can only use this software for "education, training [and] academic research activities".

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