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

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Free COBOL Compilers and Interpreters

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).


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.

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.

Tiny COBOL Compiler

(Update: this project is no longer being updated.) 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.

Micro Focus Visual COBOL Personal Edition

Micro Focus Visual COBOL Personal Edition has two versions: the Visual Studio one allows you to create COBOL programs that run under either the .NET Framework, and the Eclipse version generates code for a Java Virtual Machine. Note that although it is listed on this page alongside other free COBOL compilers, it is actually only a 1 year trial. You have to register with them (giving them your name and contact details) for a 365-day student licence. Nonetheless, I'm listing it here because their site says that when your trial expires, you can just re-register again for another trial licence. Be sure to read their licence agreement to find out what you are allowed to use the product for; I was unable to access that document at the time I wrote this (the link was broken). Platforms supported include Windows and Linux.

COBOL12 16-bit COBOL Compiler (no longer available)

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.

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.

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