Operating Systems

This fourth article in our ISPF Power Tools series examines primary commands that aren’t restricted to a specific display screen. Primary commands are commands issued from the command, option or action line that appear at the top or bottom of ISPF displays. Please try these commands for yourself and also review the three previous articles covering:

Line commands for data set list displays
Primary commands specific to data set list displays (in the Winter 2012-13 issue of Enterprise Tech Journal).


The ISPF default setting, KEYLIST ON, gives you multiple sets of user-modifiable function keys. Each keylist is associated with one or more ISPF screens. This lets you set custom keys for specific applications. For example, you may want a key on the primary option menu that invokes a data set list and starts a second dialog (split screen) with SDSF for viewing your Job Control Language (JCL) job outputs. Under the ISPF editor, you may want an undo key to take advantage of the editor’s unlimited undo capability. With KEYLIST ON, these are two separate keylists and you can assign the F4 key on each keylist to issue the appropriate commands. When KEYLIST OFF is set, there’s only one set of 12 or 24 function keys used for all screens. This limits the number of custom keys.

Tool tip: The ZKEYS command always displays the standard 12 or 24 function keys used when a keylist isn’t assigned to the screen or when KEYLIST OFF is in effect. You can also set the number of keys (12 or 24) on the ZKEYS display. Remember that the command KEYS will always display the key settings for the screen where the command is issued, regardless of the KEYLIST setting.


The PFSHOW command has been an ISPF standard a long time. It has the options PFSHOW ON, PFSHOW OFF and PFSHOW TAILOR. This determines which keys, if any, are to be displayed at the bottom of the ISPF screen. When ISPF version 4 made KEYLIST ON a default, the Function Key Area (FKA) command was also introduced. It has the options FKA ON, FKA OFF and FKA SHORT. The first two options are the same for both commands, but the FKA SHORT command uses the format field of a keylist to display only those keys marked SHORT in the field.

Tool tip: The format field for a keylist definition accepts S for short, L for long and N for no. Short format keys will display whenever the function keys are displayed. Long format keys will display for PFSHOW ON or FKA ON. “No” format keys will never be displayed.


Long-time ISPF users will recognize the RETRIEVE command as the old standard F12 key, which retrieves commands from the ISPF command buffer. Each RETRIEVE command moves backward through the buffer from the last command issued to the oldest command buffered for this ISPF session. When the oldest command is displayed, the RETRIEVE automatically reverts to the newest command in the buffer.

The CURSOR command sends the cursor to the command line regardless of the command line position on the screen. Under ISPF option 0 (zero), you may set the command line to the top or bottom of the screen.

The CRETRIEV is a combination CURSOR and RETRIEVE command. If the cursor isn’t on the command line, CRETRIEV acts as a CURSOR command. When the cursor is on the command line, CRETRIEVE acts as a RETRIEVE command.

ISPF can store up to 25 commands in the buffer at any given time. The RETP command displays the contents of the buffer and lets you retrieve a specific command by number (see Figure 1).

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