Should a Mainframe IBM MQ Administrator be GUI Oriented (or – why is it important to have third party administrative tools)?

There are several tools that are used to simplify mainframe research and analysis of that complex environment.  Most of them are green screen based and require knowledge of z/OS ISPF panels and arcane command syntax, that once familiar to a z/OS Systems Programmer, can become second nature.  But in today’s integrated IT world, z/OS system programmers aren’t the only people who need access to research, test, and analyze in the z/OS environment. Application and Systems Developers, Integration Engineers, Business Analysts, and a myriad of other IT professionals do too. To these new-to-Z/OS IT professionals, the interface into z/OS is just that – arcane and uninviting.

Having grown up in a world of mouse clicks and drag-n-drop editing, the emulators used to simulate the 80-column green screen interface are anathema to these younger IT professionals.  These emulators are constrained by just the interface itself – a 24 line by 80 column view.  There is also a 32-line, 80 column view option that offers one significant advantage – it allows the display of the function keys and what each function key does at all times.  For new learners of z/OS that is a very significant advantage.  But as always there is a price to pay for those 32 lines and in this case you give up the 132 column view when you are looking at printed output (which includes generated reports as well as system logs etc.)  In the 24-line mode, the switch to 132 column view is automatic when you flip to screens that contain that type of output, but you better know your function keys because their usage is not visible anymore.  That switch in and of itself is somewhat annoying, but it does help to see the entire line across the screen (there is no scroll bar to just scroll right/left, or up/down).  This does make the copy/paste functions easier.  The lack of the 132-column display in 32 line mode seems to be a joy killer for most seasoned mainframe personnel.  Lastly, you cannot easily switch between the 24 line and 32-line views as it requires a separate emulator session to invoke those settings.