Use JavaScript for Leading Edge User Experiences on Your IBM i

DevelopmentModernizationOpen Source


A popular myth surrounding the IBM i is that its user interface is limited to green screen 5250 displays. It’s NOT! You can build the most modern, functional, easy-to-use user experiences using JavaScript running natively on IBM i.

According to statistics from GitHub, JavaScript is currently the most used language for building applications stored in GitHub repositories (as it has been for several years). (There are currently over 100 million repositories stored on GitHub.) People choose JavaScript because it is incredibly fast and easy to build the latest applications using it. Its wide adoption makes it easy to find skilled developers.

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Year by Year Rankings of Contributions to GitHub projects by Language. The rapid growth in TypeScript (a strictly typed version of JavaScript) is a sign that users are adopting JavaScript for mission critical enterprise applications.

Unfortunately, one of the mistakes people make is they attempt to force JavaScript to work like RPG. They end up building proprietary JavaScript using tools and techniques that are unfamiliar to JavaScript programmers. This simply increases the learning curve for the vast majority of JavaScript programmers and makes them more resistant to working with the IBM i. The better approach is to ensure the IBM i looks to the JavaScript programmer like any other resource. IBM and third parties provide a wide variety of connectors to the IBM i making this easy.

The biggest advantage of using JavaScript is that developers using JavaScript are busy creating open source, reusable components that can be shared. That means you can rapidly build applications by assembling preexisting components rather than writing your code from scratch. For example, when developing the Cloud connector for IBM i, we were able to use pre-built connectors to Cloud providers like Amazon, Microsoft and IBM Cloud Object Storage. We constructed both a green screen version of the product and a JavaScript version. While the green screen version took several months to develop from scratch, we were able to assemble and test the initial JavaScript version in just a few days.

All those JavaScript developers constantly update their components. That means you can get support for the latest technological changes and potential security vulnerabilities just by downloading the latest version of the component. Since your application might have hundreds or even thousands of these components, keeping them up-to-date can be a challenge. However, JavaScript even makes that relatively painless. JavaScript on the IBM i provides package managers like RPM (Redhat Package Manager) or Node’s NPM (Node Package Manager) for keeping your components up to date. Once you have set up the package manager, it can automatically download the latest version of the components as they become available.

To learn more about using JavaScript on your IBM i, contact us about our JavaScript quick start training programs.

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