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HP OpenVMS DCL Dictionary

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= (Assignment Statement)

Defines a symbolic name for a character string or integer value.


symbol-name =[=] expression

symbol-name[bit-position,size] =[=] replacement-expression


HP advises against assigning a symbolic name that is already a DCL command name. HP especially discourages the assignment of symbols such as IF, THEN, ELSE, and GOTO, which can affect the interpretation of command procedures.



Specifies a string of 1 to 255 characters for the symbol name. The name can contain any alphanumeric characters from the DEC Multinational character set, the underscore (_), and the dollar sign ($). However, the name must begin only with an alphabetic character (uppercase and lowercase characters are equivalent), an underscore, or a dollar sign. Using one equal sign (=) places the symbol name in the local symbol table for the current command level. Using two equal signs (==) places the symbol name in the global symbol table.


Names the value on the right-hand side of an assignment statement. This parameter can consist of a character string, an integer, a symbol name, a lexical function, or a combination of these entities. The components of the expression are evaluated, and the result is assigned to the symbol. All literal character strings must be enclosed in quotation marks (" "). If the expression contains a symbol, the expression is evaluated using the symbol's value.

The result of expression evaluation is either a character string or a signed integer value. If the expression is evaluated as a string, the symbol is assigned a string value. If the expression is evaluated as an integer, the symbol is assigned an integer value. If the integer value exceeds the capacity of the 4-byte buffer that holds it, no error message is issued.

For a summary of operators used in expressions, details on how to specify expressions, and details on how expressions are evaluated, refer to the OpenVMS User's Manual.

DCL uses a buffer that is 1024 bytes long to hold an assignment statement and to evaluate the expression. The length of the symbol name, the expression, and the expression's calculations cannot exceed 1024 bytes.


States that a binary overlay is to be inserted in the current 32-bit value of a symbol name. The current value of the symbol name is evaluated. Then, the specified number of bits is replaced by the result of the replacement expression. The bit position is the location relative to bit 0 at which the overlay is to occur. If the symbol you are overlaying is an integer, then the bit position must be less than 32. The sum of the bit position and the size must be less than or equal to 32.

If the symbol you are overlaying is a string, then the bit position must be less than 6152. Because each character is represented using 8 bits, you can begin an overlay at any character through the 768th character. (The 768th character starts in bit position 6144.) The sum of the bit position and the size must be less than or equal to 6152.

The size is the number of bits to be overlaid. If you specify a size that is greater than 32, DCL reduces the size to 32.

The brackets are required notation; no spaces are allowed between the symbol name and the left bracket. Specify values for the bit position and size as integers.


Specifies the value that is used to overlay the symbol you are modifying. Specify the replacement expression as an integer.

If the symbol you are modifying is an integer, the replacement expression defines a bit pattern that is overlaid on the value assigned to the symbol. If the symbol you are modifying is a character string, the result of the replacement expression defines a bit pattern that is overlaid on the specified bits of the character string. If the symbol you are modifying is undefined, the result of the replacement expression is overlaid on a null string.


Symbols defined using assignment statements allow you to extend the command language. At the interactive command level, you can use symbols to define synonyms for commands or command lines. In command procedure files, you can use symbols to provide for conditional execution and substitution of variables.

The maximum number of symbols that can be defined at any time depends on the following:

  • The amount of space available to the command interpreter to contain symbol tables and labels for the current process. The amount of space is determined for each process by the system parameter CLISYMTBL.
  • The size of the symbol names and their values. The command interpreter allocates space for a symbol name and its value. In addition, a few bytes of overhead are allocated for each symbol.




The assignment statement in this example assigns the user-defined synonym LIST as a global symbol definition for the DCL command DIRECTORY.


$ COUNT = 0
$      COUNT = COUNT + 1
$      DELETE &P'COUNT';*


This command procedure, COPYDEL.COM, appends files (specified as parameters) to a file called SAVE.ALL. After a file has been appended, the command procedure deletes the file. Up to eight file names can be passed to the command procedure. The file names are assigned to the symbols P1, P2, and so on.

The command procedure uses a counter to refer to parameters that are passed to it. Each time through the loop, the procedure uses an IF command to check whether the value of the current parameter is a null string. When the IF command is scanned, the current value of the symbol COUNT is concatenated with the letter P. The first time through the loop, the IF command tests P1; the second time through the loop it tests P2, and so on. After the expression P`COUNT' is evaluated, the substitution of the file names that correspond to P1, P2, and so on is automatic within the context of the IF command.

The APPEND and DELETE commands do not perform any substitution automatically, because they expect and require file specifications as input parameters. The ampersand (&) precedes the P`COUNT' expression for these commands to force the appropriate symbol substitution. When these commands are initially scanned each time through the loop, COUNT is substituted with its current value. Then, when the commands execute, the ampersand causes another substitution: the first file specification is substituted for P1, the second file specification is substituted for P2, and so on.

To invoke this procedure, use the following command:


The files ALAMO.TXT and BEST.DOC are each appended to the file SAVE.ALL and are then deleted.


$ A = 25
$ CODE = 4 + F$INTEGER("6") - A
  CODE = -15   HEX = FFFFFFF1   Octal = 1777761

This example contains two assignment statements. The first assignment statement assigns the value 25 to the symbol A. The second assignment statement evaluates an expression containing an integer (4), a lexical function (F$INTEGER("6")), and the symbol A. The result of the expression, --15, is assigned to the symbol CODE.




The first command in this example assigns the symbol FILENAME the value "SEARCH". Notice that the string "SEARCH" is the result of the string reduction operation performed by the expression. The second command assigns the symbol FILETYPE the character string ".OBJ".

The symbols FILENAME and FILETYPE are then added together in an expression assigned to the symbol FILESPEC. Because the values of the symbols FILENAME and FILETYPE are concatenated, the resultant value assigned to FILESPEC is the character string "SEARCH.OBJ". The symbol FILESPEC is then used as a parameter for the TYPE command. The single quotation marks (` ') request the command interpreter to replace the symbol FILESPEC with its value SEARCH.OBJ. Thus, the TYPE command types the file named SEARCH.OBJ.


$ BELL[0,32] = %X07
  BELL = ""

In this example, the symbol BELL is created with an arithmetic overlay assignment statement. Because the symbol BELL is previously undefined, the hexadecimal value 7 is inserted over a null character string and is interpreted as the ASCII code for the bell character on a terminal. When you issue the command SHOW SYMBOL BELL, the terminal beeps.

If the symbol BELL had been previously defined with an integer value, the result of displaying BELL would have been to show its new integer value.


$ $=34
%DCL-W-NOCOMD, no command on line - reenter with alphabetic first
$ $$=34
%DCL-W-UNDSYM, undefined symbol - check validity and spelling
$ = 34   Hex = 00000022  Octal = 00000000042


If you begin a symbol name with the dollar sign ($), use two dollar signs ($$) because DCL discards the first instance of the dollar sign.

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