User Tools

Site Tools



“HELP is your friend.” We say that often to new students here at PARSEC VMS classes.

The DCL HELP facility and command have long been recognized as essential, both for the novice user and the experienced VMS guru alike. Bespoken help libraries are available not only to cover the essential DCL commands themselves, but also for specific utility programs such as (VMS) MAIL and PHONE, and for system administration tools such as SYSGEN, SYSMAN, TCPIP, AUTHORIZE and more. For these latter, a built-in utility HELP command gives access to that utility's command help-text. For example:


For general DCL use, the HELP command is essential – For example, try (in your logged-in VMS session):

$ HELP                ! access to the whole DCL HELP facility, including an overview of topics

$ HELP HELP           ! getting started with HELP

$ HELP INSTRUCTIONS   ! how to use HELP (details)

$ HELP HINTS          ! useful tips on getting the most out of HELP topics

Of course, to get help on a specific DCL command, for instance on the COPY command, use:


Within HELP's overview of topics, any topic which appears in all UPPERCASE is a DCL command verb; topics in Mixed/lower case are concept topics, such as Filespec and Errors (both of which you should review).

The essential DCL file management commands include COPY, CREATE, DELETE, DIRECTORY, RENAME, PURGE and SET FILE – you can look up each of these in the HELP facility (see example above).

Other very handy commands include PIPE, READ, RECALL, SEARCH, TYPE and WRITE.

Also, look at the HELP entries for Filespec, Line_editing, (file) Protection, Security, Integer, String and Expression.

If you are a software developer/programmer, see the HELP entries for BASIC, CC/CXX, COBOL, FORTRAN, PASCAL, LINK, DEBUG and RUN. And both programmers and sysadmins should see EDIT and LSEDIT for details about text editing. These lists of commands are not comprehensive – there's lots more to explore, depending on your needs.

Both programmers and sysadmins often need to look up the details of the so-called “DCL Lexical Functions”, but if you want help on, say, the F$CVTIME function, this won't work:

Sorry, no documentation on F$CVTIME

Instead, you'll have to remember that all of these lexical functions are sub-topics under HELP's Lexicals topic, so use:


(you could abbreviate LEXICAL to just LEX). Also, see the wiki article DCL Lexical Functions for much more information about DCL lexicals.

A special function of DCL HELP is the HELP /MESSAGE command, which you should become familiar with to solve specific command syntax and operational problems.

getting_help.txt · Last modified: 2018/11/21 21:46 by lricker

Donate Powered by PHP Valid HTML5 Valid CSS Driven by DokuWiki