Numeric Literals

A numeric literal is a character string selected from the digits, the plus sign, the minus sign, and the decimal point. Numeric literals may contain up to 18 digits. This increases to 31 digits if 31-digit support (-Dd31) is in effect.

The following rules govern the formation of numeric literals:

If a literal conforms to the rules for formation of a numeric literal, but is enclosed in quotation marks, it is a nonnumeric literal.

Numeric literals may also be specified using binary, octal, or hexadecimal notation. To specify a numeric literal in one of these forms, preface the number with one of the following prefixes:

Binary "B#"
Octal "O#"

"%" is accepted in HP COBOL compatibility mode (-Cp)

Hexadecimal “X#” or “H#”

For example:

Number Binary Octal Hexadecimal
3 B#11 O#3 X#3 or H#3
8 B#1000 O#10 X#8 or H#8
12 B#1100 O#14 X#C or H#C
128 B#10000000 O#200 X#80 or H#80
255 B#11111111 O#377 X#FF or H#FF

Leading zeroes after the # are ignored. For example, X#00FF and X#FF are equivalent.

The Compiler converts each numeric literal specified in this way to an unsigned long integer. In most cases, this is a 32-bit unsigned number, so the maximum value of a numeric literal that can specified with this notation is 4294967295, or (2**32) -1.

LENGTH OF expression

The LENGTH OF expression can be used anywhere you would use a numeric literal, except as a subscript or reference modifier. The Compiler treats this expression as if you have coded a numeric literal. The LENGTH OF expression is written as follows:

LENGTH OF data-name

data-name can be a numeric or nonnumeric literal or the name of a data item of any type. Data-name may include subscripts if it refers to a table item. The Compiler calculates the value of the LENGTH OF expression and replaces it with a numeric literal equivalent to the current number of bytes of storage used by the data item or literal referenced in LENGTH OF. For example:

77 my-item PIC x(10).
78 my-item-length value LENGTH OF my-item.


77 my-item PIC x(10).
78 my-item-length value 10.

The LENGTH OF expression can also be used in the procedure division as demonstrated in this example:

01 my-data.
   03 my-table occurs 20 times.
      05 my-element-1 pic x(10).
   05 my-element-2 pic 99.

MOVE LENGTH OF my-element-1 TO data-size.
MOVE LENGTH OF my-table TO data-size.
MOVE LENGTH OF my-table(1) TO data-size.

In this example the Compiler treats the first MOVE as MOVE 10 TO data-size, the second MOVE as MOVE 240 TO data-size, and the third MOVE as MOVE 12 TO data-size.

Note: This expression (when used on a table) works differently in ACUCOBOL-GT than in other COBOL Compilers, such as IBM Enterprise COBOL. ACUCOBOL-GT returns the size of the entire table, while IBM returns the size of a single element of the table. You can use the IBM method by compiling the program with -Cv, which turns on the Compiler’s IBM compatibility mode. See Compatibility Options for details on the -Cv Compiler option.

Floating-Point Literals

  1. A floating-point literal has the following format:
    [ + ] k.m { E } [ + ] n
    [ - ]     { e } [ - ]

    In the above:

    • k.m represents a number with at least one digit.
    • n represents one or more digits.
    • If the functions of the decimal point and comma are switched with DECIMAL IS COMMA, then k.m will be k,m.

    Here are a few examples of floating-point numbers:

  2. Floating-point literals in the Procedure Division are stored internally as USAGE DOUBLE.
  3. The legal range of floating-point values is determined by the target machine. If you express a literal that is out of range for a particular machine, the runtime reports a warning message and substitutes the closest boundary value--either zero or the maximum floating-point value for the machine.
  4. On some computers, floating-point computations may give imprecise results. This is a hardware limitation; some floating point numbers cannot be precisely represented on some machines.