cobol GnuCOBOL installation with GNU/Linux GNU/Linux install


For most GNU/Linux distributions, a version of GnuCOBOL is available in the repositories. GnuCOBOL was originally OpenCOBOL, rebranded when the project became an official GNU project. Many repositories are still using open-cobol as the package name (as of August 2016).

For Fedora, and other RPM based package managers

sudo yum install open-cobol

For Debian, Ubuntu and APT based packages

sudo apt install open-cobol

This is usually version 1.1 of the compiler suite, and will deal with the compile time and runtime dependencies required when using GnuCOBOL.

From source, (hosted on SourceForge at you will need.

  • A C compiler suite; build-essential (or similar)
  • BerkeleyDB and BerkelyDB development headers; libdb, libdb-dev (or similar names)
  • GNU Multi-Precision numeric library; libgmp, libgmp-dev
  • A version of curses; ncurses, ncurses-dev
  • The source kit, gnucobol-1.1.tar.gz (or better, gnucobol-2.0.tar.gz)
  • (For changing the compiler sources, GNU Autoconf tools are also required).

From a working directory, of your choice:

prompt$ tar xvf gnucobol.tar.gz
prompt$ cd gnucobol

To see the possible configuration options, use:

prompt$ ./configure --help


prompt$ ./configure
prompt$ make

Assuming dependencies are in place and the build succeeds, verify the pre-install with

prompt$ make check


prompt$ make checkall

That runs internal checks of the compiler (make check) and optionally runs tests against the NIST COBOL85 verification suite (make checkall). Version 1.1 of OpenCOBOL covers some 9100 NIST tests, recent versions cover more than 9700 test passes. The NIST COBOL85 testsuite is no longer maintained, but is a very comprehensive and respectable set of tests. COBOL is highly backward compatible, by design intent, but new COBOL 2002 and COBOL 2014 features are not part of the NIST verification suite.

The internal checks cover some 500 tests and sample code compiles.

If all is well, the last step is

prompt$ sudo make install

Or, for systems without sudo, become the root user for make install or use a ./configure prefix that does not require super user permissions. The default prefix for source builds is /usr/local.

If more than one build has occurred on the machine, and local libraries are re-installed, this needs to be followed up with

prompt$ sudo ldconfig

To ensure that the linker loader ld cache is properly refreshed to match the new compiler install.

cobc will be ready for use.

cobc --help for quick help, info open-cobol (or info gnucobol) for deeper help, and visit for links to the Programmer's Guide and a 1200+ page FAQ document.

Installation problems, issues or general questions can be posted to the GnuCOBOL project space, in the Help getting started Discussion pages on SourceForge.