A simple debugger feature that I would really like

March 31, 2007

Following up on my earlier thoughts about print based debugging, here's an easy debugger feature that would make my life much better (and make me more inclined to actually use debuggers):

Provide a way to record things that doesn't show them to me until I ask for them.

I'm not actually interested in reading the things that I print out, not right away; I'm just collecting the information so that I can look back in time at the program's state once the bug strikes. The only reason I'm printing things out is that this is the only decent way debuggers give me to dump information for later perusal.

Thus, hiding the stuff that I want to record until I actually ask for it is a big net win, because it avoids drowning me in output that I'm just going to ignore until later anyways. As a bonus the debugger would probably run faster because it doesn't have to display and scroll all that text.

This more or less requires a graphical debugger with some sort of scrollback buffer, but it should be an easy feature to implement. Pretty much everything has a 'print something at a breakpoint' feature, and once you have a scrollback buffer it ought to be relatively trivial to insert content into the scrollback area without actually putting it on the screen.

A debugger would get bonus points for making the record searchable, and more bonus points for being able to directly snapshot the state of variables and the like rather than just saving text output. (This might also make the data take up less memory. You do want to provide for journaling text, since sometimes that's the best way summarizing some bit of state.)

Written on 31 March 2007.
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Last modified: Sat Mar 31 01:39:35 2007
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