We just released the first build from the v0.15 series of the VS Code Julia extension to the marketplace. The main new feature in this release is an experimental debugger. The rest of this post will describe what debugging features we support.
Before I do that, I need to stress though that this really is at best an experimental version of the debugger. Sometimes it works great, but sometimes it doesn’t. Often it is too slow to be very useful. There are situations when it doesn’t really do what you want it to do. I do encourage you to try it out, but at this point the experience is not comparable to the smooth debugging experience that you get for other languages in VS Code.
With these caveats out of the way, here is what we do have. I’ll structure this post as a walk through example, followed by descriptions of some specific features. As such it won’t be complete, but you can get a lot more tips and ideas on how to use the debugger by reading through the debugger documentation for VS Code itself.
Lets assume you have a simple project with one Julia file open in VS Code:
First you should click on the button for the
Run view. You will now see the default debugger start panel:
If you just click on
Run and Debug (or press F5), the current active Julia file will run in the debugger. Output will be shown in a special Julia Debug terminal:
In this example the whole program ran through in one go and finished without any problem. Lets make this example a bit more useful by setting a breakpoint on line 11. We do this by simple clicking with the mouse in the left most column of the code editor:
The red dot shows us that we have now set a breakpoint. Next we start the program again (either by clicking on
Run and Debug or pressing F5). When the program reaches line 11, it will now pause:
The yellow line shows us the location that we will execute next if we continue to run the program. We can also see where we are in the call stack and a list of all breakpoints. At the top of the text editor we now see a toolbar with commands for common debug actions:
Step Out etc. Lets click once on
Step Over and then
Step Into. We are now paused on the first line of the
Variables view now shows us what local variables we have in this function and what their current values are. As we step through the program, and eventually reach the end of the
bar function, the list of local variables gets longer, i.e. we now also see the values for
Let us set another breakpoint on line 15 and then continue the program until it hits that breakpoint. Then we click on
Debug Console and see a view like this:
In this view we can evaluate arbitrary Julia code in the context of the current function. For example, we can compute the log of
x by running
We can also change the value of any local variable while the program is paused. For example, to change the value of
x, we can double click in the
Variables section on the value
27 next to
x and then enter any arbitrary Julia expression. The value this expression returns will become the new value for the variable
x. In the following example I changed the value of
x to a string:
This concludes the very basic walk through. I’ll now want to highlight some other features.
Ways to start the debugger
There are two basic ways to start the debugger. The first you already learned in the walk through: you run a Julia file in the debugger. The second allows you to debug code in the interactive REPL.
Running Julia files
In our example we started the currently active Julia file in the debugger. This is the most basic way to start debugging, but there are many more options that you can configure in a VS Code
launch.json file. Examples include setting a fixed Julia file as the startup file, configuring command line arguments etc. The
launch.json functionality is described in more detail in the VS Code debugger documentation.
Debugging code from the REPL
You can also start the debugger from the REPL. In that situation the debugger will attach to the already running REPL. To start such a debug session you use two macros in the REPL: the
@run macro. Both are very simple: they will start the debugger on the code that was passed to the macro. The
@run macro will run the code until a breakpoint is hit, while the
@enter macro will pause the debugger on the first line of the code. For example, you can start debugging the
println function from the REPL by entering
You already learned how you can easily set breakpoints in the source code itself. There are two more options for breakpoints: function breakpoints and condition on breakpoints.
If you click on the little
+ sign in the
BREKPOINTS view, you can add a function breakpoint. Simply enter the name of the function you want to break on. You can also configure it to only break on specific methods by specifying a signature a la
If you click with the right mouse onto a breakpoint in the editor, you can select an option
Edit breakpoint..., and then you can add a condition on the breakpoint. You can enter any valid Julia expression that returns a
Bool value here. You have of course full access to all local variables in this expression.
Composite variables, arrays and dictionaries have full tree drill down support in the variables viewer:
The watch section allows you to enter arbitrary Julia expressions that are evaluated whenever the program pauses and the result is shown:
The call stack section allows you to look at the content of any stack frame, i.e. when you click on a different function there it will show the local variables for the selected stack frame. You can also restart code execution at any stack frame by clicking the small restart icon next to a given entry here:
Note that this last feature can be quite brittle, in particular if your functions modify any global state.
If your code throws an exception, you get a nice exception view:
You can also configure the behavior of the debugger in the face of exceptions in the
BREAKPOINTS part of the UI.
The breakpoints view has another option called
Enable compile mode:
The functionality of this option is the following: if you select this option, breakpoints that are set in any function that is called from the current stack frame will no longer pause code execution. In our example, if you have paused in function
foo and then select this option, a breakpoint in
bar would no longer pause execution. Breakpoints in
foo would still pause the debugger. Why would you ever want to use this feature? Your code will run a lot faster with this option enabled.
We hope you find this new debugger UI useful! Please do let us know about any issues problems you encounter over at the https://github.com/julia-vscode/julia-vscode repository.
This feature is completely based on the awesome https://github.com/JuliaDebug/JuliaInterpreter.jl package. We really only provide a UI front end, the actual debugger functionality all comes from that package. Thanks @tim.holy and @kristoffer.carlsson!