What is the standard way to debug Julia?

Hi all!

Sorry for the noobish question (borderline between Tooling and General usage). I needed to debug a piece of Julia code yesterday, so I checked online what was the official debugger. I was surprised to find there isn’t one; or better, there are different packages (third-party-ish) used to accomplished debugging. Since the documentation I found is a bit dated, and IIUC debugging is a topic actively developed in Julia, I wanted to ask you what is the updated situation, as of late 2022.

  1. what is the standard way to debug in Julia? What are the differences between the various packages?

For what I understood:

  • Debugger.jl is the most complete and “standard-interface” debugger. It provides usual commands (a-la-GDB), suffers from poor performance, and it’s the one used by VSCode and Juno. This is the “official” Julia debugger
  • Infiltrate.jl is used to quickly inspect the state of the program at a given point, but can do only that (no stepping, evaluation, watching, breakpoints)
  • Rebugger.jl is basically dead

… how many did I manage to get wrong? :sweat_smile:

  1. Also, naive question, if Julia is using LLVM, can’t LLDB be used to debug?



You are pretty much correct. And yes, you can use gdb or lldb or rr to debug julia as well, and they play reasonably well with JIT code, though it’s that easy to parse what’s going on from these debuggers if you don’t know what’s going.

1 Like

Using VSCode, Debugger.jl is reasonably fast in my experience. The trick is to make sure that packages you don’t plan to need to step into are running in compiled mode. Often this just means that Base should be run in compiled mode (which is true by default). In practice just having base in compiled mode seems to be sufficiently fast. (In the past Base was not run in compiled mode by default, and if you use Debugger.jl outside of VScode I think this is still the case, but haven’t checked recently). But it can also be good to mark large well used and supported packed as being in compiled mode.

In spite of that, I often find myself just using Infiltrator since it is easy to use and suffices for many purposes, especially with @exfiltrate. This is a better interface I’d you want to mess around a lot with things in the REPL.

Many times I will often just use @debug or @show, that can work better for debugging, e.g. when evaluating an algorithms data flow.


Thanks to both!

To @gbaraldi : sorry, did you mean that LLDB output is not easy to parse?

To @haberdashPI thanks for your suggestions. The documentation of Debugger unfortunately is not very clear: can you tell me how can I turn on compiled mode only for specific modules?

Yeah :smile: . It’s not anything out of the ordinary, but knowing a bit of julia internals will go a long way if you want to use it. I wouldn’t use it for debugging normal julia code though.

1 Like

Got it, thanks! :+1:

In VSCode, you need to do F5 Start Debugging, then in the bottom of the Run and Debug panel, a subpanel called “Julia: Compiled Code” appears.

In the latest version, it seems all code is compiled by default. You need to explicitly set modules you want to step through as interpreted. Click + button in the Julia subpanel, and prefix your module name with -.

There does seem to lack a central source for the most common way to debug. The tools are changing all the time.

1 Like

Thanks! But actually I am not currently using VSCode. When using another editor/CLI, when you say “explicitly set the modules to be interpreted” are you referring to the @enter macro, or to something else?

At the bottom of the Debugger.jl readme, you will see this section, describing how to turn on compiled mode.

Compiled mode

In order to fully support breakpoints, the debugger interprets all code, even code that is stepped over. Currently, there are cases where the interpreter is too slow for this to be feasible. A workaround is to use “compiled mode” which is toggled by pressing C in the debug REPL mode (note the change of prompt color). When using compiled mode, code that is stepped over will be executed by the normal julia compiler and run just as fast as normally. The drawback is of course that breakpoints in code that is stepped over are missed.

1 Like