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Using Debugger Configuration files

Andy Kramek has a great post explaining Form Event Sequences in VFP and while reading it, I was also debugging a piece of code in which I had the fortune (or misfortune) to use the Track Events feature in the Debugger. (what do the two have in common? You can actually see the Form Event Sequences very easily by using the Track Events feature).

Track Events is one of those features that doesn't appear useful until you actually need to use it. The big problem is that you have to spend quite a bit of time either a) selecting each event you want to track OR b) selecting all and then removing the events you don't need to track.

Some basic events whose tracking simply takes up space and I almost always turn off:
Paint
MouseMove
MouseEnter
MouseLeave

One feature that I don't see used that often by other developers is the ability to save the Debug configurations. The debugger typically retains all of the settings from the previous session so why would you need to save a separate configuration, right?

The Debug configuration saves all aspects of your debug environment: your breakpoints, your event tracking and your watch window. But when you're in the heat of development, you may find yourself creating so many breakpoints or watch items that it's hard to keep track of. Here are some reasons you may want to save it:

1) You work on multiple projects (clients?) and want to retain a particular debugging environment for one client while using another for a different client

2) You want to maintain different configurations for different types of debugging sessions (looking for events, waiting for click and valid events, etc).

3) You are working on a particular problem and have to step away for a minute.

So what's in a configuration file?

Debug configuration files have a DBG extension and are simply text files that can be easily parsed or created on the fly. Here's a sample:

DBGCFGVERSION=4
WATCH=llreporun
WATCH=PROGRAM()
BPMESSAGE=ON

BREAKPOINT BEGIN
TYPE=3
CLASS=    
LINE=0
EXPR=fl_btnok
DISABLED=0
EXACT=0
BREAKPOINT END

BREAKPOINT BEGIN
TYPE=0
FILE=c:\health\illcheck.prg
LINE=51
DISABLED=0
EXACT=0
BREAKPOINT END

BREAKPOINT END

EVENTWINDOW=ON
EVENTFILE=
EVENTLIST BEGIN
Load, RightClick, Valid, When
EVENTLIST END

The DBGCFGVERSION is important. VFP 9 won't load any files that have a value of 4.

The first part is the WATCH area, followed by the BREAKPOINTS.
The Breakpoint type is evaluated as:
0 - Break at location
1 - Break at location if expression is true
2 - Break when expression is true
3 - Break when expression has changed

If you use the Pass setting, it also adds a PASS=xxx setting within the BREAKPOINT area.

One thing that DOESN't get saved in the DBG file is what debug windows were open. Also note that if you choose Restore to Default from the Window menu, it doesn't just restore the windows to their default position, it clears out all of the settings as well - another reason to save your commonly used debug configurations for future use.

How do you use the debug configuration files?

Comments

Rick Schummer said…
One of my favorite things to do with the Debug Config file is to sort the Watches. I have wished Microsoft would add new watches to the top of the list so I don't have to scroll down to see the newest one. If you save the Debug Config you can rearrange the Watches in the text file, and reload. Now the watches are in the sequence I prefer.
Andrew MacNeill said…
Great idea.

Almost wish we had extensibility in the debugger for some of these things but I imagine you could build it into your project manager or a separate sub menu
Tamar E. Granor said…
Just want to point out that combining Event Tracking with the DEBUGOUT command can be incredibly useful. It lets you see what's firing and get information about what's going on inside those (or other) methods.

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