Useful Debugging Tips For Developers

Programming may be a roller coaster of emotions. There will be times when everything goes smoothly, and the code just flows out of your fingertips, compiling and running exactly as it should. However, there will always be times when your program fails to accomplish what you expect it to do and the fault is difficult to locate. You came across a bug.

When your program breaks, you can generally read the stack trace and determine which line of code caused the problem. Those are frequently trivial errors with simple solutions. However, things get a lot more complicated if your software does operate, but not in the way you want it to, such as returning an incorrect calculation result or running something at the wrong time.

When you’re stuck like this, it can seem hard to just sit there and try to figure it out with your mind alone. Fortunately, there are some other options for solving these real-world puzzles, some of which are rather unusual. If you still can’t locate the problem, try the following steps to become unstuck:

Fix one problem at a time

If a piece of code is exceptionally terrible, you may see more issues while you work to fix the original. In this instance, it’s critical to decide which problem to handle first and to focus solely on that topic. In an ideal world, you would address one bug first, then verify your code into version control, and so on. This makes it simple to determine which modification of code caused which change in behavior at a later time, which is critical when a fix for one problem turns out to break something else.

It’s quite easy to disregard this piece of advice, and I’ve done so many times in the past – and paid the price. This is frequently combined with the preceding issue, in which you are unsure exactly what a piece of code is supposed to achieve. It’s a risky scenario and one that should prompt you to be extra cautious while making modifications rather than lazily chopping away. Once when I was in the middle of just such a mammoth debugging session, a good friend compared my approach to taking great big swords and slashing through a jungle of problems, with his favored approach being a more surgical one, delicately changing the code just enough to sort out the problem he was looking at, without trying to fix the world in the process. He was absolutely right, which is no doubt a reason for one of his projects PuTTY being so widely used. High-quality code doesn`t happen by accident it takes patience and precision.

Consider the bigger picture

Problems often occur in groups. For example, if in one situation someone decides that user input is not properly escaped/encoded, the same problem can occur elsewhere. A quick one-pass review of potential bugs is much cheaper than throwing each bug as a separate issue and may do the same research that different developers have just done. As with the, consider other implications that the fix may have. Does it cause problems elsewhere that may not be fixed in the short term? Will it affect patching or upgrades? Is it a large fix for this point in your product lifecycle? It’s almost always worth getting to the bottom of what a problem is, but sometimes the safe thing to do is leave the code broken possibly with a “bandaid” type of fix that addresses the symptoms but not the cause but leaves the full fix for the next release.

Take a break

Taking a break can be wondering when you are stuck. I don’t know exactly what’s happening in my brain when I’m away from the problem, but I know the subconscious is still working behind the scenes. And this background processing can lead to insights that may seem incomprehensible while actively trying to solve the problem. This sudden phenomenon of enlightenment is the “Eureka effect” or “Aha! Wait” and I’m sure you have experienced it before. However, to gain these spontaneous insights, you need to be proactive in addressing the issue first, so don’t stop as soon as you don’t understand something.

find solution online

Most of the time the solution that we need is one search away online. Therefore if you are stuck with the problem that you are currently dealing with, chances are others already encountered it as well. So might as well do yourself some favor and search for the same problem online because in most cases it is available online. Remember, you don’t have to figured it out all by yourself.

Collaborate and involve other people

Debugging is difficult. I have the utmost respect for those who do their day-to-day work to fix other people’s code rather than writing the code themselves. It can be a bit depressing, and working in a swamp of poorly documented code can very easily lead to physical fatigue. Consider this: If you’re stuck, take a break, go for a walk, have coffee, a candy bar, whatever helps you. Don’t be shy if you need to involve someone else when you think action is impossible, or if you don’t know where to look. Observe what others are doing to learn from them and talk to them when they appear to be approaching the dead-end you have already seen. (If so, reviewing it again may still be productive. You may have missed something, but at least you should let them know that it doesn’t help.)

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