I have been in the software industry for more than five years. I have worked with many different types of programmers. The most common attribute of any good programmer is their ability to debug code.
A debugger is the true friend of any programmer, and it can tell them what is happening behind the scenes. It is crucial to master debugging skills as it helps to solve problems.
In computer science, a debugger is a computer program used to run the target program under controlled conditions that permit the programmer to track its operations in progress. It monitors changes in computer resources that may indicate malfunctioning code.
A bug-free application is a myth.
By using a debugger efficiently, we can reduce the probability of defects. Also, we can quickly detect the issues raised by the QA in the code. Every programmer needs to find and fix bugs. It is all part of the process of being a programmer.
A good programmer always tries to improve the debugging skills that make them better. In this article, I am going to share steps that will help to improve your debugging skills.
Let us get started.
1. Reproduce the Bug Before Changing the Code
There have been times when QA raised bugs in my story that were not reproducible. It is not that they were lying about it, but rather, it was something different.
Sometimes they might be trying to test something that is not in the scope of your development. It can also be due to the test data they were trying. I have faced issues because of environment settings that were different in dev and QA.
It is always a better approach to first replicate the scenario in your local system before code changes. If you cannot replicate it, you cannot change it.
2. Deal With Stack Traces
Long, messy stack traces are nightmares for any programmer. But the ability to deep dive into stack traces to find the actual culprit code is the real skill.
Most of the bugs often have a stack trace. You need to read and understand from the bottom to the top of the stack trace to find the actual root cause. This will save you a lot of time in finding the code causing the bug.
Many times, you can find the generic stack traces. It can be quickly Googled to understand and resolve the problem. That is how many good programmers save themselves the effort.
Look in the stack trace that last touched your code. It will not point you to the exact line where the issue is occurring, but it will give you a fair idea of where to fix it.
3. Do not Make Assumptions on Breakpoints
Sometimes, programmers make assumptions about where the issue resides in the code. They make breakpoints based on their understanding without further analyzing the impacted code.
This sometimes results in wrong code changes. Also, the fix might break some other existing functionality. That is why it is important to add breakpoints wherever that functionality touches in the code.
It gives you proper insight into where all changes are required to handle the functionality. You do not want to end up creating a new bug while fixing the existing one.
4. Learn From Logs
Every enterprise application has a logging system. Initially, I never used logs to find the issue, but it is a good place to start. A good logging mechanism can save developers time for troubleshooting.
Always start your investigation by looking at the logs. It can give you a place to look for the issue. Logging is important for making your whole application robust.
Check for exceptions/errors in the recent log files to extract the information about the error-causing module. Good programmers know how to use logs to their benefit. It guides them and helps them find the issue.
5. Go Back in Time
I am not actually asking you to do that in real life. Thanks to version controls, we can do that in our code base.
Compare with the last changes and look up until things were working fine. It can give you a closer look at the code changes that might have caused the issue. If you are writing new functionality, the easiest way to find the bug is to go back to the last version of the code that worked.
Add your new changes a bit at a time until it does not work anymore. It can give you the real culprit. This is the easiest way to backtrack any problem in the code.
6. Final Thoughts
Debugging is a prerequisite skill of any programmer. Developing your debugging skills makes you a better programmer. It is your best buddy that can tell you what is happening in the code.
In summation, by keeping the below-mentioned things in mind, you can improve your debugging skills to become a better programmer:
- Always reproduce the bug before changing anything in the code.
- Learn how to understand stack traces.
- Know the impact of your change. Do not create a new bug while fixing the existing one.
- Logs can guide you to find the issue in the code.
- Compare your code to the time things were working fine. Backtrack your problem by narrowing down the suspected code.
These simple techniques can effectively improve your debugging skills. They will help you become better at understanding the code.
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Source: By Shubham Pathania