What is debugging? It’s the process of finding and fixing eros in the code of your software. Usually, it’s initiated when a particular element of the software does not run properly, especially when testing a given program. In this article, we will focus on debugging in practice, go through the most common errors found in this process, and present the most common code debugging strategies. If this interests you, then feel invited to read on!
Firstly, let’s look at the definition of debugging. According to Margaret Rouse, this is “the process of locating and removing coding mistakes in computer programs.” (2022)
Matt Heusser describes it in more detail, defining debugging as “a multistep process that involves identifying a problem, isolating the source of the problem and then either correcting the problem or determining a way to work around it.” (2022)
Thus, in general, debugging is a way of eliminating problems in software, whether by localizing and eliminating the culprit in the code or coming up with solutions that prevent the code from resulting in a particular error. It may, but shouldn’t, be mistaken for code profiling – a process of analyzing the code to improve a software’s performance.
At this point, there is a process called debugging for hardware as well. Yet, as it's not the focus of this article, we shall not delve into it any further.
Types of Errors in Code for Debugging
Before we explain how to debug your code and what strategies to implement, let’s quickly go through the most common code errors – you’ll know what to watch out for. These include:
- syntax errors,
- runtime errors,
- semantic errors,
- logic errors,
- disregarding adopted conventions in the coding standard,
- calling the wrong function,
- using the wrong variable name,
- not initializing a variable when required,
- skipping an error-return check,
- memory leaks,
- compilation errors.
How to Debug Your Code? 5 Strategies
If you wish to debug your code, you shouldn’t simply scroll through thousands of lines – this would be inefficient. This is why programmers developed several strategies for this process. Let’s look at some of them!
This method is useful for small programs (like the software for embedded systems) in particular. It involves identifying where an error occurs and backtracking (hence the name) to its source by analyzing the code backward.
The more lines of code your software has, the more difficult it becomes to commence backtracking. This is why we do not recommend it for large-scale, complex programs.
Logging and Tracing
Another way to conduct debugging is through logging and tracing. This process is simple: you analyze the logs collected from the software to spot and locate potential errors. The main advantage of this strategy is that it enables you to find bugs that would be difficult to reproduce locally.
Logging and tracing can be conducted manually, though it becomes extremely time-consuming if you do so. This is why most developers opt for programs that automate this process.
Pair Debugging and Rubber Duck Removing
This is an interesting approach in which two developers explain code line-by-line to each other. As a result, even if one does not spot a flaw, the second one may. Yet, again, this process takes time.
Another similar method, though involving only one programmer, is rubber duck debugging. In this case, the developer explains the code to an inanimate object, like the aforementioned rubber duck (which has hence become a meme among programmers). It’s less resource-consuming than pair debugging, though it might not be as effective.
Cause Elimination and Shotgun Debugging
Shotgun debugging is actually a game of guessing, rooted in the knowledge of the developer. This trial-and-error approach might, thus, be ineffective. However, a similar method called cause elimination can prove useful.
In this strategy, the developer creates a list of potential issues that could cause a particular bug. Then, they run tests for each of the potential culprits until the reason for the bug is found.
Another way how you can debug your code is by utilizing debugging tools, a wide variety of which is available on the market. Tools like Testsigma or Airbrake can prove extremely helpful in localizing areas that may cause bugs or could do so in the future.
Avoiding Code Debugging
As you can see, no matter how you debug your code, it might still take a considerable amount of time to find the bugs, not to mention working around them or coming up with fixes. This is why it’s important to introduce regular code audits.
Ordering a code audit from an independent point of view will help you eliminate any potential errors in your code that could result in bugs in the future. It’s better to prevent than cure, that’s why you should make a habit of reviewing your code regularly.
We hope that now you know what debugging is and how to debug code. If you still find it difficult to localize bugs in your embedded system code, or you feel that you need help coming up with a solution to the occurring problems, check out our debugging and profiling services – we will help you make your device bug-free!
Heusser, M. (2022, November nd.). Debugging. TechTarget. Retrieved from https://www.techtarget.com/searchsoftwarequality/definition/debugging
Rouse, M. (2022, July 22). What Does Debugging Mean? Techopedia. https://www.techopedia.com/definition/16373/debugging