[% setvar title Extensions to the perl debugger %]
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Extensions to the perl debugger
Maintainer: David Storrs <email@example.com> Date: 25 Sep 2000 Last Modified: 30 Sep 2000 Mailing List: firstname.lastname@example.org Number: 292 Version: 2 Status: Frozen
The perl debugger is good, but there are several features it lacks (or at least, that it lacks convenient, single-key commands for) that would be extremely useful.
The following features appear in many modern IDEs, but not in the perl debugger. It is generally possible to duplicate this functionality by writing an appropriate command string, but there should be easy ways to do these things.
The ability to easily retrieve and edit your N most recent commands to the debugger (much like a bash_history).
A better default pager. The default pager should assume a 24x80 term window and use an absolute minimal number of control characters (e.g., use spaces in preference to horizontal tab) to format things. This is not particularly fast or efficient but people who want that can reset it to something else, and using an absolute minimal one will make life easier for people (like me!) who use limited telnet clients to get to the box which runs Perl for them.
The ability to look at an object and, with just one or two keystrokes, list
the names of all its ancestors,
the names of all its descendants,
the names of everything in its inheritance hierarchy (i.e., all of its ancestors, itself, all of its descendants).
Note that it is possible (generally by error) to construct cyclic inheritance graphs; the debugger would need to detect this and cope with it.
The ability to provide a function name (preferably just the first unique section of its name) and
jump to where that function is defined,
list the names of all functions that call that function,
show all lines in the current package or file which call that function,
show all lines in the program (including linked modules) which call that function,
list all user-defined functions that that function calls =back
The debugger should be better at storing state. I should be able to do this:
<DB1> $foo = 2 <DB2> p $foo
and have it print "2"
It should be possible to enter multiline commands into the debugger without having to backslash each new line. This could be done by using prefix and postfix command strings as markers (perhaps ML: and :LM) to show where the multiline begins and ends, or by simply making the engine smarter (difficult, I know).
The O command should be extended to allow user modification of what is printed when the debugger must display an undef value (e.g., O undef_str=**UNDEF**). If the default value is "", then we will maintain backwards compatibility.
1) The history functionality only requires a buffer in which to store the most recent N strings.
2) The pager should be relatively straightforward; it is intended to be extremely minimalist, after all.
3) Showing the ancestors of an object is easy (just dump @ISA), but showing the descendants might be harder, since it requires scanning the @ISAs of all known objects (unless there is some magic from -internals?). The best might be to construct a giant @ISA graph of all classes at runtime. Note the possibility of circular inheritance graphs, and the fact that @ISA can be modified at runtime, which would require modifying the graph.
4) The function tracking will be difficult, and will require much help from the -internals people.
5) I'm not sure how to handle this one. I'm tempted to say that the debugger should simply store its state in the program's stash, but that might cause problems. It will mean that the debugger cannot simply "eval" all commands and then forget them.
6) See RFC 184 for discussion on this.
7) This should be straightforward, I hope.
perldebug man page
RFC 184: Perl should support an interactive mode.