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What Is Reverse Debugging?

2016.06.20

Traditional debugging takes time. Sometimes, a lot of time, especially if an unhandled exception is hidden deep within the code, or the bug has caused throughout a program, with multiple negative repercussions.

As developers know, no matter how careful they write code and find solutions to problems, bugs happen. Debugging can be a tiring use of a developers and testers time. Managers and clients can also get frustrated since this is time spent fixing problems and going over work that has - or should - have already been done.

Reverse debugging is a game changer.

Most developers, once a bug is discovered, can only see the code in its present format. Debugging is therefore about running a program in a test environment, to understand the cause and find a solution. Various factors can make this a challenge.

Some bugs are hard to find. Some programs are old, with multiple layers and complexities interwoven into the source code, whereas in other situations, it comes down to the experience of a developer.

Those with more experience will have encountered more challenges, making it easier, for them, to pinpoint errors and fix them. But hiring experienced developers isn’t always an option for companies, forcing developers and employers to search for needles in haystacks to fix broken lines of code.

Reverse debugging: Saving time and money

None of that is necessary with reverse debugging. Instead of seeing the code as it currently is, you can go back in time. Through the lens of a reverse debugger tool, you can see every line of code as it was written - including the variables and return values of executed methods - to understand why those particular code paths were executed.

At present, RevDeBug is only available for the .NET platform (versions 2.0 - 4.5.1), with the debugger plugin designed for Visual Studio; but the potential value for developers across every platform is already being discussed.

With reverse debugging, there’s no need to spend hours looking for unhandled exceptions. Everything is traced through the debugger tool. This allows you to move backward starting from the moment they were thrown or captured to the real cause as to why it happened. Once you know this, solving the problem becomes far easier.

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