Interactive Debugging with Pry
Dry-Aged Handcrafted Vintage Content
This article was written in summer 2012, and the topic is not evergreen. I stand by the core recommendations! Use Pry, use its debugging plugins. But the links and exact details may have shifted over time.
I wrote a post about pry earlier, but at the time, I didn’t realize just how much muscle Pry was packing. Install two simple plugins and one builtin function, and you turn Pry into a stepping debugger. It can pause at a breakpoint, step through code one line at a time, and even shuttle up and down the call stack; and since you never lose your Pry superpowers, you can rummage around your state to your heart’s content.
binding.pry. Two simple words with immense power. Speak them aloud, and your
program will pause in place, frozen in time, while the Pry REPL springs up
around it. Here’s an example, from the single most important project on Github,
an experimental puppy display grid.
# generate HTML from template template = File.read config["files"]["template"] binding.pry # ENTER THE MATRIX engine = Haml::Engine.new template, :format => :html5; output = engine.render Object.new, :images => images;
This scrap of script crams cute puppies into a HAML template, but first,
binding.pry freezes reality. Loops stop looping, events stop listening, and
the world halts in an eyeblink. Except for you. You have total freedom: you can
peek at your code and tinker with its innards at will. To resume,
code will roar back to life and keep going until it hits another
If you run your local Rails instance with
rails server or
you can even drop into a Pry session right in your terminal, using the same
binding.pry technique. Rails debug spam stops: Pry starts.
One Step at a Time
pry-nav plugin makes it easy to execute your code one step at a time. When
your code hits the brick wall of
binding.py, you can walk it forward, line by
next – or if you’re not feeling so talkative, alias it to ‘n’
We pause at
binding.pry; now we can step forward. There will be a little arrow
showing us what line we’re on. We can execute any code we want at the command
line; we’ll get our output and then skim a little off the top.
gem install pry-nav or add it to your
Gemfile to acquire it;
'pry-nav' to equip it.
pry-stack_explorer gem lets you move up and down the call stack. Can’t
debug much of anything without that. These two methods make a nice easy target.
They don’t do much of anything, so there’s nothing to debug, but they’re simple,
so debugging is easy. Life should be more like that.
require 'pry' require 'pry-nav' require 'pry-stack_explorer' def outer(message, number) inner(message) end def inner(message) local = true binding.pry end outer("hello", 1000)
Plain old Pry lets you look at your locals when
binding.pry sets its teeth.
Try to look at something outside the current scope, though, and Ruby stonewalls
pry-stack_explorer doesn’t care much for walls. Just use
down to traverse the stack.
Your program hasn’t moved… just your point of view.
show-stack shows you the
whole call stack, with a little arrow saying you are here.
In this post by Pry’s author,
you can read more about
pry-stack_explorer, and other plugins that
might help you out.