Last Updated: October 6, 2020

Definition - What does Debugging mean?

Debugging is the routine process of locating and removing computer program bugs, errors or abnormalities, which is methodically handled by software programmers via debugging tools. Debugging checks, detects and corrects errors (or "bugs") to allow proper program operation, according to set specifications.

Debugging is also known as debug.

Techopedia explains Debugging

As professionals are developing software programs, they’re implementing key parts of the process like heavy testing, updating, troubleshooting and maintenance.

Normally, software contains errors and bugs, which are routinely removed. In the debugging process, complete software programs are regularly compiled and executed to identify and rectify issues. Large software programs, which contain millions of source code lines, are divided into small components. For efficiency, each component is debugged separately at first, followed by the program as a whole. In general, the way that debugging works depends on the global testing strategies that are chosen.

Debugging as a fundamental part of code handling and software development is a good bellwether for how we produce technologies in general. It reflects what we have been able to do with programming languages to advance in a world of digital automation and AI.

Another way of saying this is that debugging evolves along with the technologies that we use to code and write programs.

Experts often talk about debugging as involving “people, processes and systems” that will help to iron out any issues with an existing code base. So how this works is different in different eras: for example, the debugging that took place in the early days of the PC, in bare-metal environments on linear, non-object-oriented code, is going to be different than the debugging that happens today.

An excellent example of this is the rise of modern practices called “reverse debugging.”

In the age of devOps and agile software development, reverse debugging involves monitoring programs and delivering data in particular ways, in order to automate the process of debugging. This used to be done by individual computer scientists in a process that often resembled a kind of technical detective work.

In the old days, programmers filed individual tickets after observing some functional bug while testing, and then went back and scoured the code using now-primitive debuggers to figure out what was going on. It wasn’t unusual for even a seasoned team to be “stumped” for a while, either because of the sophistication of the code that created the bug, or the elusiveness of the bug in testing, or both.

By contrast, reverse debugging systems that resemble the design of flight recorders in airplanes track programs in runtime, or otherwise monitor programs, in order to deliver the right information to make debugging more of an automated process.

By doing more kinds of sophisticated monitoring in real-time or as programs are used, reverse debugging tools will catch more of the details that computer scientists would have traditionally had to investigate on their end.

Testing has also changed, where with CICD and related processes, some of the testing may be done by engineers, and other kinds of testing might be done by end-users in a production environment or in beta, or elsewhere in the pipeline.

In the end, debugging will continue to be a critical part of managing a codebase.

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