You’re watching a YouTube video to learn how to code, and as you follow along, your code does exactly what you want it to.
But then, in the middle of the tutorial, you suddenly realize that your results do not match the tutor’s, even though you’ve been copying their code step by step. Where could the mistake be?
So, you go back in the video, delete the most recent code you wrote, and then redo that part from scratch. But to your surprise, you still end up with the same problem.
Frustration starts to well up inside, but fortunately, the YouTube video provides a GitHub repository that you can turn to for help.
You visit the repository’s URL and review your code. That’s when you spot it – a missing semicolon! You feel relieved but also a bit stupid for overlooking such a small detail.
What you’ve just gone through is called “debugging,” which means finding and fixing errors in your code.
In this article, we’ll explore the concept of debugging and its importance and outline the essential steps in the debugging process.
Introduction to Debugging
The goal of debugging is to make the program work as intended and to eliminate any unexpected behavior, crashes, or incorrect results.
For example, a computer program is supposed to add two numbers and show the result on the screen, but it’s not working correctly. When you run the program, it’s showing the wrong answer.
So, in that case, you have to:
- Identify the Problem: First, you need to figure out what’s wrong. In our example, you notice that the program is not adding the numbers correctly.
- Check the Code: Look at the part of the program where the addition is happening. Maybe you see something like this: result = num1 – num2. Ah, there’s the mistake! It should be result = num1 + num2.
- Fix the Code: Change the code to the correct version: result = num1 + num2.
- Test Again: Rerun the program to see if the problem is solved. Now, it shows the correct result.
Why Do We Need Debugging?
Every software that’s ready to hit the market must be free of bugs. In today’s highly competitive market, every company aims to be at the top.
This can only happen if your software is bug-free and your customers are satisfied. Happy customers are those who experience no errors when using your software.
To ensure customer satisfaction, it’s crucial for organizations to thoroughly debug their software before releasing it into the market.
Process of Debugging
The process of debugging typically involves several steps, which can be summarized as follows:
- Identify the Problem: Find out what’s wrong with the software. It could be a bug, an error, or unexpected behavior.
- Locate the Issue: Pinpoint the exact part of the code causing the problem. Look for error messages or use tools to help you.
- Fix the Code: Modify the code to resolve the issue. This might involve changing incorrect logic, variables, or other code elements.
- Test Your Fix: Ensure that your change works and doesn’t create new problems. Test the software thoroughly.
- Repeat if Needed: If other issues surface, go back to step 2 and keep fixing until the software works as intended.
Types of Debugging
Debugging can be classified into three main types: reactive, proactive, and remote. Let’s explore these categories in more detail.
Reactive debugging is the type of debugging that occurs in response to an issue or error that has already occurred. It involves identifying and fixing problems after they’ve been discovered.
For example, you’ve developed a mobile app, and users report that it frequently crashes when they try to upload photos. You analyze the crash reports and the code to find and fix the specific issue causing the crashes. This is a case of reactive debugging.
Proactive debugging focuses on preventing errors before they occur by implementing best practices, thorough testing, and code reviews. It aims to minimize the likelihood of bugs in the first place.
In Proactive Debugging, before releasing a major software update, the developer conducts comprehensive testing, reviews the code with a team of developers, and uses automated tools to catch potential issues. This proactive approach helps ensure that the update is released with minimal bugs.
Remote debugging is a process that allows developers to identify and resolve issues in software that is running on a remote system or device rather than on their local computer.
It’s a valuable technique for diagnosing problems in distributed or cloud-based applications, embedded systems, or any scenario where the code is not running on the developer’s own machine.