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debugger - Vim Documentation

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debugger.txt  For Vim version 9.0.  Last change: 2019 Dec 21

                  VIM REFERENCE MANUAL    by Gordon Prieur

Debugger Support Features                               debugger-support

These features are for integration with a debugger or an Integrated
Programming Environment (IPE) or Integrated Development Environment (IDE).
For the debugger running in a Vim terminal window see terminal-debugger.

1. Debugger Features            debugger-features
2. Vim Compile Options          debugger-compilation

1. Debugger Features                                    debugger-features

The following features are available:

        Alternate Command Input                         alt-input
        Debug Signs                                     debug-signs
        Debug Source Highlight                          debug-highlight
        Message Footer                                  gui-footer
        Balloon Evaluation                              balloon-eval

These features were added specifically for use in the Motif version of gvim.
However, the alt-input and debug-highlight were written to be usable in
both vim and gvim.  Some of the other features could be used in the non-GUI
vim with slight modifications.  However, I did not do this nor did I test the
reliability of building for vim or non Motif GUI versions.

1.1 Alternate Command Input                             alt-input

For Vim to work with a debugger there must be at least an input connection
with a debugger or external tool.  In many cases there will also be an output
connection but this isn't absolutely necessary.

The purpose of the input connection is to let the external debugger send
commands to Vim.  The commands sent by the debugger should give the debugger
enough control to display the current debug environment and state.

The current implementation is based on the X Toolkit dispatch loop and the
XtAddInput() function call.

1.2 Debug Signs                                         debug-signs

Many debuggers mark specific lines by placing a small sign or color highlight
on the line.  The :sign command lets the debugger set this graphic mark.  Some
examples where this feature would be used would be a debugger showing an arrow
representing the Program Counter (PC) of the program being debugged.  Another
example would be a small stop sign for a line with a breakpoint.  These visible
highlights let the user keep track of certain parts of the state of the

This feature can be used with more than debuggers, too.  An IPE can use a sign
to highlight build errors, searched text, or other things.  The sign feature
can also work together with the debug-highlight to ensure the mark is
highly visible.

Debug signs are defined and placed using the :sign command.

1.3 Debug Source Highlight                              debug-highlight

This feature allows a line to have a predominant highlight.  The highlight is
intended to make a specific line stand out.  The highlight could be made to
work for both vim and gvim, whereas the debug sign is, in most cases, limited
to gvim.  The one exception to this is Sun Microsystem's dtterm.  The dtterm
from Sun has a "sign gutter" for showing signs.

1.4 Message Footer                                      gui-footer

The message footer can be used to display messages from a debugger or IPE.  It
can also be used to display menu and toolbar tips.  The footer area is at the
bottom of the GUI window, below the line used to display colon commands.

The display of the footer is controlled by the 'guioptions' letter 'F'.

1.5 Balloon Evaluation                                  balloon-eval

This feature allows a debugger, or other external tool, to display dynamic
information based on where the mouse is pointing.  The purpose of this feature
was to allow Sun's Visual WorkShop debugger to display expression evaluations.
However, the feature was implemented in as general a manner as possible and
could be used for displaying other information as well.  The functionality is
limited though, for advanced popups see popup-window.

Another way to use the balloon is with the 'balloonexpr' option.  This is
completely user definable.

The Balloon Evaluation has some settable parameters too.  For Motif the font
list and colors can be set via X resources (XmNballoonEvalFontList,
XmNballoonEvalBackground, and XmNballoonEvalForeground).
The 'balloondelay' option sets the delay before an attempt is made to show a
The 'ballooneval' and/or the 'balloonevalterm' option needs to be set to
switch it on.

Balloon evaluation is only available in the GUI when compiled with the
+balloon_eval feature.  For the terminal the  +balloon_eval_term feature

The Balloon evaluation functions are also used to show a tooltip for the
toolbar.  The 'ballooneval' option does not need to be set for this.  But the
other settings apply.

2. Vim Compile Options                                  debugger-compilation

The debugger features were added for use with Sun's Visual WorkShop Integrated
Programming Environment (ipe).  However, they were done in as generic a manner
as possible so that integration with other debuggers could also use these

The following compile time preprocessor variables control the features:

    Alternate Command Input                     ALT_X_INPUT
    Debug Glyphs                                FEAT_SIGNS
    Debug Highlights                            FEAT_SIGNS
    Message Footer                              FEAT_FOOTER
    Balloon Evaluation                          FEAT_BEVAL

The support specifically for Sun Visual WorkShop has been removed, since the
product no longer exists.

For Sun NetBeans support see netbeans.