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Debugging in Javascript

Despite its widespread use, there is little support for debugging in Javascript. When scripts get complicated, the debugging process can cause even the most patient programmer to pull out their hair in frustration. Chris Root offers several tools and techniques that just might keep you from going prematurely bald during the debugging process.

Author Info:
By: Chris Root
Rating: 4 stars4 stars4 stars4 stars4 stars / 26
February 16, 2005
  1. · Debugging in Javascript
  2. · The Hard Way
  3. · Using Comments
  4. · Are We There Yet?
  5. · Make a Log Window

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Debugging in Javascript
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Javascript is a very widely used scripting language. In fact the ECMA (European Computer Manufacturers Association) script standard on which Javascript is based is in even wider use. Some ECMA script based APIs include CFScript (Cold Fusion), Actionscript (Flash) and JScript. In addition, many products such as Adobe Acrobat use embedded Javascript engines for automation of application actions.

Curiously however, unlike many well known programming languages, debugging and IDE support has been lacking.

In terms of the Javascript API used by Web browsers, this is at least somewhat understandable. Because of the way websites and applications use Javascript, having the user interface "live" at the time of debugging is usually mandatory to allow scripts to work. Most scripts interact heavily with the user interface and the user. Add to that the complexity of cross browser code that no other programming language has to deal with, and you have a unique problem on your hands.

Though it is possible to generate user interfaces programatically with Javascript, it is of course normally done with a separate HTML file that would need to be rendered. The best place to do all this is in the browser.


If you have the newest version of Mozilla you can utilize a tool called Venkman. It is a Mozilla extension that provides a full blown debugger environment with variable monitoring, break points and many other features seen in debuggers from other languages.

Venkman in conjunction with Mozilla isn't really a complete IDE like Visual Basic or Delphi, but it's as close as it gets. if you're curious and want to try Venkman go to the Venkman project home page and also try a Google search for "using venkman." You'll find all the information you need to get started.

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