Articles, Tips

Essential Tips to Help You Become A Proficient Debugger

September 25, 2009 • By

Generally when dealing with programming of any sort (especially on the web) debugging is certainly one of the top skills a programmer should build on. Throughout the development of a website, a great deal of the developers time is spent on testing the environment and searching for bugs. If you’re able to effectively learn how to search and fix bugs you’ll end up with fewer errors from the first attempt to write new code.

Here you will find a few Essential Tips to Help You Become A Proficient Debugger, increase the quality of your developing skills, and the knowledge needed to write cleaner and more organized strings of code.

Keep an Eye Open for Every Tag That Needs Closing


Although this seems like a simple suggestion, it’s very common to commit the mistake of not having all of your brackets, parenthesis, and HTML tags line up. Clean formatting within your strings of code will definitely help you get rid of this problem. HTML tags can be less obvious to spot, especially if you are creating these tags with a server-side language like PHP or ASP.

Using Effective Ware


In order to conceive good code, the use of debugging tools is essential to time saving and organizational needs. Here we’ve compiled a few for you to choose from:

FireBug / FirePHP:

Firebug is a very useful Firefox add-on, and a web developers dream for a helping hand. You can use FireBug for inspecting the entire CSS of a web page from head to toe. While you’re at it you should also get the FirePHP plug-in, since it can help you find errors in your Java, PHP code and AJAX scripts. Each of these add-ons make it pretty easy to search the PHP and CSS of a web site, and conduct a search and destroy mission.

Finding a Good Text Editor

A great deal of time is usually spent playing a sort of hide and seek with the bugs, however, if there’s actual worthy software that can do this for you, why not take advantage of it. It’s a useful feature when your text-editor has error highlighting as well. This makes it all the easier for you to get a chance at not only correcting the mistake but furthering your skills along the way.

Search for the Most Useful Information


If you never know exactly what kind of inputs can cause a specific error, or maybe youre in-experienced with the behavior of the code, then you will be wasting most of your time. It’s simple, the more you find out about the problem, the easier it will be to find and resolve.

Make sure you know exactly how your code is supposed to behave, and then find out exactly what causes the bug to create havoc. You should also remember to check your web pages in a variety of browsers, and take notes on how the program behaves under the different browsers. This way you can fix certain errors only visible to those with a browser different to yours.

Unit Testing


Another good way to help narrow down the location of a bug is to use unit testing. You should write a series of inputs and behaviors, and what each outcome should be. The list should be as wide and as varied as possible. Try each thing on the list one by one, and make notes about the results. This can help you zero-in on what is causing the problem by knowing exactly what should be happening.

Re-writing Code


A great deal of developers detest having to rewrite code. By not rewriting code though, you’re basically leaving yourself open for a variety of errors that will leave you in confusion. Once you begin to rewrite code, make sure that you steer towards cleaner and more organized strings of code.

Your code should be as readable as you can possibly make it. The simpler you make your code, the easier it will be on the eyes of other developers and yourself if you wish to review. By rewriting code alone, you will find several bugs that will fix themselves along the way. This is purely beneficial to all developers, no matter the experience.

Mastering the Layout


Try disabling CSS code, and view your layout naked. This will help in the assessment of possible errors in other aspects of your code, such as PHP, Java, Flash and more. Always try to test in several different browsers and resolutions throughout the entire development process.

If your HTML has several syntax errors, then this usually forces several inconsistencies across browsers to re-surface. Remember to regularly inspect your HTML, CSS, and other code. This should allow you to first rule out errors within your layout for quicker validation.

Validate Your Code


You can take advantage of this step by making the validator your home page, or by refering to the validator on a regular basis. Writing valid code is an important step towards error prevention. As a designer you have an unlimited amount of tools available at your finger tips, due to the complexity of choosing the right ones, here is a W3C updated list.

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