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st: Debugging tool

From   WLJ van Putten <>
Subject   st: Debugging tool
Date   Thu, 20 Aug 2009 16:10:59 +0200

Debugging of Stata programs can be a very tedious and complicated process, especially in case of long and/or nested programs.

Where is the bug? In the main program or in a subroutine or a program somewhere down the line? Is there a bug in program code itself or is it due to wrong or missing content of certain macros in specific situations when the program is applied?

There are a number of approaches that one can follow and combine for debugging. E.g.:

- set trace on before starting the program or add a set trace on line to the program at a point before where an error occurs. - add noisily display "text... " lines to an ado file to find out where the error occurs - or add "global X<i> ...." lines to the program and later inspect the content of these global macros
- set pause on and add pause commands to the ado file
- set a log on before setting trace on and use an editor to go through the lines of code in the resulting log file - close the result window first when logging the output to speed up the process

But still it can be very time consuming to just locate the point where the error occurs.

I would like to have a tool (say with set debug on) that shows (without set trace on) after a command that ends in an error

(1) the final command line [c1] that produced the error without and with macro substitution - just like after set trace on, followed by

(2) the command line [c2] that called c1 without and with macro substitution of that line, followed by

(3) the command line [c3] that called c2 without and with macro substitution, followed by

.... etcetera till the inital command given.

Such a tool can be used as the first step to locate the error. The macro substituted lines may already give sufficient clues to solve the problem. Otherwise one could set a trace on at a suitable point in the program or one of the called programs for further detection.

To write such a tool is beyond the powers of a simple mortal user of Stata, and can only be done by StataCorp.

I had proposed this to Stata and received some useful comments from Kerry Kammire from Stata Technical Support. He has passed on my request to Stata Development. He told me that the development of such a tool gets a higher vpriority if it is supported by many users of Stata.

If any of you support my request for such a debugging tool (or a smarter one!) please let this be known to StataCorp (or) through Statalist.

Wim van Putten

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