Sunday, January 25, 2009

ZeroBUGS: Commercial C++ debugger for Linux

Whenever working with GDB on Linux you get the feeling that it does the basics pretty well (and sometimes even crashes on those basic tasks), but a few things are just missing or too complicated. While GDB is actually a very usable debugger and freely available on virtually any Linux box, it's not 100% stable and sometimes not as high quality as you'd like it to be.

I've just found out about ZeroBUGS, a commercial debugger for Linux (and Linux only!) that's targeted to be better where GDB is lacking. I learned about it from Andrei Alexandrescu's homepage (see the "Zero" link to the left). Although it is a commercial product, there's also a free version available, but it's limited in some ways. ZeroBUGs comes with a GUI and console interface out of the box.

Here's the feature-list, taken from the official site:

  • Command Line

  • Graphical Interface

  • Expression Evaluation

  • Conditional breakpoints

  • Memory watchpoints

  • Compatible with Intel Compiler

  • Works with GCC 2.95 through 4.3

  • Supports pthread applications

  • Debug events can be disabled by thread

  • Support for debugging forked processes

  • Scriptable with Python

  • Support for wide strings and Qt strings

  • Custom visualization of data structures (via Python script)

It does not support remote-debugging, though (but you can of course use SSH or X-Forwarding for this), but I especially like that it's scriptable in Python. It even works together with valgrind, see the FAQ.

The main difference between the free and the commercial version is that the free version is BETA with untested features. Additionally, some functionality is trimmed down (only the Python console is mentioned on the website) and the free version is not optimized for speed. There's no source code of the free version either, so it's only "free as in beer".

The price is as low as $39.95, so it's even affordable to hobbyists when the free version just is not enough. Unfortunately I've never used it (well, I've just found out about it a few minutes ago), but I'll surely try it out next time I'll be working on a bigger Linux-project. I hope I can provide some actual field-experiences with ZeroBUGs anytime soon.


  1. Hi Daniel,

    The debugger is now available as open source under the Boost license.


  2. Hi Cristian,
    thanks for the heads up! That's cool news. Unfortunately, I haven't done development in Linux for a few months (maybe even years) now ;-(