Interface Debugging

public interface Debugging


Development and Super Dev Modes

GWT Development Mode, which runs your Java code in an actual Java VM attached to the browser via a browser plugin, is being phased out of the GWT project in favor of Super Dev Mode, which translates your Java code into JavaScript before running it, even when debugging.

In Super Dev Mode, source maps provided by a GWT "code server" Java app allow breakpoints to be placed at chosen locations within the Java source code. Running Super Dev Mode consists of two main steps:

Once these two steps have been completed, the code server can be invoked by a bookmark on your browser and the source maps for your project navigated to place breakpoints where needed.

A more detailed overview of what must be done to run GWT Super Dev Mode can be found here. The extra project configuration needed for Super Dev Mode is also provided as a commented section of the BuiltInDS SGWT sample project. Note that Google Chrome is recommended as the primary browser for use with Super Dev Mode, because while the built-in Firefox debugger supports source maps, it doesn't appear to stop at breakpoints (as of Firefox 31). The separate "Firebug" debugger does not currently support source maps at all, and will only gain such support when it is integrated directly into the Firefox debugger.

Classic Development Mode can now only be used with older versions of Firefox, such as Firefox 24ESR (which is only supported until 10/14/2014). There are no plans to re-add support in current versions of Firefox. Chrome's Development Mode also cannot be used because of limitations of Chrome that break core GWT functionality.

Stack Details

When not using one of the GWT development modes described above, the stack trace presented in the Smart GWT Developer Console will consist of obfuscated method names and provide little helpful information. Useful unobfuscated traces may be obtained by adding "-optimize 0" and "-style DETAILED" or "-style PRETTY" to the gwtc ant target in the build.xml file for your project. A more useful stack trace in certain cases can sometimes be obtained by activating GWT "stack emulation". To do this, set the property compiler.stackMode to "emulated" and compiler.emulatedStack.recordLineNumbers to "true" in your gwt.xml project file. (Note that enabling stack emulation will increase the size of the JavaScript files generated by GWT.) Examples of both of these enhancements are provided as commented-out lines in the appropriate files of the BuiltInDS SGWT sample

Note that due to how GWT compiles Java code into JavaScript, the top of the stack may actually go deeper than expected in the visible trace when a crash in the Java code occurs. So for example if you try to invoke a method on a null object like:

      ListGrid listGrid = null;
then the actual Development Console error will look something like:
  23:11:44.461:WARN:Log:TypeError: this$static is null
  Stack from error.stack:
      $isCreated_4() @ showcase/239D5C0DDE9A2775E194CC3519D90866.cache.html:22080:7
      $setAttribute_20() @ showcase/239D5C0DDE9A2775E194CC3519D90866.cache.html:22132:3
      $setWidth_3() @ showcase/239D5C0DDE9A2775E194CC3519D90866.cache.html:23349:3
      $setWidth100() @ showcase/239D5C0DDE9A2775E194CC3519D90866.cache.html:23353:3
(where -optimize 0 and -style PRETTY have been added to build.xml as mentioned above). This is because the JavaScript code emitted by GWT for setWidth100(), setWidth(), and setAttribute() never actually attempts to access the widget (this$static) until execution reaches BaseWidget.isCreated().

Built-in Diagnostics

The Smart GWT Developer Console is a suite of development tools implemented in Smart GWT itself. The Console runs in its own browser window, parallel to your running application, so it is always available in every browser, and in every deployment environment.

The Developer Console can be opened by calling isc.showConsole() on any page in which Smart GWT has been loaded. You can create a bookmark in your browser to quickly show the Console on any Smart GWT application, without any changes to the application code:

1. Create a new bookmark in your browser.
2. Enter url "javascript:isc.showConsole()".
3. Label the bookmark as "Show Console".
4. Consider adding this to the Bookmarks Toolbar. This allows one-click access to the Console from any Smart GWT application.

Note: For most browsers you can evaluate javascript directly from the browser URL bar by entering javascript:string to evaluate directly in the URL bar, so setting up a bookmark is not strictly necessary. For Firefox 6 and above, this feature has been disallowed, but the bookmark approach will still work. Alternatively developers could use Firefox Scratchpad to launch the console.

Basic information on the features of the Developer Console can be found in the QuickStart Guide. For information about the "RPC" tab of the Developer Console and the request profiling information it can provide, see the Developer Console RPC tab. The Develper Console also supports debugging of remote pages (very useful for mobile devices) - see RemoteDebugging for more information. The remainder of this topic focuses on use of the log system and related debugging facilities.

The Developer Console contains a "Results" pane that displays a list of diagnostic messages logged by the Smart GWT framework. The "Logging Preferences" menu lets you enable and disable Smart GWT's built-in diagnostics in several categories. Because important diagnostic messages may be logged at any time, you should have the Developer Console open whenever you are working with Smart GWT (and you should bookmark the "javascript:" expression above to make this easier).

Log messages are of the format:


For example, the following log message:

      11:59:25:806:INFO:Page:Page loading complete.
Occurred at 11:59:25 local time and 806 milliseconds. It's priority was INFO, it occurred in the category Page, and the message is "Page loading complete.".

Each logging category has a priority associated with it. If a message's priority is lower than the current priority for the category it is logged in, the message will be suppressed (will not appear in the "Results" pane).

It is critical to be familiar with the diagnostic categories built-in to Smart GWT - you will use them in most debugging sessions. Open the Logging Preferences menu and select "More.." to see a list of diagnostic log categories. Hover over each category name to see a description of what kind of messages are logged in the category.

Debugging JavaScript Errors

Javascript errors will typically be reported in the Developer Console. Wherever possible a stack trace will be included which can help determine the cause of the error. In addition to this, recent versions of the Firefox browser (versions 6.0 and above) ship with some useful development tools including the Error Console for reporting errors. We also recommend Console2 and Firebug for debugging in Firefox.

In Internet Explorer, when JS errors occur, Smart GWT is able to report full stack traces in the Developer Console. This can be invaluable when your code triggers a JS error in the Smart GWT libraries themselves, or when it is unclear how your code is being called. Stack traces from Internet Explorer should always be included in issue reports sent to Isomorphic Software, if at all possible.

Inspecting application state

The "Evaluate JS Expression" area of the Results Pane in the Developer Console can be used to inspect the current state of a Smart GWT application. Any Smart GWT or browser built-in API can be called from the "Evaluate JS Expression" area, and the results will be intelligently summarized (via Log.echo). For example, simply typing a component's ID and pressing the "Eval JS" button will give you a dump of it's current property values.

Many, many Smart GWT APIs can be usefully called while troubleshooting, eg, data is a ResultSet when a grid is DataBound and ResultSet.get can be called to inspect the current values on records. In addition, new application code can be tried out, for example, you might repeatedly instantiate a new component, trying variants on the properties you could give it.

Inspecting transient application state with logs

Transient state, such as the values of local variables in a method that is crashing, can be sent to the Developer Console via using the SC class. For example, to dump the value of a local instance of DataClass "request":

      SC.logWarn("request is: " + SC.logEcho(request.getJsObj()));
It's a good idea to dump the values of local variables in any method that is crashing or behaving unexpectedly.

Note the use of SC.logWarn() above: in typical debugging sessions, it's best to simply use the logWarn method to output diagnostics to ensure your message will not be suppressed by log priority settings.

Issue Reports

If you believe you've discovered a bug in Smart GWT or you are having trouble using Smart GWT APIs, you can report it in the Smart GWT Forums.

How quickly your issue is resolved is entirely up to you. If you follow the steps below and submit an appropriate issue report, you will generally receive a rapid solution from Isomorphic Support, regardless of what support level you have, because Isomorphic aggressively corrects bugs and legitimate usage issues. If you skip steps you are likely to be directed back to this document and asked to submit a more complete issue report.

Before reporting an issue, ensure that you:

Always include: Then, include either a standalone test case (see below), or: Preparing a standalone test case

A standalone test case is one of:

  1. a modified version of one of our sample projects, such as the BuiltInDS sample with changed to demonstrate your issue
  2. a modified version of any one of our SGWT Showcase samples (e.g. GridSortSample); choosing one that requires only a slight modification to demonstrate your issue is best
Note: Ideally this results in a single Java file you provide to us if possible.

Submitting a standalone test case removes any ambiguity as to whether there is a bug in Smart GWT or a bug in your code, and eliminates the possibility of Isomorphic Support responding with a "works for me" result due to incomplete information. Issues with verified test cases are routed directly to the engineer that authored the relevant Smart GWT subsystem, often as the new highest priority task. In addition, the process of preparing a test case very often allows you to solve the issue yourself, if the underlying issue is not actually a framework bug.

There are two approaches to test case preparation:

  1. Add code to an existing SGWT Showcase sample until you can reproduce the problem
  2. Remove code from your application until it minimally shows the problem and runs standalone

For approach #1, find the nearest match to your use case in the SGWT Showcase samples or in the sample projects included in the SGWT download package, then try to minimally modify that sample to demonstrate your issue. This should yield a #1 test case, the easiest for you to submit and most efficient for Isomorphic to work with.

For approach #2,

  1. If a server is involved in initial page generation (eg a .jsp file), in most cases you can eliminate many server dependencies and create an easily modifiable starting point by using the browser's "View Source" feature to save a copy of the generated HTML output as an .html file in the same directory as the .jsp file that generated it. Such a file will generally continue to function (all relative paths are still correct), and can be modified freely without the need to later revert changes to a .jsp.
  2. Eliminate any code that isn't involved in the interaction. Keep running the test case as you eliminate code to ensure you are still seeing the issue (you may solve it this way, or find key preconditions that you can report to Isomorphic)
  3. For any issue that isn't cosmetic, revert to a default Smart GWT skin
  4. For any necessary RPC/DataSource interactions, spoof the interaction with one of these approaches:
  5. Finally, move your Java file into one of the stock SGWT sample projects, such as the BuiltInDS sample, along with any remaining dependencies and verify the problem can still be reproduced
Having prepared the test case, combine it with the other required issue report information covered above, and submit it to the forums, or, if you have Enterprise Support, at the Customer Support Extranet.

Using the Debug Modules (Advanced)

See Using the Debug Modules.

Adding your own diagnostic categories

Calling logWarn() is fine for a log statement you plan to delete at the end of the debugging session. However, many log statements have lasting value if you could enable or disable them only when you need the relevant diagnostics, like Smart GWT's built-in diagnostic categories. To do this, pick a priority level less than WARN (INFO or DEBUG), and call the corresponding method on the SC class (logInfo() or logDebug()), passing the category name as a second parameter. For example:

      Sc.logInfo("first record is: " + 
This message will no longer appear in the Results Pane by default, because its priority (INFO) is less than the default of WARN. To see this message, open the Logging Preferences menu and pick "More..", then click the "Add" button, enter "myGridLoading" as the category name and set the priority to INFO. The message will now appear next time it is logged.

Now you have a custom log category that you and other developers can use to debug your application, subsystem by subsystem. These diagnostics will be available to you both in development and production environments.

As with Smart GWT's built-in diagnostics, you may choose to log certain messages in your custom category at the DEBUG level and a lesser number of messages at the INFO level, to create different depths of diagnostic output.

Logging performance

Because the log message is actually formed before the call to the log system, logs that are suppressed can still carry a performance penalty. This is particularly true of logs that output a lot of data or occur frequently. To avoid this penalty, you can check in advance whether a message will be suppressed using SC.logIsDebugEnabled() and SC.logIsInfoEnabled(). For example:

      if (SC.logIsInfoEnabled("myGridLoading")) {
          SC.logInfo("first record is: " +
Generally, it is only important to do this for logs that will occur multiple times during a given user interaction (eg a mousedown or keypress) and/or that call echo() on objects with many properties.