So what changed, you wonder? Well, obviously we fixed some bugs. I’d like to briefly discuss just one of them, because it has some repercussions for how you use Venkman:
We no longer start the debugger service when the browser starts (by default)
There were several bugs on file about how Venkman and Firebug made Firefox slower. On top of that, there were recent changes in how components were handled, which meant we could no longer start Venkman (and ask for the debugger service to start) as early as we used to. In fact, the native support from the debugger service to start “really early” was removed by some of the Firefox/Gecko developers as part of this effort. Venkman relied on this support (Firebug doesn’t, they do something similar from their own code).
Why was it important to start the debugger service early?
Because the debugger service only “knew” about functions, variables and script that was loaded when it was started. In other words, if you loaded a script, and then loaded the debugger service after doing so, you wouldn’t be able to debug those files.
So if you no longer start the debugger service early, how does this work?
Thanks to some great work by Wladimir Palant (of AdblockPlus fame), as of Firefox 3.5 we can also get the debug information about functions when they are called. So, when you start Venkman, we will start the debugger service, and for every JS function call, it will tell Venkman about the new code.
I don’t see my scripts or functions when I open Venkman. How do I debug my code?
You have two options:
- You can load the file (if it’s not shown in the scripts view, try File > Open File (local files) or Open Web Location (urls)) and then set a “future” breakpoint. Venkman will stop there when the code is executed. Instead of loading the file manually, keep in mind any call into a function in the file will make it appear in the scripts list. It shouldn’t be hard to load the file.
- You can reload the page, and Venkman will see all the scripts appear just like it used to.
Can I get the old behaviour back?
We would prefer it if you tried to work with Venkman the way it is now and let us know about things you think we should do differently or improve. If you’re unable to debug code now that you could debug fine before, please let us know!
If you really need to start the debugger service early, just enter “
/startup-init true” (without quotes) at the Venkman console, and we will start the debugger service early (specifically, at the ‘profile-after-change’ notification – slightly later than before, but for most usecases this should not matter).
What about Firebug?
There’s a Firebug 1.6a20 alpha release that is compatible with Firefox 4. I don’t know if they still start the debugger service early if that pane is enabled.