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18.1.4 Explicit Entry to the Debugger

You can cause the debugger to be called at a certain point in your program by writing the expression (debug) at that point. To do this, visit the source file, insert the text ‘(debug)’ at the proper place, and type C-M-x (eval-defun, a Lisp mode key binding). Warning: if you do this for temporary debugging purposes, be sure to undo this insertion before you save the file!

The place where you insert ‘(debug)’ must be a place where an additional form can be evaluated and its value ignored. (If the value of (debug) isn't ignored, it will alter the execution of the program!) The most common suitable places are inside a progn or an implicit progn (see Sequencing).

If you don't know exactly where in the source code you want to put the debug statement, but you want to display a backtrace when a certain message is displayed, you can set debug-on-message to a regular expression matching the desired message.