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18.1.8 Internals of the Debugger

This section describes functions and variables used internally by the debugger.

— Variable: debugger

The value of this variable is the function to call to invoke the debugger. Its value must be a function of any number of arguments, or, more typically, the name of a function. This function should invoke some kind of debugger. The default value of the variable is debug.

The first argument that Lisp hands to the function indicates why it was called. The convention for arguments is detailed in the description of debug (see Invoking the Debugger).

— Command: backtrace

This function prints a trace of Lisp function calls currently active. This is the function used by debug to fill up the *Backtrace* buffer. It is written in C, since it must have access to the stack to determine which function calls are active. The return value is always nil.

In the following example, a Lisp expression calls backtrace explicitly. This prints the backtrace to the stream standard-output, which, in this case, is the buffer ‘backtrace-output’.

Each line of the backtrace represents one function call. The line shows the values of the function's arguments if they are all known; if they are still being computed, the line says so. The arguments of special forms are elided.

          (with-output-to-temp-buffer "backtrace-output"
            (let ((var 1))
              (save-excursion
                (setq var (eval '(progn
                                   (1+ var)
                                   (list 'testing (backtrace))))))))
          
               ⇒ (testing nil)
          
          ----------- Buffer: backtrace-output ------------
            backtrace()
            (list ...computing arguments...)
            (progn ...)
            eval((progn (1+ var) (list (quote testing) (backtrace))))
            (setq ...)
            (save-excursion ...)
            (let ...)
            (with-output-to-temp-buffer ...)
            eval((with-output-to-temp-buffer ...))
            eval-last-sexp-1(nil)
            eval-last-sexp(nil)
            call-interactively(eval-last-sexp)
          ----------- Buffer: backtrace-output ------------
— Variable: debug-on-next-call

If this variable is non-nil, it says to call the debugger before the next eval, apply or funcall. Entering the debugger sets debug-on-next-call to nil.

The d command in the debugger works by setting this variable.

— Function: backtrace-debug level flag

This function sets the debug-on-exit flag of the stack frame level levels down the stack, giving it the value flag. If flag is non-nil, this will cause the debugger to be entered when that frame later exits. Even a nonlocal exit through that frame will enter the debugger.

This function is used only by the debugger.

— Variable: command-debug-status

This variable records the debugging status of the current interactive command. Each time a command is called interactively, this variable is bound to nil. The debugger can set this variable to leave information for future debugger invocations during the same command invocation.

The advantage of using this variable rather than an ordinary global variable is that the data will never carry over to a subsequent command invocation.

— Function: backtrace-frame frame-number

The function backtrace-frame is intended for use in Lisp debuggers. It returns information about what computation is happening in the stack frame frame-number levels down.

If that frame has not evaluated the arguments yet, or is a special form, the value is (nil function arg-forms...).

If that frame has evaluated its arguments and called its function already, the return value is (t function arg-values...).

In the return value, function is whatever was supplied as the car of the evaluated list, or a lambda expression in the case of a macro call. If the function has a &rest argument, that is represented as the tail of the list arg-values.

If frame-number is out of range, backtrace-frame returns nil.