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Why JavaScript Developers Should Use the Debugger Instead of Console.logby@emmanuelgautier
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6,906 reads

Why JavaScript Developers Should Use the Debugger Instead of Console.log

by Emmanuel GautierApril 28th, 2023
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console.log can be a quick and easy way to output values to the console. It has its limitations - especially when it comes to debugging complex applications. By using a debugger, you can gain powerful insights into your code that `console.log` simply cannot provide. This article is focused on the Javascript community but the idea can be applied to most of the existing languages.
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As a JavaScript developer, you know that debugging your code is an essential part of the development process. But when it comes to debugging tools, you may be relying too heavily on console.log (that applies to any logger coming from your favorite framework like NestJS logger for instance). While it can be helpful in certain situations, it has its limitations, especially for debugging complex applications. That's where the debugger comes in. By using a debugger, you can gain powerful insights into your code that console.log simply cannot provide.


I see too many times developers struggling to understand what their applications actually do, so a quick reminder about debugger could be interesting. In this article, we'll explore why developers should prioritize using the debugger over console.log, and how to integrate it into your development workflow for more efficient, effective debugging. This article is focused on the Javascript community but of course, the same idea can be applied to most of the existing languages.


The Limitations of Console.log

While console.log can be a quick and easy way to output values to the console for debugging, it has its limitations - especially when it comes to debugging complex applications. Here are a few scenarios where console.log can fall short:


  • Tracing the flow of execution: When you need to track the order in which your code is executing, console.log can become cumbersome. You may end up with a lot of logging statements that make it difficult to follow the flow of your program.
  • Debugging asynchronous code: With asynchronous code, console.log statements can be misleading or even outright wrong. For example, if you're trying to log the value of a variable inside a callback function, the value may have changed by the time the log statement is executed. Even worst, actually console.log is an async function that can lead you to incorrect statements.
  • Debugging complex data structures: If you're working with complex data structures like arrays or objects, console.log does not offer the best visualization you can have. You may need to spend a lot of time manually drilling down into the data to find the root of the problem. Some browsers can help in order to explore more easily data but well … still not so efficient as you can have with a debugger.


The Benefits of Using the Debugger

Using a debugger instead of console.log can provide many benefits for JavaScript developers. Here are a few ways that the debugger can be more powerful and effective:


  • Precise control over program execution: With a debugger, you can step through your code one line at a time, pausing execution at any point to inspect variables, data structures, and more. This makes it much easier to trace the flow of execution and identify the root cause of any issues.
  • Breakpoints: By setting breakpoints in your code, you can pause execution at specific points to inspect the state of your program. This can be especially helpful for debugging asynchronous code, where console.log statements can be misleading.
  • Watch expressions: The debugger allows you to set watch expressions, which are expressions that are evaluated each time a breakpoint is hit. This can be useful for monitoring the value of specific variables or data structures over time.
  • Advanced debugging tools: Many popular JavaScript debuggers come with advanced tools for analyzing your code, such as call stacks, profiling tools, and more. These tools can help you quickly identify performance bottlenecks and other issues.


So the next time you're debugging your JavaScript code, remember to prioritize the debugger over console.log. You may be surprised at just how much easier and more effective debugging can be!