Some .NET Debugging Tools and Tricks

Very interesting case study here of some Microsoft MVPs trying to find an error in a client’s ASP.NET application, while working off-site.
Couple of important, but lesser known debugging tools gets mentioned along the way: Sysinternals for monitoring your Windows server and .NET Reflector (which was previously Roeders Reflector until RedGate took it over) for digging through assembly code. Also Windows Server Minidump is worth knowing about.

A tool not mentioned in that article (because it’s not relevant) is the “Microsoft Intermediate Language Disassembler”, ILDASM – if you need to really take some .NET code apart.
For web application debugging the Fiddler Web Debugger is indispensable. You can get the basic functionality from here in the Firebug net tab – but Fiddler adds more debugging options, like for example the ability to change the data being posted to your web server.

Finally Visual Studio is of course the most used debugging tool for .NET developers, and there are some new debugger features in VS2010 that’s worth knowing about, like the ability to label break points, to pin the data tips to retain the value (and compare to the previous after a refresh) and even append comments to these.

Finally, finally – if you’re lucky enough to own a version of VS2010 Ultimate, you will also have access to IntelliTrace which lets you step backwards up through your code (with some limitation I believe).

Absolutely last finally – the best debugging tool is sometimes to have a cup of coffee, and then fetch one of your colleagues, or a friend or even Irene from reception – and explain to them what the code is trying to do, how it fails, what you have tried to fix it – and nine times out of ten (well six out of ten at least) somewhere along that process – between the coffee and rambling at innocent bystanders – you will probably at the very least come up with something you haven’t considered yet.


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