Use the Debugger in a React Native App

Chris Achard
InstructorChris Achard

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Published 3 years ago
Updated a year ago

React Native applications can be debugged with the Chrome debugger by inserting a debugger command in React Native. Then, you can see all the variables and their values in the current scope, and even change the values, and continue execution. We’ll also use breakpoints in the debugger, and learn how to pause on exceptions - all of which can be used to better understand what is happening during an error or exception case.

Instructor: [00:00] With remote JS debugging turned on, you can add a debugger statement directly in your code. Now when we run, the app stops executing when it hits the debugger line and loads a debugger pane in the Web browser.

[00:16] The debugger shows the code when the debugger statement was hit. We can see the execution is currently paused. We can see the execution call stack. It shows that we're in the render method of our app.js, which is helpful when you're deep into your application.

[00:32] One of the most helpful panes in the debugger window is the scope pane. Here you can see all the values of the variables currently in scope. If we take a look at this.state, we can see our search term is null because the app component has just loaded.

[00:49] If we want to test certain variable values, this scope pane is actually interactive. We can change the value of this.state.search to React. Then when we hit the play button to resume execution, we immediately see the search value change to React. The restaurant list filters to show only the React Cafe.

[01:09] This is a super powerful way to investigate bugs in React Native apps because you can check and change the values of your variables while your program is executing.

[01:19] Let's trigger the debugger statement again by changing one character in the live search. Now we're paused again. The scope pane can get crowded in a large application. To help see just the search value, we'll add a watch statement. Click the plus next to watch. Type this.state.search. We can see the current value of React.

[01:45] Now if we hit play again and change the search term again, the debugger will pause and the watch pane is updated with the latest search value from state. We activated the debugger with a debugger command in code.

[02:01] We can also set breakpoints with the debugger open. If I want more information about the restaurants in this filter statement, then I can put a breakpoint here by clicking on the line numbers in the debugger. If I continue executing by pressing the play button, the debugger will pause again on the breakpoint.

[02:21] Now I can check the scope pane again. I can see the local place variable. If I press play a couple more times, I can see every value of the place variable as the filter method operates. Once I'm done with the breakpoint, I can turn it off again by just clicking right on the breakpoint.

[02:39] There's one more neat thing the debugger can do. That is to automatically pause on an exception. Up here, we can turn on pausing on caught exceptions. To see this in action, we'll purposefully throw an exception in the render method.

[02:54] When we run that now, we don't see the red error screen in the simulator like we would expect. Instead, we see that the debugger has paused on the exception. We can see all the variables, including state and props, in the scope pane like before. Pausing on a caught exception can be a great way to figure out what is actually going wrong during an exception.