Top 10 debugging tools in 2024: the only list you need

A debugging tool is a software application designed to assist developers in identifying, analyzing, and rectifying bugs or errors within their code step by step. It plays a crucial role in the debugging process, which involves finding and resolving issues that may impact the code’s logic, syntax, or overall performance. The primary purpose of a debugging tool is to streamline and enhance the efficiency of the debugging process, enabling developers to locate and fix bugs more quickly and effectively.

In addition to aiding in bug resolution, debugging tools offer developers an opportunity to delve deeper into the intricacies of libraries and language aspects. This exploration not only improves the overall quality of the code but also enhances the developer's understanding of how the application functions. A well-executed debugging session and the right debugging tool contribute to a more refined and optimized codebase, elevating the software’s accuracy and performance.

When do we need debugging? 8 scenarios

Debugging is necessary in software development when issues, bugs, or errors arise in the code. Here are some common scenarios when debugging becomes essential:

Scenario #1. When your program encounters errors during execution, the debugger helps identify the source of those errors. This includes runtime errors, syntax errors, or logical errors that prevent the code from running correctly.

Scenario #2. If your program exhibits unexpected or undesired behavior, the debugger helps trace the execution flow to understand why the code is not performing as expected. This could involve identifying incorrect outputs, unexpected program terminations, or other anomalies.

Scenario #3. Debugging is also about optimizing code for better performance. Developers use debugging tools to analyze the efficiency of their code, identify bottlenecks, and enhance the overall quality and speed of the program.

Scenario #4. Debugging aids developers in understanding how their code is executed step by step. By setting breakpoints and inspecting variables at different points in the code, developers gain insights into the program's flow, making it easier to identify issues.

Scenario #5. During testing phases, debugging is crucial to ensure that the software functions correctly under various conditions. It helps identify issues that might not be apparent during initial development or testing and ensures the reliability of the software.

Scenario #6. When integrating different modules or components, unexpected interactions may occur. Debugging helps pinpoint integration issues, ensuring that the integrated system works seamlessly.

Scenario #7. When refactoring or maintaining existing code, debugging is valuable for understanding the existing logic, identifying potential issues, and ensuring that modifications do not introduce new bugs.

Scenario #8. If users report issues or bugs in a deployed application, debugging is necessary to reproduce and address those issues. This helps in providing timely updates and maintaining a positive user experience.

Developers and QA automation engineers routinely use debugging tools to pinpoint errors while working with code. But for manual QA engineers, using classical debugging tools may pose challenges. In such instances, the Zebrunner testing platform serves as an effective solution. It provides essential test artifacts like logs, videos, and screenshots, aiding in identifying the point of test failure. Another scenario demanding an advanced solution is the concurrent execution of multiple sessions, where debugging simultaneously is necessary. This is when Zebrunner automation reporting comes to the aid. It facilitates comprehensive result analysis providing organized data. 

Top 10 best debugging tools

There are numerous debuggers, both commercial and open-source. Many of these are tailored for specific programming languages or operating systems, such as Windows, iOS, Android, etc. So, let's take a look at the most popular debugging tools.

IntelliJ IDEA is designed by Jetbrains for Java and Kotlin. It encompasses features like a smart editor, run and debug capabilities, web development support, profiling tools, database tools, cloud and deployment integration, remote development, and more. The AI Assistant in IntelliJ IDEA enhances efficiency by facilitating the creation of clear and helpful commit messages. It can also identify and explain errors, propose fixes for specific cases, and suggest code refactoring.

Google Chrome, the global leader in web browsers, offers Chrome DevTools. This is a set of embedded free debugging tools. These tools, accessible through Right Click > Inspect, empower developers to inspect and edit code, measure performance with dedicated panels, and analyze page performance across browsers and devices. Chrome DevTools streamline the editing process, making web development more efficient and enabling faster deployment. The suite includes essential features for exploring DOM, CSS, and JavaScript, allowing real-time changes and providing crucial metrics on component downloads and rendering processes.

ReSharper is one more JetBrains debugging tool for .NET developers. You can apply ReSharper for code quality analyses in C#, VB.NET, XAML, ASP.NET, ASP.NET MVC, HTML, and XML. This way you will immediately know if your code needs to be improved. Moreover, this tool can create code. In addition, ReSharper not only warns you when there’s a problem in your code but it provides hundreds of quick fixes to solve problems automatically. Also, automated solution-wide code refactorings help you safely change your code base.

For Python developers, PyCharm IDE and its integrated PyCharm Debugger, developed by JetBrains, are indispensable tools. Similar to other JetBrains products, such as ReSharper and IntelliJ IDEA, this debugger allows you to set breakpoints, step through your code, and inspect variables in real-time. Operating seamlessly during coding, the PyCharm debugger not only highlights syntax errors and bugs but also offers optimization suggestions. This feature allows for on-the-fly debugging, minimizing the necessity to execute the entire code or initiate a separate debugging process.

This is a device reliability platform for IoT Monitoring, Debugging, and OTA Updates. It works with various types of hardware like Android, Linux, and others. Instead of relying only on manual methods for device upkeep, Memfault brings smart strategies to help scale and sustain your connected devices. It lets you monitor how well your devices are doing and find and fix problems, all from one place. Plus, it helps you update your devices without causing trouble, making sure your customers stay happy. It's a practical solution for managing and improving your IoT devices.

Android Studio is the official integrated development environment (IDE) for Android app development. In addition to various debugging tools, Android Studio offers an AI assistant that aids in code generation, fixing, and provides information about Android app development. Key features of Android Studio encompass design tools for composition, an intelligent code editor, a flexible build system, emulation for any device, and more. It supports Java, Kotlin, and C/C++ code, enabling functionalities like breakpoints, code stepping, and variable value viewing. The debugger seamlessly connects when running code on a physical device. Additional features include a logging console on the Logcat tab and various breakpoint options, allowing precise bug identification by setting breakpoints on specific lines, methods, or triggering conditions based on data read or written, enhancing the debugging experience for developers.

Telerik Fiddler, offered in various versions, serves as a web debugging proxy, enabling you to intercept and observe communication between your browser and external servers, APIs, and internet locations. Compatible with multiple protocols like HTTPS, WebSocket, and gRPC, Fiddler allows you to inspect, modify, and create custom payloads for effective troubleshooting and validation, aiding in pinpointing issues within your applications. The inclusion of filters and rules further assists engineers in refining their traffic view and directing attention to specific payloads for necessary actions.

The Eclipse IDE, an open-source development environment from the Eclipse organization, is widely favored by Java engineers. Eclipse seamlessly integrates with the Java Development Toolkit (JDT) debugger, providing robust debugging tools. Within Eclipse, developers can set breakpoints, step through code, and inspect variable contents during code execution. Being an open-source community project, Eclipse offers flexibility — users can opt for default debugging tools or integrate additional debugging plugins to tailor the IDE to their specific development and debugging requirements. Although primarily designed for Java, Eclipse can be extended to support other languages, as exemplified by the highly successful Android Studio discussed earlier.

This tool ensures a quicker identification of bugs with its core focus on simplifying the debugging process. It supports various languages including C/C++, Delphi, .NET, Java, and more. SmartBear AQTime Pro is versatile, functioning either as a standalone tool or within RAD or Visual Studios IDEs, making it adept at uncovering intricate bugs.

Most debuggers on this list are designed for project-specific code debugging. However, certain bugs may originate from interactions with other applications or the operating system, extending beyond your project scope. For Windows users, WinDbg (Windows Debugger) offers a solution to broaden your debugging capabilities. WinDbg enables exploration of crash dumps for problem analysis. Additionally, it supports live debugging in both user mode and kernel mode, allowing examination of your workstation's memory and CPU registers.