The purpose of a debugger such as GDB is to allow you to see what is going on "inside" another program while it executes--or what another program was doing at the moment it crashed.
GDB can do four main kinds of things (plus other things in support of these) to help you catch bugs in the act:
You can use GDB to debug programs written in C and C++. For more information, see section Supported languages. For more information, see section C and C++.
Support for Modula-2 is partial. For information on Modula-2, see section Modula-2.
Debugging Pascal programs which use sets, subranges, file variables, or nested functions does not currently work. GDB does not support entering expressions, printing values, or similar features using Pascal syntax.
GDB can be used to debug programs written in Fortran, although it may be necessary to refer to some variables with a trailing underscore.
GDB can be used to debug programs written in Objective-C, using either the Apple/NeXT or the GNU Objective-C runtime.
GDB is free software, protected by the GNU General Public License (GPL). The GPL gives you the freedom to copy or adapt a licensed program--but every person getting a copy also gets with it the freedom to modify that copy (which means that they must get access to the source code), and the freedom to distribute further copies. Typical software companies use copyrights to limit your freedoms; the Free Software Foundation uses the GPL to preserve these freedoms.
Fundamentally, the General Public License is a license which says that you have these freedoms and that you cannot take these freedoms away from anyone else.
The biggest deficiency in the free software community today is not in the software--it is the lack of good free documentation that we can include with the free software. Many of our most important programs do not come with free reference manuals and free introductory texts. Documentation is an essential part of any software package; when an important free software package does not come with a free manual and a free tutorial, that is a major gap. We have many such gaps today.
Consider Perl, for instance. The tutorial manuals that people normally use are non-free. How did this come about? Because the authors of those manuals published them with restrictive terms--no copying, no modification, source files not available--which exclude them from the free software world.
That wasn't the first time this sort of thing happened, and it was far from the last. Many times we have heard a GNU user eagerly describe a manual that he is writing, his intended contribution to the community, only to learn that he had ruined everything by signing a publication contract to make it non-free.
Free documentation, like free software, is a matter of freedom, not price. The problem with the non-free manual is not that publishers charge a price for printed copies--that in itself is fine. (The Free Software Foundation sells printed copies of manuals, too.) The problem is the restrictions on the use of the manual. Free manuals are available in source code form, and give you permission to copy and modify. Non-free manuals do not allow this.
The criteria of freedom for a free manual are roughly the same as for free software. Redistribution (including the normal kinds of commercial redistribution) must be permitted, so that the manual can accompany every copy of the program, both on-line and on paper.
Permission for modification of the technical content is crucial too. When people modify the software, adding or changing features, if they are conscientious they will change the manual too--so they can provide accurate and clear documentation for the modified program. A manual that leaves you no choice but to write a new manual to document a changed version of the program is not really available to our community.
Some kinds of limits on the way modification is handled are acceptable. For example, requirements to preserve the original author's copyright notice, the distribution terms, or the list of authors, are ok. It is also no problem to require modified versions to include notice that they were modified. Even entire sections that may not be deleted or changed are acceptable, as long as they deal with nontechnical topics (like this one). These kinds of restrictions are acceptable because they don't obstruct the community's normal use of the manual.
However, it must be possible to modify all the technical content of the manual, and then distribute the result in all the usual media, through all the usual channels. Otherwise, the restrictions obstruct the use of the manual, it is not free, and we need another manual to replace it.
Please spread the word about this issue. Our community continues to lose manuals to proprietary publishing. If we spread the word that free software needs free reference manuals and free tutorials, perhaps the next person who wants to contribute by writing documentation will realize, before it is too late, that only free manuals contribute to the free software community.
If you are writing documentation, please insist on publishing it under the GNU Free Documentation License or another free documentation license. Remember that this decision requires your approval--you don't have to let the publisher decide. Some commercial publishers will use a free license if you insist, but they will not propose the option; it is up to you to raise the issue and say firmly that this is what you want. If the publisher you are dealing with refuses, please try other publishers. If you're not sure whether a proposed license is free, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can encourage commercial publishers to sell more free, copylefted manuals and tutorials by buying them, and particularly by buying copies from the publishers that paid for their writing or for major improvements. Meanwhile, try to avoid buying non-free documentation at all. Check the distribution terms of a manual before you buy it, and insist that whoever seeks your business must respect your freedom. Check the history of the book, and try to reward the publishers that have paid or pay the authors to work on it.
The Free Software Foundation maintains a list of free documentation published by other publishers, at http://www.fsf.org/doc/other-free-books.html.
Richard Stallman was the original author of GDB, and of many other GNU programs. Many others have contributed to its development. This section attempts to credit major contributors. One of the virtues of free software is that everyone is free to contribute to it; with regret, we cannot actually acknowledge everyone here. The file `ChangeLog' in the GDB distribution approximates a blow-by-blow account.
Changes much prior to version 2.0 are lost in the mists of time.
Plea: Additions to this section are particularly welcome. If you or your friends (or enemies, to be evenhanded) have been unfairly omitted from this list, we would like to add your names!
So that they may not regard their many labors as thankless, we particularly thank those who shepherded GDB through major releases: Andrew Cagney (releases 6.1, 6.0, 5.3, 5.2, 5.1 and 5.0); Jim Blandy (release 4.18); Jason Molenda (release 4.17); Stan Shebs (release 4.14); Fred Fish (releases 4.16, 4.15, 4.13, 4.12, 4.11, 4.10, and 4.9); Stu Grossman and John Gilmore (releases 4.8, 4.7, 4.6, 4.5, and 4.4); John Gilmore (releases 4.3, 4.2, 4.1, 4.0, and 3.9); Jim Kingdon (releases 3.5, 3.4, and 3.3); and Randy Smith (releases 3.2, 3.1, and 3.0).
Richard Stallman, assisted at various times by Peter TerMaat, Chris Hanson, and Richard Mlynarik, handled releases through 2.8.
Michael Tiemann is the author of most of the GNU C++ support in GDB, with significant additional contributions from Per Bothner and Daniel Berlin. James Clark wrote the GNU C++ demangler. Early work on C++ was by Peter TerMaat (who also did much general update work leading to release 3.0).
GDB uses the BFD subroutine library to examine multiple object-file formats; BFD was a joint project of David V. Henkel-Wallace, Rich Pixley, Steve Chamberlain, and John Gilmore.
David Johnson wrote the original COFF support; Pace Willison did the original support for encapsulated COFF.
Brent Benson of Harris Computer Systems contributed DWARF 2 support.
Adam de Boor and Bradley Davis contributed the ISI Optimum V support. Per Bothner, Noboyuki Hikichi, and Alessandro Forin contributed MIPS support. Jean-Daniel Fekete contributed Sun 386i support. Chris Hanson improved the HP9000 support. Noboyuki Hikichi and Tomoyuki Hasei contributed Sony/News OS 3 support. David Johnson contributed Encore Umax support. Jyrki Kuoppala contributed Altos 3068 support. Jeff Law contributed HP PA and SOM support. Keith Packard contributed NS32K support. Doug Rabson contributed Acorn Risc Machine support. Bob Rusk contributed Harris Nighthawk CX-UX support. Chris Smith contributed Convex support (and Fortran debugging). Jonathan Stone contributed Pyramid support. Michael Tiemann contributed SPARC support. Tim Tucker contributed support for the Gould NP1 and Gould Powernode. Pace Willison contributed Intel 386 support. Jay Vosburgh contributed Symmetry support. Marko Mlinar contributed OpenRISC 1000 support.
Andreas Schwab contributed M68K GNU/Linux support.
Rich Schaefer and Peter Schauer helped with support of SunOS shared libraries.
Jay Fenlason and Roland McGrath ensured that GDB and GAS agree about several machine instruction sets.
Patrick Duval, Ted Goldstein, Vikram Koka and Glenn Engel helped develop remote debugging. Intel Corporation, Wind River Systems, AMD, and ARM contributed remote debugging modules for the i960, VxWorks, A29K UDI, and RDI targets, respectively.
Brian Fox is the author of the readline libraries providing command-line editing and command history.
Andrew Beers of SUNY Buffalo wrote the language-switching code, the Modula-2 support, and contributed the Languages chapter of this manual.
Fred Fish wrote most of the support for Unix System Vr4. He also enhanced the command-completion support to cover C++ overloaded symbols.
Hitachi America (now Renesas America), Ltd. sponsored the support for H8/300, H8/500, and Super-H processors.
NEC sponsored the support for the v850, Vr4xxx, and Vr5xxx processors.
Mitsubishi (now Renesas) sponsored the support for D10V, D30V, and M32R/D processors.
Toshiba sponsored the support for the TX39 Mips processor.
Matsushita sponsored the support for the MN10200 and MN10300 processors.
Fujitsu sponsored the support for SPARClite and FR30 processors.
Kung Hsu, Jeff Law, and Rick Sladkey added support for hardware watchpoints.
Michael Snyder added support for tracepoints.
Stu Grossman wrote gdbserver.
Jim Kingdon, Peter Schauer, Ian Taylor, and Stu Grossman made nearly innumerable bug fixes and cleanups throughout GDB.
The following people at the Hewlett-Packard Company contributed support for the PA-RISC 2.0 architecture, HP-UX 10.20, 10.30, and 11.0 (narrow mode), HP's implementation of kernel threads, HP's aC++ compiler, and the Text User Interface (nee Terminal User Interface): Ben Krepp, Richard Title, John Bishop, Susan Macchia, Kathy Mann, Satish Pai, India Paul, Steve Rehrauer, and Elena Zannoni. Kim Haase provided HP-specific information in this manual.
DJ Delorie ported GDB to MS-DOS, for the DJGPP project. Robert Hoehne made significant contributions to the DJGPP port.
Cygnus Solutions has sponsored GDB maintenance and much of its development since 1991. Cygnus engineers who have worked on GDB fulltime include Mark Alexander, Jim Blandy, Per Bothner, Kevin Buettner, Edith Epstein, Chris Faylor, Fred Fish, Martin Hunt, Jim Ingham, John Gilmore, Stu Grossman, Kung Hsu, Jim Kingdon, John Metzler, Fernando Nasser, Geoffrey Noer, Dawn Perchik, Rich Pixley, Zdenek Radouch, Keith Seitz, Stan Shebs, David Taylor, and Elena Zannoni. In addition, Dave Brolley, Ian Carmichael, Steve Chamberlain, Nick Clifton, JT Conklin, Stan Cox, DJ Delorie, Ulrich Drepper, Frank Eigler, Doug Evans, Sean Fagan, David Henkel-Wallace, Richard Henderson, Jeff Holcomb, Jeff Law, Jim Lemke, Tom Lord, Bob Manson, Michael Meissner, Jason Merrill, Catherine Moore, Drew Moseley, Ken Raeburn, Gavin Romig-Koch, Rob Savoye, Jamie Smith, Mike Stump, Ian Taylor, Angela Thomas, Michael Tiemann, Tom Tromey, Ron Unrau, Jim Wilson, and David Zuhn have made contributions both large and small.
Jim Blandy added support for preprocessor macros, while working for Red Hat.
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