Debugging tips in WebKitGTK+

Since WebKit2 has a UIProcess and a WebProcess (and could potentially have other processes, take a look at the talk that my former colleague Martin gave at GUADEC), debugging WebKit2GTK+ it is a bit different from debugging WebKitGTK+: if the crash happens in the WebProcess, how do you attach gdb to it? Lately at Samsung we have been contributing quite actively, and since debugging is part of our daily workflow, I thought it would be interesting to share it.

In WebProcessMainGtk, you can find:

#ifndef NDEBUG

so you can export WEBKIT2_PAUSE_WEB_PROCESS_ON_LAUNCH, which will give you enough time to launch gdb and attach it to the WebProcess, something I do with:

gdb -p `pidof lt-WebKitWebProcess`

(I imagine you will need to provide the right PID if you happen to have more than one lt-WebKitWebProcess instance running).

In the case that you are debugging the IPC communication between the UIProcess and the WebProcess, you might want to launch both sides within gdb, like

Tools/jhbuild/jhbuild-wrapper --gtk run gdb --args WebKitBuild/Debug/Programs/MiniBrowser

These are the contents of my .gdbinit:

set history filename .gdb_history
set history save on
set breakpoint pending on
import sys
sys.path.insert(0, "/path/to/WebKit/Tools/gdb/")
import webkit

The interesting bits there are saving the history, so you can interactively search your past history for expressions, breakpoints or whatever. The "set breakpoint pending on" is also nice if you save breakpoints into a file, since they symbols are usually loaded
dynamically later, and by default, when reading them with "source", they won't be found and will be ignored instead of left pending. Finally, WebKit provides a set of nice PrettyPrinters, so you can visually inspect the values of the most common data types.

Additionally, you might want to use

(gdb) handle SIG34 nostop

since that is a signal often received that can be a bit annoying when debugging.

You might face a similar challenge if you want to debug the LayoutTests: how do you attach to the each process? Which are the binaries? What environment variables do you need to set, and how do you deal with time outs? And what if you are debugging a test that needs a web server?

In this case, you're probably interested in using

Tools/jhbuild/jhbuild-wrapper --gtk run gdb --args WebKitBuild/Debug/Programs/WebKitTestRunner

also with the same gdb -p `pidof lt-WebKitWebProcess` additional bit. But here we need to set some environment variables first (assuming \$WEBKIT_HOME is /path/to/WebKit):

export TEST_RUNNER_TEST_PLUGIN_PATH=/path/to/.libs/

The previous path is usually \$WEBKIT_HOME/WebKitBuild/Debug/Libraries. As for the web server bit, I have an Apache server installed with one virtual host pointing to a directory in my home directory, so I just put there the tests I need to debug.

There are probably many different approaches to debugging: some people use logs and printfs, because they are very familiar with the code and already suspect where to start looking: for those, there are interesting channel logs that you can enable (although this has changed recently, take a look at r153736. Others generate core files and do post-mortem debugging with gdb, and others do live-debugging.

For additional references, check:


WebKit Environment Channel Logs