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Debug Your App

Android Studio includes a debugger that allows you to debug apps running on the Android Emulator or a connected Android device. With the Android Studio debugger, you can:

To start debugging, click Debug in the toolbar. Android Studio builds an APK, signs it with a debug key, installs it on your selected device, then runs it and opens the Debug window.

If no devices appear in the Select Deployment Target window after you click Debug, then you need to either connect a device or click Create New Emulator to setup the Android Emulator.

Figure 1. The Debugger window, showing the current thread and the object tree for a variable.

If your app is already running on a connected device or emulator, you can start debugging as follows:

  1. Click Attach debugger to Android process .
  2. In the Choose Process dialog, select the process you want to attach the debugger to.
  3. By default, the debugger shows the device and app process for the current project, as well as any connected hardware devices or virtual devices on your computer. Select Show all processes to show all processes on all devices; the display includes any services that your app created as well as system processes, for example.

    From the Debugger menu, you can select Java, Native, or Hybrid. The latter two options are available only if your project contains some native C or C++ source code.

  4. Click OK.
  5. The Debug window appears. In this case, notice the two tabs to the right of the Debug window title: one tab is for debugging native code and the other for Java code, as indicated by -java.

    Separate debugging sessions have separate tabs and different port numbers, which are displayed in parentheses in the tab.

  6. To end a debugging session, click the tab for the session, and then click Terminate .

Note: The Android Studio debugger and garbage collector are loosely integrated. The Andriod virtual machine guarantees that any object the debugger is aware of is not garbage collected until after the debugger disconnects. This can result in a buildup of objects over time while the debugger is connected. For example, if the debugger sees a running thread, the associated Thread object is not garbage collected even after the thread terminates.

Use the System Log

The system log shows system messages while you debug your app. These messages include information from apps running on the device. If you want to use the system log to debug your app, make sure your code writes log messages and prints the stack trace for exceptions while your app is in the development phase.

Write log messages in your code

To write log messages in your code, use the Log class. Log messages help you understand the execution flow by collecting the system debug output while you interact with your app. Log messages can tell you what part of your application failed. For more information about logging, see Reading and Writing Logs.

The following example shows how you might add log messages to determine if previous state information is available when your activity starts:

import android.util.Log;
public class MyActivity extends Activity {
    private static final String TAG = MyActivity.class.getSimpleName();
    public void onCreate(Bundle savedInstanceState) {
        if (savedInstanceState != null) {
            Log.d(TAG, "onCreate() Restoring previous state");
            /* restore state */
        } else {
            Log.d(TAG, "onCreate() No saved state available");
            /* initialize app */

During development, your code can also catch exceptions and write the stack trace to the system log:

void someOtherMethod() {
    try {
    } catch (SomeException e) {
        Log.d(TAG, "someOtherMethod()", e);

Note: Remove debug log messages and stack trace print calls from your code when you are ready to publish your app. You could do this by setting a DEBUG flag and placing debug log messages inside conditional statements.

View the system log

Both the Android DDMS (Dalvik Debug Monitor Server) and the Android Monitor windows show logs from the system and any particular app process. To view the system log on the Android DDMS tool window:

  1. Start your app as described in Run your App in Debug Mode.
  2. Click Android Monitor .
  3. If the system log is empty in the Logcat view, click Restart .

Figure 2. The system log in the Android DDMS tool window.

The Android DDMS tool window gives you access to some DDMS features from Android Studio. For more information about DDMS, see Using DDMS.

The system log shows messages from Android services and other Android apps. To filter the log messages to view only the ones you are interested in, use the tools in the Android DDMS window:

Work with Breakpoints

Android Studio supports several types of breakpoints that trigger different debugging actions. The most common type is a line breakpoint that pauses the execution of your app at a specified line of code. While paused, you can examine variables, evaluate expressions, then continue execution line by line to determine the causes of runtime errors.

To add a line breakpoint, proceed as follows:

  1. Locate the line of code where you want to pause execution, then either click the left gutter along that line of code or place the caret on the line and press Control+F8 (on Mac, Command+F8).
  2. If your app is already running, you don't need to update it to add the breakpoint—just click Attach debugger to Android proccess . Otherwise, start debugging by clicking Debug .

Figure 3. A red dot appears next to the line when you set a breakpoint.

When your code execution reaches the breakpoint, Android Studio pauses execution of your app. You can then use the tools in the Debugger tab to identify the state of the app:

View and configure breakpoints

To view all the breakpoints and configure breakpoint settings, click View Breakpoints on the left side of the Debug window. The Breakpoints window appears, as shown in figure 4.

Figure 4. The Breakpoints window lists all the current breakpoints and includes behavior settings for each.

The Breakpoints window lets you enable or disable each breakpoint from the list on the left. If a breakpoint is disabled, Android Studio does not pause your app when it hits that breakpoint. Select a breakpoint from the list to configure its settings. You can configure a breakpoint to be disabled at first and have the system enable it after a different breakpoint is hit. You can also configure whether a breakpoint should be disabled after it is hit. To set a breakpoint for any exception, select Exception Breakpoints in the list of breakpoints.

Debug Window Frames

In the Debugger window, the Frames pane allows you to inspect the stack frame that caused the current breakpoint to be hit. This enables you to navigate and examine the stack frame and also inspect the list of threads in your Android app. To select a thread, use the thread selector dropdown and view it's stack frame. Clicking on the elements in the frame opens the source in the editor. You can also customize the thread presentation and export the stack frame as discussed in the Window Frames guide.

View Variables and Evaluate Expressions

In the Debugger window, the Variables pane allows you to inspect variables when the app has stopped on a breakpoint and you select a frame from the Frames pane. The Variables pane also allows you to evaluate ad-hoc expressions using static methods and/or variables available within the selected frame.

The Watches pane provides similar functionality except that expressions added to the Watches pane persist between debugging sessions. You should add watches for variables and fields that you access frequently or that provide state that is helpful for the current debugging session. The Variables and Watches panes appear as shown in figure 5.

To add a variable or expression to the Watches list, follow these steps:

  1. Begin debugging.
  2. In the Watches pane, click Add .
  3. In the text box that appears, type the name of the variable or expression you want to watch and then press Enter.

To remove an item from the Watches list, select the item and then click Remove .

You can reorder the elements in the Watches list by selecting an item and then clicking Up or Down .

Figure 5. The Variables and Watches panes in the Debugger window.

Track Object Allocation

Android Studio lets you track objects that are being allocated on the Java heap and see which classes and threads are allocating these objects. This allows you to see the list of objects allocated during a period of interest. This information is valuable for assessing memory usage that can affect application performance.

To track memory allocation of objects:

  1. Start your app as described in Run Your App in Debug Mode.
  2. Click Android to open the Android DDMS tool window.
  3. On the Android DDMS tool window, select the Devices | logcat tab.
  4. Select your device from the dropdown list.
  5. Select your app by its package name from the list of running apps.
  6. Click Start Allocation Tracking
  7. Interact with your app on the device.
  8. Click Stop Allocation Tracking

Android Studio shows the objects that the system allocated with the following information:

Figure 6. Object allocation tracking in Android Studio.

Analyze Runtime Metrics to Optimize your App

Even if your application does not generate runtime errors, this does not mean it is free of problems. You should also consider the following issues:

The Android Device Monitor is a stand-alone tool with a graphical user interface for serveral Android application debugging and analysis tools, including the Dalvik Debug Monitor Server (DDMS). You can use the Android Device Monitor to analyze memory usage, profile methods, monitor network traffic and simulate incoming calls and messages.

To open the Android Device Monitor from Android Studio, click Monitor on the toolbar. The Android Device Monitor opens in a new window.

For more information about the Android Device Monitor and DDMS, see Device Monitor and Using DDMS.

Capture Screenshots and Videos

Android Studio enables you to capture a screenshot or a short video of the device screen while your app is running. Screenshots and videos are useful as promotional materials for your app, and you can also attach them to bug reports that you send to your development team.

To take a screenshot of your app:

  1. Start your app as described in Run your App in Debug Mode.
  2. Click Android Monitor .
  3. Click Screen Capture on the left.
  4. Optional: To add a device frame around your screenshot, click Frame screenshot.
  5. Click Save.

To take a video recording of your app:

  1. Start your app as described in Run your App in Debug Mode.
  2. Click Android Monitor .
  3. Click Screen Record on the left.
  4. Click Start Recording.
  5. Interact with your app.
  6. Click Stop Recording.
  7. Enter a file name for the recording and click OK.
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