Today, we’re releasing Debugger Canvas on DevLabs.

Debugger Canvas is a new user experience for stepping through code in the debugger in Visual Studio Ultimate. It displays the code of each of the methods you step into on a canvas with call lines between them, helping you keep track of the bigger picture as well as the details.

Debugger Canvas pulls together all the code along a call path into a single display for browsing and even editing. Instead of having to keep all the code in your head while you look at one file tab at a time, now you can see the entire path on the canvas, enabling you to more easily track the flow of control and data through your application.  Below, you can see an example where we have stepped into the execution of the Add Item function of a website shopping cart. The functionality requires the coordination of several methods, and the canvas lets you see them side by side so that you can more easily find and fix bugs.

Of course, the idea of showing related code together on a canvas can be useful in many scenarios. For this release, we started with debugging, since this task often involves looking at methods from many files at the same time. However, with the right options turned on, you can also navigate and edit your code from Debugger Canvas.

Debugger Canvas also highlights the potential of several of the technologies we introduced in Visual Studio 2010 Pro and Ultimate. It takes advantage of the flexibility of the new code editor to show fragments of files as bubbles on the canvas with a fully functioning editor in each. We built Debugger Canvas on top of Visual Studio Ultimate so that we could also use the underlying technology for the Dependency Diagrams to identify and display the right fragments on the canvas. This let us support both C# and VB in this release and will help us support other languages in the future. Building on VS Ultimate also allowed us to provide a new user experience for IntelliTrace, enabling some interesting scenarios, such as “show me what code ran when I clicked here”.  

Debugger Canvas is the result of collaboration with Brown University and Microsoft Research, incorporating innovative ideas from Brown’s Code Bubbles and Microsoft Research’s Code Canvas. Cutting edge research is being done at Brown and at other universities around the world to help improve development team productivity and software quality. Through Microsoft Research, we collaborate with academic efforts like this one to bring innovative ideas to Visual Studio.

Take Debugger Canvas for a Spin

Our goal with DevLabs projects to get early feedback and insight and to help drive these ideas in the right direction. Try out Debugger Canvas, then bring your bugs, questions and ideas to the forum. We look forward to hearing from you!