Debug your app with Visual Studio

When you have to find and fix problems in your app, use the integrated Visual Studio debugger.

  1. Open your app project in Visual Studio.

  2. Run your app in debug mode to find exceptions, problems during execution, or data values. Press F5 or choose Start.

    Start debugging - choose Start or press F5

  3. When the debugger catches an exception, it suspends running your app.

    Stop at exception

  4. Close the exception dialog box, so you can start finding the uninitialized object. Even at an exception, the debugger lets you examine your app's state.

  5. Move your mouse over variables to view their values in a data tip.

    View variable values in a data tip

  6. In the Locals window, you can get more information more about the problem.

    View local values

    In this case, the problem might be that this property references a private field. Usually, the next step is to go through your code to find where things went wrong.

  7. In the Call Stack window, you can see the path that your app took to reach the point where the exception happened.

    View the call stack

    Use what you know about the code to choose where to set a breakpoint.

  8. Open the file where you want to start debugging. Select the line where you want to put the breakpoint. Press F9 or double-click in the left-hand gutter next to the line.

    Set a breakpoint

    In the gutter, the breakpoint appears as a red circle. The breakpoint stops your app's execution, so that you can start stepping through code.

  9. Because the debugger caught an exception, you'll have to stop your debugging session, then restart your session. Press Shift + F5, or on the toolbar, choose Stop Debugging.

    Stop debugging

  10. Restart your debugging session. Use the stepping commands to move through your code, looking for the method that most likely created the uninitialized object. What are the stepping commands?

    Find the uninitialized variable

  11. When you find the place where you can fix the issue, stop debugging, and change or add code.

    Fix the issue in code

  12. Restart your debugging session, and run through the app again to confirm your fix.

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Q & A

Q: What are the stepping commands?

A: You can move through the app using one of these commands:

Step Over (F10): Stepping over a function always runs the next line of code, and then suspends execution. It doesn't matter if that line calls a method in your code.

Step Into (F11): When you step into a line of code, the debugger performs one of these actions:

  • If the statement calls a function in your code, the debugger moves to the first line of the called function, and then suspends execution.

  • If the next statement doesn't call a function in your code, like a system or framework function, the debugger runs the statement, moves to the next statement, and then suspends execution.

Continue (F5): Resume running your app and continue until execution reaches a breakpoint, an exception happens, or the application exits.

Run to cursor (Ctrl + F10): Acts like a temporary breakpoint. Select a line in the code, open the shortcut menu, and choose Run to Cursor.

The debugger continues running your app until the line that contains your cursor is about to run, or until it reaches a breakpoint between the line where execution resumed and the cursor.

Q: Can I get more control over when my breakpoints fire?

A: Yes, you can disable breakpoints temporarily, and you can set conditions that determine when a breakpoint fires. Learn more here.

Q: Can I debug an app that's not on my Visual Studio computer?

A: Yes, but only if the app is running on a device that's connected over a network, or that's connected directly to your Visual Studio computer. You'll have to do some configuration to debug this way.

Q: Can I change my code without stopping the debug session?

A: Sometimes, but the rules on when you can do this are complicated. The best way is to just try it. You'll get an error if the language or context doesn't support editing. If that happens, you can just remove your changes.