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23.3.3.10 Writing a Guile Pretty-Printer

A pretty-printer consists of two basic parts: a lookup function to determine if the type is supported, and the printer itself.

Here is an example showing how a std::string printer might be written. See Guile Pretty Printing API, for details.

     (define (make-my-string-printer value)
       "Print a my::string string"
       (make-pretty-printer-worker
        "string"
        (lambda (printer)
          (value-field value "_data"))
        #f))

And here is an example showing how a lookup function for the printer example above might be written.

     (define (str-lookup-function pretty-printer value)
       (let ((tag (type-tag (value-type value))))
         (and tag
              (string-prefix? "std::string<" tag)
              (make-my-string-printer value))))

Then to register this printer in the global printer list:

     (append-pretty-printer!
      (make-pretty-printer "my-string" str-lookup-function))

The example lookup function extracts the value's type, and attempts to match it to a type that it can pretty-print. If it is a type the printer can pretty-print, it will return a <gdb:pretty-printer-worker> object. If not, it returns #f.

We recommend that you put your core pretty-printers into a Guile package. If your pretty-printers are for use with a library, we further recommend embedding a version number into the package name. This practice will enable gdb to load multiple versions of your pretty-printers at the same time, because they will have different names.

You should write auto-loaded code (see Guile Auto-loading) such that it can be evaluated multiple times without changing its meaning. An ideal auto-load file will consist solely of imports of your printer modules, followed by a call to a register pretty-printers with the current objfile.

Taken as a whole, this approach will scale nicely to multiple inferiors, each potentially using a different library version. Embedding a version number in the Guile package name will ensure that gdb is able to load both sets of printers simultaneously. Then, because the search for pretty-printers is done by objfile, and because your auto-loaded code took care to register your library's printers with a specific objfile, gdb will find the correct printers for the specific version of the library used by each inferior.

To continue the my::string example, this code might appear in (my-project my-library v1):

     (use-modules ((gdb)))
     (define (register-printers objfile)
       (append-objfile-pretty-printer!
        (make-pretty-printer "my-string" str-lookup-function)))

And then the corresponding contents of the auto-load file would be:

     (use-modules ((gdb) (my-project my-library v1)))
     (register-printers (current-objfile))

The previous example illustrates a basic pretty-printer. There are a few things that can be improved on. The printer only handles one type, whereas a library typically has several types. One could install a lookup function for each desired type in the library, but one could also have a single lookup function recognize several types. The latter is the conventional way this is handled. If a pretty-printer can handle multiple data types, then its subprinters are the printers for the individual data types.

The (gdb printing) module provides a formal way of solving this problem (see Guile Printing Module). Here is another example that handles multiple types.

These are the types we are going to pretty-print:

     struct foo { int a, b; };
     struct bar { struct foo x, y; };

Here are the printers:

     (define (make-foo-printer value)
       "Print a foo object"
       (make-pretty-printer-worker
        "foo"
        (lambda (printer)
          (format #f "a=<~a> b=<~a>"
                  (value-field value "a") (value-field value "a")))
        #f))
     
     (define (make-bar-printer value)
       "Print a bar object"
       (make-pretty-printer-worker
        "foo"
        (lambda (printer)
          (format #f "x=<~a> y=<~a>"
                  (value-field value "x") (value-field value "y")))
        #f))

This example doesn't need a lookup function, that is handled by the (gdb printing) module. Instead a function is provided to build up the object that handles the lookup.

     (use-modules ((gdb printing)))
     
     (define (build-pretty-printer)
       (let ((pp (make-pretty-printer-collection "my-library")))
         (pp-collection-add-tag-printer "foo" make-foo-printer)
         (pp-collection-add-tag-printer "bar" make-bar-printer)
         pp))

And here is the autoload support:

     (use-modules ((gdb) (my-library)))
     (append-objfile-pretty-printer! (current-objfile) (build-pretty-printer))

Finally, when this printer is loaded into gdb, here is the corresponding output of ‘info pretty-printer’:

     (gdb) info pretty-printer
     my_library.so:
       my-library
         foo
         bar