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Partial Symbol Tables

GDB has three types of symbol tables:

This section describes partial symbol tables.

A psymtab is constructed by doing a very quick pass over an executable file’s debugging information. Small amounts of information are extracted—enough to identify which parts of the symbol table will need to be re-read and fully digested later, when the user needs the information. The speed of this pass causes GDB to start up very quickly. Later, as the detailed rereading occurs, it occurs in small pieces, at various times, and the delay therefrom is mostly invisible to the user.

The symbols that show up in a file’s psymtab should be, roughly, those visible to the debugger’s user when the program is not running code from that file. These include external symbols and types, static symbols and types, and enum values declared at file scope.

The psymtab also contains the range of instruction addresses that the full symbol table would represent.

The idea is that there are only two ways for the user (or much of the code in the debugger) to reference a symbol:

The only reason that psymtabs exist is to cause a symtab to be read in at the right moment. Any symbol that can be elided from a psymtab, while still causing that to happen, should not appear in it. Since psymtabs don’t have the idea of scope, you can’t put local symbols in them anyway. Psymtabs don’t have the idea of the type of a symbol, either, so types need not appear, unless they will be referenced by name.

It is a bug for GDB to behave one way when only a psymtab has been read, and another way if the corresponding symtab has been read in. Such bugs are typically caused by a psymtab that does not contain all the visible symbols, or which has the wrong instruction address ranges.

The psymtab for a particular section of a symbol file (objfile) could be thrown away after the symtab has been read in. The symtab should always be searched before the psymtab, so the psymtab will never be used (in a bug-free environment). Currently, psymtabs are allocated on an obstack, and all the psymbols themselves are allocated in a pair of large arrays on an obstack, so there is little to be gained by trying to free them unless you want to do a lot more work.

Whether or not psymtabs are created depends on the objfile’s symbol reader. The core of GDB hides the details of partial symbols and partial symbol tables behind a set of function pointers known as the quick symbol functions. These are documented in src/gdb/symfile.h.

None: Internals Partial-Symbol-Tables (last edited 2013-08-22 19:47:17 by TomTromey)

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