Expressions in the Visual Studio debugger

Applies to: yesVisual Studio noVisual Studio for Mac noVisual Studio Code

The Visual Studio debugger includes expression evaluators that work when you enter an expression in the QuickWatch dialog box, Watch window, or Immediate window. The expression evaluators are also at work in the Breakpoints window and many other places in the debugger.

The following sections describes limitations of expression evaluation for languages supported by Visual Studio.

F# expressions are not supported

F# expressions are not recognized. If you are debugging F# code, you need to translate your expressions into C# syntax before entering the expressions into a debugger window or dialog box. When you translate expressions from F# to C#, be sure to remember that C# uses the == operator to test for equality, while F# uses the single =.

C++ Expressions

For information about using context operators with expressions in C++, see Context Operator (C++).

Unsupported Expressions in C++

Constructors, destructors, and conversions

You cannot call a constructor or destructor for an object, either explicitly or implicitly. For example, the following expression explicitly calls a constructor and results in an error message:

my_date( 2, 3, 1985 )

You cannot call a conversion function if the destination of the conversion is a class. Such a conversion involves the construction of an object. For example, if myFraction is an instance of CFraction, which defines the conversion function operator FixedPoint, the following expression results in an error:

(FixedPoint)myFraction

You cannot call the new or delete operators. For example, the following expression is not supported:

new Date(2,3,1985)

Preprocessor Macros

Preprocessor macros are not supported in the debugger. For instance, if a constant VALUE is declared as: #define VALUE 3, you cannot use VALUE in the Watch window. To avoid this limitation, you should replace #define's with enums and functions whenever possible.

using namespace declarations

You cannot use using namespace declarations. In order to access a type name or variable outside of the current namespace, you must use the fully-qualified name.

Anonymous namespaces

Anonymous namespaces are not supported. If you have the following code, you cannot add test to the watch window:

namespace mars
{
    namespace
    {
        int test = 0;
    }
}
int main()
{
    // Adding a watch on test does not work.
    mars::test++;
    return 0;
}

Using debugger intrinsic functions to maintain state

The debugger intrinsic functions give you a way to call certain C/C++ functions in expressions without changing the state of the application.

Debugger intrinsic functions:

  • Are guaranteed to be safe: executing a debugger intrinsic function will not corrupt the process that is being debugged.

  • Are allowed in all expressions , even in scenarios where side effects and function evaluation are not allowed.

  • Work in scenarios where the regular function calls are not possible, such as debugging a minidump.

    Debugger intrinsic functions can also make evaluating expressions more convenient. For example, strncmp(str, "asd") is much easier to write in a breakpoint condition than str[0] == 'a' && str[1] == 's' && str[2] == 'd'. )

Area Intrinsic functions
String length strlen, wcslen, strnlen, wcsnlen
String comparison strcmp, wcscmp, stricmp, wcsicmp, _stricmp, _strcmpi, _wcsicmp, _wcscmpi, strncmp, wcsncmp, strnicmp, wcsnicmp, _strnicmp, _wcsnicmp
String search strchr, wcschr, memchr, wmemchr, strstr, wcsstr
Win32 CoDecodeProxy, DecodePointer, GetLastError, TlsGetValue
Windows 8 RoInspectCapturedStackBackTrace, WindowsCompareStringOrdinal, WindowsGetStringLen, WindowsGetStringRawBuffer

These functions require the process that is being debugged to be running on Windows 8. Debugging dump files generated from a Windows 8 device also requires that the Visual Studio computer be running Windows 8. However, if you are debugging a Windows 8 device remotely, the Visual Studio computer can be running Windows 7.
WindowsGetStringLen and WindowsGetStringRawBuffer are used only by the execution engine (EE) on the source level.
Miscellaneous __log2 - Returns the log base 2 of a specified integer, rounded to the nearest lower integer.

__findNonNull - Searches an array of pointers, returning the index of the first non-null element.
- Parameters: (1) Pointer to first element in array (void*), (2) Size of array (unsigned int).
- Return values: (1) 0-based index of first non-null element in array or -1 if not found.

DecodeHString - Helper function to format the value of an HSTRING. Pops the HSTRING value off the stack, pushes the bytes of a StringInfo structure that the EE can use to tell where the string is located. This is only used internally by the EE; it is not available to the user to call directly.

DecodeWinRTRestrictedException - Decodes a WinRT restricted exception to get the restricted description.
- Parameters: (1) characters of a null-terminated string representing the restricted reference string.
- Return value: Characters of a null-terminated string containing the actual error message to show.

DynamicCast - Implements dynamic_cast.
- Parameters: (1) Pointer to object to cast.
- Data items: A CDynamicCastData object should be associated as a data item to the corresponding ExecuteIntrinsic() instruction. The data item encodes the type we are casting from and to, as well as whether or not we are evaluating a natvis expression (needed for diagnostics to break infinite recursion).
- Return value: (1) A pointer to the object, cast to the correct type, or NULL if the object being cast is not an instance of the correct type.

DynamicMemberLookup - Helper function to get the value of a class member dynamically

GetEnvBlockLength - Helper function to get length of an environment block, in characters. Used for $env.

Stdext_HashMap_Int_OperatorBracket_idx - Operator[] for stdext::hash_map. Assumes default hash function with a key of 'int'. Returns the value. The intrinsic operator[] only supports retrieving existing items from the hashtable - it does not support inserting new items into the table, as that could involve unwanted complexity, such as memory allocation. However, operator[] may be used to modify the value associated with a key already in the table.
- Stack Parameters: (1) The address of the stdext::hash_map object, (2) The key into the table (int), (3) a HashMapPdb structure that specifies the field offsets of members that the function implementation needs to do the lookup. This is required because direct access to symbols is not available on the remote side.
- Return values: (1) If the key is in the table, the address of the value which corresponds to the key. Otherwise, NULL.

Std_UnorderedMap_Int_OperatorBracket_idx - std::unordered_map works the same way as stdext::hash_map, except the hash function is different.

ConcurrencyArray_OperatorBracket_idx // Concurrency::array<>::operator[index<>] and operator(index<>)

ConcurrencyArray_OperatorBracket_int // Concurrency::array<>::operator(int, int, ...)

ConcurrencyArray_OperatorBracket_tidx // Concurrency::array<>::operator[tiled_index<>] and operator(tiled_index<>)

ConcurrencyArrayView_OperatorBracket_idx // Concurrency::array_view<>::operator[index<>] and operator(index<>)

ConcurrencyArrayView_OperatorBracket_int // Concurrency::array_view<>::operator(int, int, ...)

ConcurrencyArrayView_OperatorBracket_tidx // Concurrency::array_view<>::operator[tiled_index<>] and operator(tiled_index<>)

TreeTraverse_Init - Initializes a new tree traversal.
- Stack Parameters: (1) Address of root node, (2) Hint for the maximum depth to use. Items at a depth beyond this are moved to a queue for later processing.
- Subroutine parameters: (1) node validity (optional).
- Return values: (1) Opaque sequence of bytes encoding the state of the tree traversal.

TreeTraverse_Next - Retrieves nodes from a pending tree traversal.
- Stack Parameters: (1) Opaque byte array representing state of tree traversal, (2) Number of nodes to fetch.
- Subroutine parameters (must match call to TreeTraverse_Init()): (1) left child, (2) right child, (3) node validity (optional).
- Return values: (1) Number of nodes fetched (Note: pushed after the nodes, themselves, so it can be popped first). If fewer nodes were fetched than requested, this means the end of the tree. (2) For each node fetched, the address of the node. (3) Opaque sequence of bytes encoding the new state of the tree traversal

TreeTraverse_Skip - Skips nodes in a pending tree traversal.
- Stack Parameters: (1) Opaque byte array representing state of tree traversal, (2) Number of nodes to skip.
- Subroutine parameters (must match on successive calls to Next() on the same enumerator): (1) left child, (2) right child, (3) node validity (optional).
- Return values: (1) Number of items actually skipped (might be less than what's requested), (2) Opaque sequence of bytes encoding the new state of the tree traversal

C++/CLI - Unsupported Expressions

  • Casts that involve pointers, or user-defined casts, are not supported.

  • Object comparison and assignment are not supported.

  • Overloaded operators and overloaded functions are not supported.

  • Boxing and unboxing are not supported.

  • Sizeof operator is not supported.

C# - Unsupported Expressions

Dynamic Objects

You can use variables in debugger expressions that are statically typed as dynamic. When objects that implement IDynamicMetaObjectProvider are evaluated in the Watch window, a Dynamic View node is added. The Dynamic View node shows object members but does not allow editing the values of the members.

The following features of dynamic objects are not supported:

  • The compound operators +=, -=, %=, /=, and *=

  • Many casts, including numeric casts and type-argument casts

  • Method calls with more than two arguments

  • Property getters with more than two arguments

  • Property setters with arguments

  • Assigning to an indexer

  • Boolean operators && and ||

Anonymous Methods

Creation of new anonymous methods is not supported.

Visual Basic - Unsupported Expressions

Dynamic Objects

You can use variables in debugger expressions that are statically typed as dynamic. When objects that implement the IDynamicMetaObjectProvider are evaluated in the Watch window, a Dynamic View node is added. The Dynamic View node shows object members but does not allow editing the values of the members.

The following features of dynamic objects are not supported:

  • The compound operators +=, -=, %=, /=, and *=

  • Many casts, including numeric casts and type-argument casts

  • Method calls with more than two arguments

  • Property getters with more than two arguments

  • Property setters with arguments

  • Assigning to an indexer

  • Boolean operators && and ||

Local Constants

Local constants are not supported.

Import Aliases

Import aliases are not supported.

Variable Declarations

You cannot declare explicit new variables in debugger windows. However, you can assign new implicit variables inside the Immediate window. These implicit variables are scoped to the debug session and are not accessible outside of the debugger. For example, the statement o = 5 implicitly creates a new variable o and assign the value 5 to it. Such implicit variables are of type Object unless the type can be inferred by the debugger.

Unsupported Keywords

  • AddressOf

  • End

  • Error

  • Exit

  • Goto

  • On Error

  • Resume

  • Return

  • Select/Case

  • Stop

  • SyncLock

  • Throw

  • Try/Catch/Finally

  • With

  • Namespace or module level keywords, such as End Sub or Module.

See also