Java Debugging Tools and Best Practices

Quick Summary:

Need highly performing Java debugging tools but are confused about selecting the right one for your project? We will help you navigate through the list of best Java tools for debugging and discuss best practices to debug Java applications in this ultimate Java debugging tools comparison blog.

Debugging Java applications is a common struggle that unites all Java developers, and that’s the reason it is important to talk about Java Debugging Tools. Before moving forward, let’s acknowledge a fact – even the most impeccable Java codebase isn’t immune to bugs. The presence of bugs is in no way a reflection of the Java developer’s skills or the quality of the codebase. Bugs occur in software due to various reasons like unexpected inputs, runtime conditions or complex relations between different components.

Today, we emphasize the importance and role of debugging tools in Java that can help us identify, diagnose and resolve these bugs efficiently. They help us look into our codebase, pinpoint problematic code areas and eliminate them effectively. We will also cover some of the Java good practices for writing better, readable and reliable Java code to reduce the chances of human-input errors.

How to Debug in Java – Quick Guide

Before we go through the list of Java tools for Java debugging, let’s understand how debugging works and why it is important. Debugging is identifying, isolating, and fixing issues within your Java codebase.

How to Debug in Java

As a Java developer, you must be prepared for instances where your codebase runs into unexpected errors, behaviours, bugs or performance bottlenecks. Debugging can be associated with the work of a detective! You need to solve the mystery of improving your Java application’s performance.

A properly debugged Java codebase ensures:

  • Optimal Performance
  • Codebase Reliability
  • Reduced Maintenance Cost
  • Ease of Knowledge Transfer
  • Java Security Enhancement

Proper Debugged Java Codebase Ensures

Steps to Debug Java Applications

Debugging Java applications in theory is a pretty straightforward process. It involves:

  1. Error Detection: It starts with recognizing the presence of an error or bug in your Java codebase.
  2. Finding The Bug: Next, you must find the exact location or line of code where the error originates.
  3. Error Analysis: After finding the error, the Java code tester analyses the cause of the error to understand what caused it.
  4. Fix and Validate: Once analyzed, the errors are fixed through a solution, and then it is verified that the issue has been resolved.

Steps to Debug Java Applications

Also Read: How to Debug Java Application

Top Java Debugging Tools to use in 2024

You might already know most of the Java debugging tools mentioned here. However, we plan to keep updating this space with any new Java tools for debugging or other noteworthy tools we come across when providing our Java development services. Java development tools are the most effective assets in a Java developer’s arsenal. Make sure to keep checking this space occasionally. Without further ado, let’s dive right into the list of Java Tools for debugging Java in 2024:

Top Java Debugging Tools to Use

1. Eclipse Debugger

Eclipse Debugger is a built-in debugging tool in the Eclipse IDE platform. It easily makes the top #3 Java debugging tools list in any comparison blog. It provides a variety of standard Java debugging features like setting breakpoints, stepping through code, inspecting variables and analyzing the execution flow of Java applications.

Who uses Eclipse Debugger?

It is highly used by Java developers who leverage Eclipse IDE as their preferred Java platform since it provides a seamless debugging experience in the same environment.

What is the purpose of Eclipse Debugger?

To help developers identify & fix bugs in their Java app during the development phase.

Key Features of Eclipse Debugger

Key Features of Eclipse Debugger Purpose
Java Remote Debugging Provides an option for Java remote debugging.
Breakpoints Setting breakpoints in code for pausing execution.
Step-Through Debugging Ability to step into, over or out of code for detailed analysis.
Real-Time Code Evaluation Evaluate code snippets and expressions.
Variable Inspection View and modify different variables during debugging.

What are the key highlights of Eclipse Debugger?

  • It’s consistent performance and stability.
  • Seamless integration with Eclipse IDE.
  • Extensive community support and plugins.

2. Debugger IntelliJ IDEA

IntelliJ IDEA is at par with Eclipse and NetBeans as one of the most popular Java debugging tools amongst Java developers. IntelliJ IDEA provides both – an open-source alternative and a paid commercial edition.

You can use it for debugging Java applications and many JVM languages such as Groovy, Scala and Kotlin. With the commercial edition, you get access to non-java frameworks, too, like Java EE, Spring and others. Both the open-source version and paid version provide support for Android, making IntelliJ IDEA the best debug app for Android.

Who uses Debugger IntelliJ IDEA?

Java developers that prefer a user-friendly and produce IDE.

What is the purpose of Debugger IntelliJ IDEA?

To enhance the Java development process by providing efficient and advanced debugging capabilities for Java applications.

Key Features of Debugger IntelliJ IDEA?

Key Features of IntelliJ IDEA Purpose
Java Remote Debugging Ability to debug Java applications running on remote servers.
Advanced Breakpoints Ability to set conditional and exception breakpoints.
Dataflow Analysis Tracing variable values through code.
Inline Variable Values Ability to view variable values in the code editor.
Variable Inspection View and modify different variables during debugging.

What are the key highlights of IntelliJ IDEA?

  • Exceptional Code Intelligence & Productivity Features.
  • Rich and seamless support for various Frameworks and technologies.
  • Commendable performance and many Java debugging plugins.

3. VSCode Debugger for Java

Microsoft’s VS Code is a top-level debugger tool that speeds up the process of finding and fixing bugs. It provides a dedicated Java debugging platform via the debugger for Java extension.

To get complete Java support in Visual Studio Code, download the Extension Pack for Java, which comes with the Debugger for Java extension. The debugger can run automatically by creating a default launch configuration in memory to launch your application, or you can configure and customize it by selecting the ‘create a launch.json file’ link from the Run and Debug view.

Who uses VS Code Debugger for Java?

Developers that prefer a lightweight, open-source code editor and have experience in using VS code for their other projects.

What is the purpose of VS Code Debugger for Java?

For providing basic Java debugging capabilities for Java developers who are used to using VSCode Editor.

Key Features of VS Code Debugger for Java?

Key Features of VS Code Debugger for Java Purpose
Basic Debugging Features Breakpoints, Variable Inspection, Step-Through.
Extensibility Wide list of extensions to plug and use.
Remote Debugging Debug Java applications running on remote servers.

What are the key highlights of VS Code Debugger for Java?

  • A broad ecosystem with many extensions for various languages.
  • Open-source and cross-platform support.
  • VS Code Java Editor is very lightweight, highly extensible and customizable.

4. The Java Debugger (JDB)

Many times, developers or clients don’t like to depend on external libraries or software for debugging in Java applications. Luckily, JDB – the Java Debugger online is a special Java debug command line tool that allows Java developers to debug Java applications from the command-line debugger provided by Oracle.

The Java Debugger is included in the Java SE Development Kit, which means developers only need to download and configure JDK in their systems, and they will be able to run the debugger with the jdb command.

Who uses The Java Debugger?

Developers that prefer CLI – Command Line Interface tools and need a lightweight debugging option.

What is the purpose of The Java Debugger?

To provide a simple and low-overhead debugging tool with optimal resource efficiency.

Key Features of The Java Debugger?

Key Features of The Java Debugger Purpose
Command Line Debugging Debug Java applications with text-based commands.
Basic Debugging Features Breakpoints, Step Commands and Variable Inspection.
Minimal Resource Usage Suitable for projects with minimal resource environments.

What are the key highlights of The Java Debugger?

  • It is included with the Java Development Kit and is lightweight.
  • Suitable for quick and important debugging tasks.
  • Removes the need for relying on a third-party Java debugging tool.

5. Rookout

Rookout claims to be a platform that provides cloud-native debugging tools. It also claims that Java developers will be able to solve customer issues 5 times faster by leveraging Rookout debugging for Java. It has a wide range of Java debugging tools that can be used in the production and development phases.

It is a more advanced Java debugging tool that overcomes the traditional Java debugging tools by providing the feature of collecting and pipelining crucial data. Due to this, Java developers can better understand the software execution issue and tackle bugs without having to spend brains and time writing the code, redeploying or restarting the applications.

Who uses Rookout?

DevOps teams and developers who need to diagnose and fix issues that arise in production systems without causing downtime.

What is the purpose of Rookout?

To provide live debugging of Java applications during production, improving their ability and speed to troubleshoot and monitor real-time issues.

Key Features of Rookout

Key Features Purpose
Live Debugging in Production Debug Java apps without re-deployment.
Code Instrumentation Add debugging points dynamically.
Seamless Integrations Support for Cloud Platforms and Services

What are the key highlights of Rookout?

  • Real-Time Debugging in Production Environments.
  • Reducing downtime and improving issue resolution times.

6. NetBeans

NetBeans is again one of the most popular Java Debugging Tools, just like Eclipse or IntelliJ IDEA, to debug Java code. It is a free and open-source IDE with an out-of-the-box debugging tool. NetBeans implementation requires Java project to run on Java SE or Java EE edition.

The NetBeans Debugger resembles the Eclipse Debugger to quite an extent, providing neck-to-neck competition as a worthy choice for some serious Java development projects.

Who uses NetBeans?

Java developers looking for all-in-one Java development services.

What is the purpose of NetBeans for Java?

To facilitate Java application debugging with a comprehensive Java development environment.

Key Features of NetBeans

Key Features Purpose
Breakpoints and Watches Ability to set breakpoints and monitor variables.
Integrated Profiler Profile application performance.
Smart Code Completion Support for Cloud Platforms and Services

What are the key highlights of NetBeans?

  • All-in-one development environment with strong Java support.
  • User-friendly interface and seamless debugging.

7. JDeveloper

JDeveloper is a free IDE provided by Oracle group that simplifies the Java development process by providing supportive and useful tools for every stage of the application’s lifecycle. It allows developers to build Java SE, Java EE and other web applications using the latest Java frameworks and technologies. JDeveloper also has a range of top Java debugging tools that provide a seamless debugging experience with many useful features, such as setting breakpoints, analyzing the call stack and more.

Who uses JDeveloper

  • Java Developers are building Java SE, Java EE and web services applications.
  • Java Developers working with modern Java frameworks like Spring, Hibernate and others.
  • Java Developers creating Java applications for Oracle’s ADF framework.

What is the purpose of JDeveloper for Java?

Providing an integrated IDE for streamlining the Java development process and a comprehensive tool for debugging, profiling and deploying Java apps.

Key Features JDeveloper

Key Features Purpose
Oracle Integration Tools for Oracle-based Java development
Advanced Debugging Breakpoints, Variable Inspection and more.

What are the key highlights of JDeveloper?

  • Tailored for Oracle Development and Integration.
  • Supports Java and Oracle-specific tasks seamlessly.
  • Comprehensive Oracle Ecosystem Integration.

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Best Practices for Java Debugging – Developer’s Checklist

Java debugging is more of a behavioural mindset than a process of improvising your codebase and keeping it bug-free. It starts with how you approach coding in Java and maintain your codebase. Here are some key Java features that allow Java developers to maintain and checking their codebase to reduce chances of errors, finding bugs easier and keeping their code efficient –

Best Practices for Java Debugging

1. Understand your Java Codebase

Before even attempting to debug a Java app, ensure you have a comprehensive understanding of your Java codebase. This includes – the architecture, code structure, design patterns and dependencies. Having complete knowledge of these fundamentals will ease navigation and troubleshooting issues more efficiently by highlighting the potentially problematic areas and understanding how different components interact.

2. Use Comments Effectively

Comments are a big asset for developers in any programming language. You should use comments at different parts of your codebase to explain the intent behind the code, which makes it easier for you and other developers working on the project to understand the logic behind specific code sections.

3. Make use of Print Statements

Print statements are known as ‘Print Debugging’, a commonly used debugging method in popular programming languages like Java. You insert specific code lines into your program to output information to the console or log files during the program execution. These statements give useful insights into the program’s behaviour, execution flow and variable values.

4. Reproduce The Bug

Finding bugs in Java applications is the first and most important step in an active attempt to resolve it. If you are getting a bug in a particular environment but not in another, you should try to replicate that environment where the bug occurs, for instance, configuring your testing environment to match the condition of the problematic environment. Doing so, you can better narrow down the code area where the problem stems from and fix it more effectively.

5. Use the Binary Search Method

If you are dealing with a complex Java codebase with many lines of code and complex architecture, finding bugs can be more challenging. Hence, a good Java practice is to isolate and test smaller sections of the code to narrow down the source of the problem, just as using binary search allows you to reduce a search space by half.

6. Use Debugging Tools

Last but not least, rely on debugging tools and IDEs for Java to set breakpoints, inspect variable values in real-time and speed up your debugging process significantly.

Java Developer Tools for Debugging – How to select the right one for your project?

As you see, there are many Java Developer Tools for Debugging. Different types of Java debuggers help solve different aspects of debugging problems in the Java codebase. Selecting the best Java debugging tool to debug Java code from such an exhaustive list can be challenging. This is exactly why we are going to help you navigate through the list based on some important selection metrics –

Metrics to Select the Right Java Developer Tools for Debugging

Project Complexity

Consider the complexity of your Java project. Not all Java debugging tools are designed for handling complex projects and requirements. Similarly, some Java debuggers have a free, open-source alternative and a premium alternative. If your project requirements are more demanding, you should know whether to switch to their premium version.

Ease of Use

User-friendliness is an important aspect of any Java tool. Even if the tool provides the best debugging functionalities, it is of little use if it doesn’t have an intuitive interface and is easy for your team to learn and use.

Supported Features

Check for the supported features offered by the Java debugging tool you plan to use. Ensure the features and functionalities they provide align with your project’s interests and requirements. Good features to look for include – debugging, testing, version control and code analysis.

Customization and Flexibility

if you are starting with a basic debugging tool, you should also check for its extensibility as your codebase grows. Changing debugging tools for scaling projects is an annoyance you’d rather not have. Hence, choose a tool that can be configured for different projects and requirements without much hassle.

Tool Integration with Other Services

Development is a collaborative effort and works in a collective environment. Hence, your Java debugging tool must play nicely with other software and services such as your databases, build systems, CI/CD tools and other such libraries. Make sure the debugging tool seamlessly integrates into your Java development environment.

Pricing and Licensing

Evaluate the cost of using such tools in terms of the developer’s training investment, their licensing cost, and other such cost factors. Open-source and free versions might work effectively for small to medium-scale applications, while enterprise-level debuggers might be needed for bigger projects.

Community Support and Useful Resources

Check the online presence and community support for the Java debugging tools you finalize. There should be active participation, discussion and updates to resolve commonly faced problems. There should also be well-documented resources for troubleshooting and learning.

Wrapping Up!

These are the top Java debugging tools to use for debugging Java applications with ease. Ensure you understand the purpose behind debugging your Java application before selecting the right tool for your project. There are many good options available in the market, and you can always experiment with open-source and free versions before committing to their enterprise versions if required.

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Debugging Tools in Java are software applications and features that help Java developers identify, isolate and resolve issues, bugs, and errors in Java applications. Such tools are important for maintaining code quality, ensuring software works as intended and reducing chances of crashes or breakdowns.

  1. Eclipse Debugger: best for developers who prefer using Eclipse IDE
  2. IntelliJ IDEA: best for developers who prioritize productivity and advanced debugging features.
  3. VSCode Debugger for Java: best for developers who prefer a lightweight, customizable and cross-platform code editor.
  4. The Java Debugger: best for developers who need quick and minimal debugging solutions.
  5. Rookout: best for developers and DevOps teams who need real-time Java debugging tools for the production environment.
  6. NetBeans: best for developers who want a comprehensive solution with robust Java support.
  7. JDeveloper: best for developers working on an Oracle-based Java application project.

Using debugging tools speeds up the debugging process by identifying the bugs quicker and providing customizable and effective solutions to resolve commonly arising issues. Here are the many benefits of using debugging tools in Java –
  • Optimize Performance
  • Increase Codebase Reliability
  • Reduce Maintenance Cost
  • Ease of Knowledge Transfer
  • Security Enhancement

The four steps for debugging in Java applications include –
  1. Identifying the error
  2. Finding the problematic code area
  3. Analyzing the error
  4. Fixing and validating the error.
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    Saurabh Barot

    Saurabh Barot, the CTO of Aglowid IT Solutions, leads a team of 50+ IT experts across various domains. He excels in web, mobile, IoT, AI/ML, and emerging tech. Saurabh's technical prowess is underscored by his contributions to Agile, Scrum, and Sprint-based milestones. His guidance as a CTO ensures remote teams achieve project success with precision and technical excellence.

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