General debugging

The debugger allows to execute Lua scripts and applications step by step, pause them, inspect variables, evaluate expressions, make changes to variables, and then continue execution. To start debugging go to Project | Start Debugging. Depending on your interpreter configuration, the debugger may stop your program on the first instruction (this is a default for most interpreters) or may execute it immediately (as configured for Moai and Corona interpreters).

When your program is running, you can pause it by going to Project | Break, which will stop your program at the next lua command executed.

When the debugger is stopped, you can set/remove breakpoints (using Project | Toggle Breakpoint), step through the code (using Project | Step Into, Project | Step Over, and Project | Step Out commands), inspect variables using the Watch window (View | Watch Window), view the call stack using the Stack window (View | Stack Window), run Lua commands in the console, run to cursor location (Project | Run To Cursor), and continue execution of your program (using Project | Continue).

Live coding

Live coding (also known as Running as Scratchpad) is a special debugging mode that allows for the changes you make in the editor to be immediately reflected in your application. To enable this mode go to Project | Run as Scratchpad (when it is available) and your program will be started as during debugging. You will continue to have access to the editor tab from which the scratchpad has been started and all the changes you make will be seen in your application.

In addition to regular editing, you can also mouse over a number (all the number in your script will be underlined as you can see in the screenshot on the right) and drag a virtual sliders left or right to change the value of that number. If you make an error (whether a compile or run-time), it will be reported in the Output window.

To exit the scratchpad mode you can close the application, go to Project | Stop Process, or go to Project | Run as Scratchpad.

Note that this functionality is highly interpreter dependent and some interpreters may not provide it at all (for example, Corona) and some may provide in a way that doesn’t restart the entire application (for example, LÖVE, Moai, or Gideros interpreters). Your code may also need to be written in a way that accomodates requirements of those engines. Please consult live coding tutorials for details.

Console window

The Console window allows to run Lua code fragments and calculate values of Lua expressions. It will switch automatically between a local console that gives you access to the Lua interpreter that runs the IDE and a remote console that allows you to execute code fragments and change variable values in your application when it is stopped in the debugger.

You can execute any expression in the console and the result will be pretty printed for you. You can also do =expression to pretty print the results in the block form.

Stack window

The Stack window provides not only the call stack with function names, but also presents all local variables and upvalues for each of the stack frames. You can even drill down to get values of individual elements in tables.

Watch window

The Watch window provides a convenient way to evaluate variables and expressions after every stopping in the debugger. You can also drill down to get values of individual elements in tables.

In addition to viewing the values that variables or expressions are evaluated to, you may also change the values of those variables or expressions and those changes will be reflected in the current stack frame of the application. For example, if tbl is a table with three values ({'a', 'b', 'c'}), you can expand the table, right click on the second element, and select Edit Value. You can then edit the value of the second element. After entering the new value and pressing Enter, the new value will be sent to the application being debugger and will also be reflected in the Watch window. The result is equivalent to executing tbl[2] = "new value" in the Console window, but provides an easy way to update the value without retyping the expression.


In addition to being able to use the Console or the Watch window to see the values of variables and expressions, you can also mouse over a variable (or select an expression and mouse over it) during debugging to see its value.

The value is shown for the simplest expression the cursor is over; for example, if the cursor is over ‘a’ in, you will see the value for, but if the cursor is over ‘o’ in the same expression, you’ll see the value of foo instead. You can always select the expression to be shown in the tooltip to avoid ambiguity.

How debugging works

Even though there are different ways to start debugging in the IDE, all of them work the same way: the debugger component is loaded into the application being debugged and establishes a socket connection to the IDE. The IDE then accepts user commands (step, set breakpoint, remove breakpoint, evaluate an expression, and so on) and sends those commands to the debugger component in the application and receives the results back (if any).

When the application is suspended because of a step command, break command, or a breakpoint, the IDE will attempt to find and activate a source file where the application is suspended. If the file is already opened in the IDE, it will be activated with the current line marker (green arrow by default) pointing to the location of the statement executed next. If the file is not opened in the IDE, but the IDE is configured to auto-activate files (editor.autoactivate = true), the file will be loaded into the IDE.

See remote debugging section of the documentation for details on how to configure and initiate debugging from your application.

Turning debugging off and on

You may notice that in some cases the application you are debugging runs much slower than without debugging; when you run it without the debugger the speed is likely to be three to ten times faster. This may be okay for many situations, but in some cases when the application is complex, things may get slow.

The debugger provides two methods that allow you to temporarily turn the debugging on and off. If you turn it on/off right around where the changes need to be applied, you can get almost the same performance you see without the debugger.

For example, let’s say you have a bodyCollision function where you check for collisions and you want to break when a body collision is detected. You can turn the debugging off (require("mobdebug").off()) right after starting debugging (using require("mobdebug").start()) and then turn it on and off around the section you are interested in:

function bodyCollision(event)
  local target =
  if event.phase == "began" then
    require("mobdebug").on() --<-- turn the debugger on
    -- do whatever else needed for collision handling
    require("mobdebug").off() --<-- turn the debugger off

If you set a breakpoint somewhere between on() and off() calls, it will fire as expected. The rest of the application will be running with a “normal” speed in this case (you can see the difference if you remove all off() calls).

Coroutine debugging

The debugging of coroutines is disabled by default. To enable debugging in coroutines, including stepping into resume/yield calls and triggering of breakpoints, you may do one of the following:

  • add require('mobdebug').on() call to that coroutine, which will enable debugging for that particular coroutine, or
  • add require('mobdebug').coro() call to your script, which will enable debugging for all coroutines created using coroutine.create later in the script.

If you enable coroutine debugging using require('mobdebug').coro(), this will not affect coroutines created using C API or Lua code wrapped into coroutine.wrap. You can still debug those fragments after adding require('mobdebug').on() to the coroutine code.

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