Debugging Rust-Generated WebAssembly

This section contains tips for debugging Rust-generated WebAssembly.

Building with Debug Symbols

⚡ When debugging, always make sure you are building with debug symbols!

If you don't have debug symbols enabled, then the "name" custom section won't be present in the compiled .wasm binary, and stack traces will have function names like wasm-function[42] rather than the Rust name of the function, like wasm_game_of_life::Universe::live_neighbor_count.

When using a "debug" build (aka wasm-pack build --debug or cargo build) debug symbols are enabled by default.

With a "release" build, debug symbols are not enabled by default. To enable debug symbols, ensure that you debug = true in the [profile.release] section of your Cargo.toml:

debug = true

Logging with the console APIs

Logging is one of the most effective tools we have for proving and disproving hypotheses about why our programs are buggy. On the Web, the console.log function is the way to log messages to the browser's developer tools console.

We can use the web-sys crate to get access to the console logging functions:

# #![allow(unused_variables)]
#fn main() {
extern crate web_sys;

web_sys::console::log_1(&"Hello, world!".into());

Alternatively, the console.error function has the same signature as console.log, but developer tools tend to also capture and display a stack trace alongside the logged message when console.error is used.


Logging Panics

The console_error_panic_hook crate logs unexpected panics to the developer console via console.error. Rather than getting cryptic, difficult-to-debug RuntimeError: unreachable executed error messages, this gives you Rust's formatted panic message.

All you need to do is install the hook by calling console_error_panic_hook::set_once() in an initialization function or common code path:

# #![allow(unused_variables)]
#fn main() {
pub fn init() {

Using a Debugger

Unfortunately, the debugging story for WebAssembly is still immature. On most Unix systems, DWARF is used to encode the information that a debugger needs to provide source-level inspection of a running program. There is an alternative format that encodes similar information on Windows. Currently, there is no equivalent for WebAssembly. Therefore, debuggers currently provide limited utility, and we end up stepping through raw WebAssembly instructions emitted by the compiler, rather than the Rust source text we authored.

There is a sub-charter of the W3C WebAssembly group for debugging, so expect this story to improve in the future!

Nonetheless, debuggers are still useful for inspecting the JavaScript that interacts with our WebAssembly, and inspecting raw wasm state.


Avoid the Need to Debug WebAssembly in the First Place

If the bug is specific to interactions with JavaScript or Web APIs, then write tests with wasm-bindgen-test.

If a bug does not involve interaction with JavaScript or Web APIs, then try to reproduce it as a normal Rust #[test] function, where you can leverage your OS's mature native tooling when debugging. Use testing crates like quickcheck and its test case shrinkers to mechanically reduce test cases. Ultimately, you will have an easier time finding and fixing bugs if you can isolate them in a smaller test cases that don't require interacting with JavaScript.

Note that in order to run native #[test]s without compiler and linker errors, you will need to ensure that "rlib" is included in the [lib.crate-type] array in your Cargo.toml file.

crate-type ["cdylib", "rlib"]