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Posted 4 Feb 2006

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A Simple C++ Function Call Stack Trace Utility

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3.02/5 (23 votes)
10 Feb 2006CPOL
How to record your function call stack for debug purposes


Under UNIX/Linux platform, program coredump generates a core file, we can analyze the core file and determine what's wrong in our program. The core file records the function call stack (e.g. under gdb you can use bt command to see backtrace), that is mostly information for us to troubleshooting.

When I debug my program, I try to record the function call stack in program debug log to help me diagnose the program's defect. Fortunately, C++ gives us a simple way to implement this.


Just use C++ constructor/destructor semantic, we can make our own trace class. At the function entrance, we declare a local variable, it will invoke the constructor immediately, when leaving the function, the local variable will be destroyed and call destructor. That's all. what we need to do is implement a class's constructor and destructor. This rational is simple enough, but this way sometimes can help us a lot.

The complete code is as follows:

// trace.hpp
#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <time.h>
#include <stdarg.h>
#include <string>

#define CM_TRACE_FILE(trace_file)	cm::Trace::LogToFile(trace_file)

#define CM_TRACE_FUNC(func_name)    cm::Trace __CM_TRACE__(func_name, "()")
#define CM_TRACE_FUNC_ARG1(func_name, argfmt, arg)   \
            cm::Trace __CM_TRACE__(func_name, argfmt, arg)
#define CM_TRACE_FUNC_ARG2(func_name, argfmt, arg1, arg2)   \
            cm::Trace __CM_TRACE__(func_name, argfmt, arg1, arg2)
// more macros define....

namespace	cm
    class	Trace
    	explicit Trace(char *func_name, const char* argsfmt, ...)
            char fmt[256] ={0};
            sprintf(fmt, "%s%s", func_name, argsfmt);
    	    va_list arglist;
    	    va_start(arglist, argsfmt);
    		LogMsg(depth_, depth_ * 2, fmt,  arglist);


    	/// special the global log file.
    	void static LogToFile(const char *trace_file)
    		trace_file_ = trace_file;

    	void LogMsg(int depth, int align, const char *fmt, va_list args)
    		FILE	*fp = fopen(trace_file_.c_str(), "a+");
    		if (fp == NULL)

    		time_t		curTime;

    		char	timeStamp[32] = { 0 };
    		strftime(timeStamp, sizeof(timeStamp), 
				"%Y%m%d.%H%M%S", localtime(&curTime));

    		// only log the timestamp when the time changes
    		unsigned int len = fprintf( fp, "%s %*.*s> (%d)",
    				(last_invoke_time_ != curTime) ? 
				timeStamp : "               ",
    				2 * depth,
    				2 * depth,
    		last_invoke_time_ = curTime;
    		len += vfprintf(fp, fmt, args);
    		len += fwrite("\n", 1, 1, fp);

    	// the debug trace filename
    	static std::string	trace_file_;

    	// function call stack depth
    	static int			depth_;
    	static const char*  nest_;
    	static time_t       last_invoke_time_;

    std::string Trace::trace_file_  = "";
    int         Trace::depth_       = 0;

    // arbitrarily support nesting 34 deep for no particular reason
    const char* Trace::nest_        = 
	"| | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | ";
    time_t      Trace::last_invoke_time_ = 0;
}	// end namespace cm
#endif // CM_TRACE_20060209_HPP

Using the Code

First you need to call CM_TRACE_FILE() to special debug log filename, then at function entrance, call CM_TRACE(). Here is an example.

#include "cm/trace.hpp"

void foo()

void bar(int x)
	CM_TRACE_FUNC_ARG1("bar", "(%d)", x);

void foobar(int x, const char* s)
    CM_TRACE_FUNC_ARG2("foobar", "(%d, %s)", x, s);

void foobar3(int x, int y, double z)
    CM_TRACE_FUNC_ARG3("foobar3", "(%d, %d, %f)", x, y, z);
    foobar(123, "4546");

int main()
    foobar(33, "char");
    foobar3(12, 23, 34.45);
    return 0;

Then open `trace.log', use your favourite editor. At the end of file, you will see the following:

20060211.132431 > (0)main()
                | > (1)foo()
                | > (1)bar(23)
                | | > (2)foo()
                | > (1)foobar(33, char)
                | | > (2)bar(789)
                | | | > (3)foo()
                | > (1)foobar3(12, 23, 34.450000)
                | | > (2)foobar(123, 4546)
                | | | > (3)bar(789)
                | | | | > (4)foo()


The rational in this article is simple, but we can write simple code do useful things.

Revision History

  • v1.00 Feb 4, 2005. Mockey
    • Original article
  • v1.01 Feb 11 2005. Mockey
    • Change fstream to FILE*
    • Change string to sprintf for more efficiency. Thanks Jon Wold's comment
    • Rename CM_TRACE to CM_TRACE_FUN and add CM_TRACE_FUN_ARGx macros.
    • Add feature to log the function call arguments.


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


About the Author

Mockey Chen
China China
Mockey is a C++ programmer, experienced with C/C++ program under UNIX platform, his primarily research field is communication program for telecom. He works for one of china's biggest telecom equipment supplier until Dec 2006.

He's current interest is Linux kernel programming, especial in networking hack.

Mockey lives in Chengdu, China. To contact Mockey, email at

Comments and Discussions

Questioncan any one explain me what is that __CM_TRACE__ Pin
online@ilovec.in22-Jan-13 20:51
Memberonline@ilovec.in22-Jan-13 20:51 
AnswerRe: can any one explain me what is that __CM_TRACE__ Pin
Member 1112462910-Mar-15 10:00
MemberMember 1112462910-Mar-15 10:00 
Generalany idea for win32 C dll trace log. Pin
fredguo1-Mar-09 7:33
Memberfredguo1-Mar-09 7:33 
Generalbug.. Pin
dheerajkhajuria8-Jul-07 7:17
Memberdheerajkhajuria8-Jul-07 7:17 
GeneralRe: bug.. Pin
Mockey Chen8-Jul-07 16:29
MemberMockey Chen8-Jul-07 16:29 
GeneralCM_TRACE_FUNC_ARG3("foobar3", "(%d, %d, %s)", x, y, 100); Pin
Pham Thanh Toan3-Jan-07 7:57
MemberPham Thanh Toan3-Jan-07 7:57 
GeneralRe: CM_TRACE_FUNC_ARG3("foobar3", "(%d, %d, %s)", x, y, 100); Pin
Mockey Chen6-Jan-07 1:48
MemberMockey Chen6-Jan-07 1:48 
Generalsprintf is declared as deprecated Pin
DevianT (rus)21-Feb-06 14:27
MemberDevianT (rus)21-Feb-06 14:27 
GeneralRe: sprintf is declared as deprecated Pin
Nemanja Trifunovic21-Feb-06 14:46
MemberNemanja Trifunovic21-Feb-06 14:46 
GeneralRe: sprintf is declared as deprecated Pin
DevianT (rus)21-Feb-06 21:21
MemberDevianT (rus)21-Feb-06 21:21 
Generalsome advice Pin
thog14-Feb-06 17:27
Memberthog14-Feb-06 17:27 
GeneralRe: some advice Pin
Gavriloaie Andrei26-Oct-07 23:54
MemberGavriloaie Andrei26-Oct-07 23:54 
Generalscope logger Pin
Paulius Maruka14-Feb-06 15:17
MemberPaulius Maruka14-Feb-06 15:17 
GeneralNot a stack trace Pin
Scope12-Feb-06 17:08
MemberScope12-Feb-06 17:08 
Generalminor comments ... Pin
Jon Wold7-Feb-06 6:44
MemberJon Wold7-Feb-06 6:44 
GeneralRe: minor comments ... Pin
Mockey Chen10-Feb-06 19:53
MemberMockey Chen10-Feb-06 19:53 
GeneralAnd throwing in a couple of VC++ macros... Pin
eFotografo7-Feb-06 1:19
professionaleFotografo7-Feb-06 1:19 
GeneralRe: And throwing in a couple of VC++ macros... Pin
Mockey Chen7-Feb-06 5:32
MemberMockey Chen7-Feb-06 5:32 
GeneralRe: And throwing in a couple of VC++ macros... Pin
Pavel Vozenilek13-Feb-06 19:54
MemberPavel Vozenilek13-Feb-06 19:54 
GeneralCool Pin
FocusedWolf6-Feb-06 13:46
MemberFocusedWolf6-Feb-06 13:46 
GeneralRe: Cool Pin
Mockey Chen7-Feb-06 13:18
MemberMockey Chen7-Feb-06 13:18 

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