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A Debugging Package for Java

, 20 Mar 2003 Eclipse
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A debugging class for Java applications and applets.


When debugging applications, it is often useful to have a debugging framework that will allow you to control the amount of output generated.

This class does not have the extensibility of the java.util.logging package that is part of the Java(TM) 1.4 release. If you require a more feature rich logging facility, I suggest you use the one provided by the java.util.logging package.


When I started actually using Java, it was for the purposes of learning Java. I generally don't use Java in my daily job duties, but wanted to be proficient in it. Since I was trying to learn how things worked inside of Java applications and applets, I needed a way to print debugging information. I came up with the com.rl.debug package. Soon after writing this package, I found the java.util.logging package that is part of the Java 1.4.x release.

The Debug class, which is part of the com.rl.debug package, follows a simple "hierarchical" logging method. Each debug message is assigned a level. Based upon the level of the message and the current logging level set in the debugging class, the message may or may not be output. All messages which meet the current logging level or higher are logged.

Debug vs. java.util.logging

Since the current 1.4.x release of Java contains a very powerful and extensible logging framework in the java.util.logging package, why use anything else? Good question. Here are some points that I think will help a developer to make that choice.

  1. The java.util.logging package is available as of the 1.4 release. If your applications are being built with a lower version, it isn't available to you. That is when you would have no choice but to employ your own logging package.
  2. A limitation that I found a bit annoying in the java.util.logging package was that the ConsoleHandler, by default, will not log anything lower than INFO. Since the Debug package is intended as a debugging tool and generally should not output any information, I chose to default to a level of NONE.
  3. Certainly the flexibility and extensibility of the java.util.logging package is by any comparison way better than the Debug package. However, it can be a bit much to implement if you want a simple, lightweight package to use for debugging.

I am sure there are many other arguments that can be given for both of these packages. I think those presented here are enough to show the value of each, and to give a good basis for deciding which one is right for your own project.

Using the code

To use the Debug class, you need a reference to a singleton instance. You can obtain this by using the getLogger() method.

Obtaining an instance of the Debug class.

// Obtain an instance of the default logger
private static Debug log = Debug.getLogger();
// Obtain a named logger
private static Debug namedLog = Debug.getLogger("LogFile");

You can set the level of detail output by the Debug class, by using the setLevel() method. The following code will log messages that are WARNING or higher.

// Set the debug level to WARNINGS or higher.

By default, all messages are logged to the System.err print stream. This can be changed using the setPrintStream method.

import com.rl.debug.*;

public class TestDebug {
    public static void main(String argv[]) {
        FileOutputStream logFile = null;
        PrintStream p = System.out;
        try {
            logFile = new FileOutputStream("TestDebug.log", true);
            p = new PrintStream((OutputStream)logFile, true);
        } catch (Exception e)

        Debug log = Debug.getLogger();
        Debug logger = Debug.getLogger("LogFile");

        log.DebugOut("We be a log!");
        logger.DebugOut("We be a logger!");
        log.DebugOut("I be saying I a logger!");
        logger.warning("TestDebug", "main", "This is a warning");
        log.DebugOut("We should not show up.");
        logger.DebugOut("We should not be loggered");
        log.DebugOut("I said, no output!");
        logger.warning("TestDebug", "main", 
          "This is a warning with a WARNGING level.");


The above examples should be enough to get you going. I suggest you read the comments in the code. The comments should be enough to explain how to use a particular feature. Of course, I have heard that argument before. :)

I must warn you that I have not tested this class for thread safety, so treat it as not safe.

Happy coding.

Planned Enhancements

Ideally it would be nice to provide your own custom format for outputting the messages. I have considered implementing this and may in the future. However, if you really need that flexibility, you should probably just use the java.util.logging package. Perhaps, if I get some feedback and a sense that formatting is really wanted, I will implement it. For now, I think the code is about as functional as it needs to be.


  • 2003.03.13 - v1.3

    After sleeping it over, I realized that I had an awful log of static items that just don't need to be. I modified it so that the private members are no longer static and the only static methods are the getLogger methods.

    After doing this, I realized it would be nice to have some information in my application logged to the console, while other information went to a file. Once I made the private members not static, this was possible, but only if I had more than one instance of the Debug. This would allow me to set PrintStream on one and not affect the other. To facilitate this, I removed the class member m_logger and added the class member m_loggers. m_loggers is a hashtable of the loggers. This keeps the loggers accessible at a class level and keeps existing applications from breaking. It also now allows you to maintain multiple loggers. I updated the sample code to reflect the new version.


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Eclipse Public License 1.0


About the Author

Robert Little
Software Developer
United States United States
Robert has been programming since 1992 and has a degree in Computer Science. Robert's programming experience includes C/C++, Perl, Visual Basic, Java, C#, ASP.NET and many others. With the exception of C, these languages are and continue to be self-taught.

Robert can be contacted at ca_rlittle at hotmail dot com.

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Comments and Discussions

SuggestionLogback with SLF4J is much better Pin
ybonda19-Mar-14 10:49
memberybonda19-Mar-14 10:49 

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