Next: , Previous: , Up: Python API   [Contents][Index] Pretty Printing API

A pretty-printer is just an object that holds a value and implements a specific interface, defined here. An example output is provided (see Pretty Printing).

Because GDB did not document extensibility for pretty-printers, by default GDB will assume that only the basic pretty-printer methods may be available. The basic methods are marked as such, below.

To allow extensibility, GDB provides the gdb.ValuePrinter base class. This class does not provide any attributes or behavior, but instead serves as a tag that can be recognized by GDB. For such printers, GDB reserves all attributes starting with a lower-case letter. That is, in the future, GDB may add a new method or attribute to the pretty-printer protocol, and gdb.ValuePrinter-based printers are expected to handle this gracefully. A simple way to do this would be to use a leading underscore (or two, following the Python name-mangling scheme) to any attributes local to the implementation.

Function: pretty_printer.children (self)

GDB will call this method on a pretty-printer to compute the children of the pretty-printer’s value.

This method must return an object conforming to the Python iterator protocol. Each item returned by the iterator must be a tuple holding two elements. The first element is the “name” of the child; the second element is the child’s value. The value can be any Python object which is convertible to a GDB value.

This is a basic method, and is optional. If it does not exist, GDB will act as though the value has no children.

For efficiency, the children method should lazily compute its results. This will let GDB read as few elements as necessary, for example when various print settings (see Print Settings) or -var-list-children (see GDB/MI Variable Objects) limit the number of elements to be displayed.

Children may be hidden from display based on the value of ‘set print max-depth’ (see Print Settings).

Function: pretty_printer.display_hint (self)

The CLI may call this method and use its result to change the formatting of a value. The result will also be supplied to an MI consumer as a ‘displayhint’ attribute of the variable being printed.

This is a basic method, and is optional. If it does exist, this method must return a string or the special value None.

Some display hints are predefined by GDB:


Indicate that the object being printed is “array-like”. The CLI uses this to respect parameters such as set print elements and set print array.


Indicate that the object being printed is “map-like”, and that the children of this value can be assumed to alternate between keys and values.


Indicate that the object being printed is “string-like”. If the printer’s to_string method returns a Python string of some kind, then GDB will call its internal language-specific string-printing function to format the string. For the CLI this means adding quotation marks, possibly escaping some characters, respecting set print elements, and the like.

The special value None causes GDB to apply the default display rules.

Function: pretty_printer.to_string (self)

GDB will call this method to display the string representation of the value passed to the object’s constructor.

This is a basic method, and is optional.

When printing from the CLI, if the to_string method exists, then GDB will prepend its result to the values returned by children. Exactly how this formatting is done is dependent on the display hint, and may change as more hints are added. Also, depending on the print settings (see Print Settings), the CLI may print just the result of to_string in a stack trace, omitting the result of children.

If this method returns a string, it is printed verbatim.

Otherwise, if this method returns an instance of gdb.Value, then GDB prints this value. This may result in a call to another pretty-printer.

If instead the method returns a Python value which is convertible to a gdb.Value, then GDB performs the conversion and prints the resulting value. Again, this may result in a call to another pretty-printer. Python scalars (integers, floats, and booleans) and strings are convertible to gdb.Value; other types are not.

Finally, if this method returns None then no further operations are performed in this method and nothing is printed.

If the result is not one of these types, an exception is raised.

Function: pretty_printer.num_children ()

This is not a basic method, so GDB will only ever call it for objects derived from gdb.ValuePrinter.

If available, this method should return the number of children. None may be returned if the number can’t readily be computed.

Function: pretty_printer.child (n)

This is not a basic method, so GDB will only ever call it for objects derived from gdb.ValuePrinter.

If available, this method should return the child value indicated by n. Indices start at zero.

GDB provides a function which can be used to look up the default pretty-printer for a gdb.Value:

Function: gdb.default_visualizer (value)

This function takes a gdb.Value object as an argument. If a pretty-printer for this value exists, then it is returned. If no such printer exists, then this returns None.

Normally, a pretty-printer can respect the user’s print settings (including temporarily applied settings, such as ‘/x’) simply by calling Value.format_string (see Values From Inferior). However, these settings can also be queried directly:

Function: gdb.print_options ()

Return a dictionary whose keys are the valid keywords that can be given to Value.format_string, and whose values are the user’s settings. During a print or other operation, the values will reflect any flags that are temporarily in effect.

(gdb) python print (gdb.print_options ()['max_elements'])

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