Best Practices for Debugging Python Code

Are you having trouble debugging your Python code? Don't worry, you are not alone. Debugging is an essential part of software development, and Python is no exception. In fact, with its dynamic nature and flexible syntax, Python is one of the most popular languages used by developers worldwide. So, if you want to write better code, you need to learn how to debug it properly.

In this article, we will discuss some of the best practices for debugging Python code. These practices are essential to help you identify bugs and errors as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Use a Debugger

The first and foremost practice for debugging Python code is using a debugger. A debugger is a tool that allows you to step through your code and examine its state. You can set breakpoints in your code, and the debugger will stop your program at those points, allowing you to inspect the values of variables and statements at that moment.

Python has a built-in debugger called pdb. You can start the debugger by adding the following line of code at the point where you want to start debugging:

import pdb; pdb.set_trace()

This line will start the pdb debugger and pause your program at that point. You can then use various commands to step through your code or inspect specific variables.

For example, you can use the n command to execute the next line of code, the s command to step into a function, and the p command to print the value of a variable.

Using a debugger can save you a significant amount of time in identifying bugs and errors. It allows you to examine your code in detail and determine where exactly the problem occurs.

Check the Error Messages

Python provides detailed error messages when it encounters an error in your code. These error messages help you identify the type of error and the location where it occurred.

When you encounter an error message, don't panic. Read the message carefully and try to understand what it is telling you. Look at the traceback to identify which line or function caused the error, and examine the error message to determine the type of error.

For example, if you see an error message like this:

Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "", line 5, in <module>
NameError: name 'spam' is not defined

You can see that the error occurred in the print statement on line 5 of the file The error message also indicates that the variable spam is not defined. This means that you probably forgot to define the spam variable before trying to use it.

Reading error messages carefully can help you identify and fix bugs in your code quickly.

Use Unit Tests

Unit testing is a crucial practice in software development. By writing unit tests, you can verify that each component of your code works as expected. Unit tests also help you catch bugs early in the development process.

Python has an excellent library for unit testing called unittest. It allows you to define test cases and test suites for your code. You can then run these tests automatically to check whether your code behaves as expected.

Here's an example of a unit test in Python:

import unittest

def add(x, y):
    return x + y

class TestAddFunction(unittest.TestCase):
    def test_add_positive_numbers(self):
        self.assertEqual(add(2, 3), 5)

    def test_add_negative_numbers(self):
        self.assertEqual(add(-2, -3), -5)

if __name__ == '__main__':

In this example, we define a function add that takes two numbers and returns their sum. We then define a test case that checks whether the add function behaves correctly for positive and negative numbers.

We can run this test case by running the Python file. The unittest library will automatically run the tests and report any failures or errors.

Using unit tests can help you catch bugs early and ensure that your code works as expected. It can save you a lot of time in debugging and testing your code.

Use Logging

Logging is a useful tool for debugging Python code. It allows you to add messages to your code that help you understand what is happening at specific points in the code.

Python provides a built-in logging library that you can use for this purpose. You can define loggers in your code and add log messages at different levels of severity. You can then configure the logging output to print or save these messages.

Here's an example of using the logging library in Python:

import logging


def divide(x, y):'--- Starting the divide function ---')
        result = x / y
    except ZeroDivisionError:
        logging.error('Division by zero')
        return None'--- Exiting the divide function ---')
    return result

print(divide(4, 2))
print(divide(4, 0))

In this example, we define a function divide that takes two numbers and returns their quotient. We add logging messages to the function using the logging library. We use the logging.basicConfig function to configure the logging output to print messages at the INFO level or above.

Using the logging library can help you understand what is happening in your code and identify bugs and errors.

Use Code Analysis Tools

Python has several code analysis tools that can help you identify problems in your code. These tools analyze your code and provide warnings or errors for potential issues.

One of the most popular code analysis tools in Python is pylint. pylint is a Python source code analyzer that checks your code for errors, warnings, and stylistic issues. It analyzes your code according to Python's style guide (PEP 8) and provides feedback on potential problems.

Here's an example of using pylint in Python:

def add(x, y):
    return x + y

print(add(2, 3))
$ pylint

************* Module example C0114: Missing module docstring (missing-module-docstring) C0103: Constant name "add" doesn't conform to UPPER_CASE naming style (invalid-name)

Your code has been rated at 6.67/10 (previous run: 6.67/10, +0.00)

In this example, we define a simple function add and print its result. We then run pylint on the file and receive feedback on issues in our code. The code has issues because it has a missing module docstring and uses a lower-case naming style for a constant.

Using code analysis tools can help you identify potential issues in your code and make it more readable, maintainable, and bug-free.


Debugging Python code is essential to improving your coding skills and writing better code. By following the best practices discussed in this article, you can identify and fix bugs and errors quickly and efficiently. These practices include using a debugger, checking error messages, using unit tests, using logging, and using code analysis tools.

So, start applying these best practices to your Python code today and see how much they can help you in debugging and improving your code. Happy debugging!

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