GDB Pretty Printers for Boost
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Latest commit 264a415 Apr 25, 2018

GDB Pretty Printers for Boost

Since version 7.0, GDB has Python scripting support. This can be used to provide “pretty printers” to make the output of GDB more usable. The libstdc++ project currently provides a set of pretty printers for their implementation of the C++ standard library. This projects goal is to provide a similar set of pretty printers for the Boost library.

Help is appreciated!

See for supported classes and names of contributors. See for other general notes. See for more low-level information about printers in general.

The pretty printers are licensed under the terms of the Boost Software License, version 1.0.


GDB version 7 or better is required. Currently, most printers work with either Python 2 or Python 3.

To install, check out the git repository:

git clone git://

Then, add the following lines to your ~/.gdbinit:

import sys
sys.path.insert(1, 'PATH-TO-THE-REPO/Boost-Pretty-Printer')
import boost

If you have no ~/.gdbinit file just create it. And of course, replace PATH-TO-THE-REPO with the absolute path to the Boost Pretty Printer repository. boost_version is a tuple with boost version which you use. boost_version may be omitted. In that case boost version will be detected automatically. Note, that autodetect routine makes gdb startup somewhat slower.

Now you can simply use GDB’s print (short p) statement to pretty print the supported boost objects.


$ cat > foo.c++
#include <boost/range/iterator_range.hpp>
using namespace boost;

int main() {
  char buf[] = "Hello World";
  iterator_range<char const*> range(buf, buf + sizeof(buf));

  return range[0];
$ g++ -g3 foo.c++
$ gdb -q a.out
Reading symbols from /home/ruediger/develop/demos/a.out...done.
(gdb) break 7
Breakpoint 1 at 0x4006cb: file /home/ruediger/develop/demos/foo.c++, line 7.
(gdb) run
Starting program: /home/ruediger/develop/demos/a.out

Breakpoint 1, main () at /home/ruediger/develop/demos/foo.c++:8
8         return range[0];
(gdb) p range
$1 = boost::iterator_range<char const*> of length 12 = {72 'H', 101 'e', 108 'l', 108 'l', 111 'o', 32 ' ', 87 'W', 111 'o', 114 'r', 108 'l', 100 'd', 0 '\000'}

Volatililty Of Printers

Due to the limited nature of the debugging interface, individual printers included in this package can stop working with every Boost update. Specifically, a printer for boost::intrusive::list designed for Boost version 1.40 might or might not work with Boost 1.46. The reasons for this are explained in Keeping the printers up to date is a daunting task, and contributions are welcome in that sense. If you need to debug some data structures and you find that there is no printer for them, or that the included printer stopped working, consider investing some time in fixing them and creating a pull request. Various information about this process is provided in

Managing Printers From Inside GDB

This python module installs a single top-level printer called boost, and individual subprinters for the various supported types. Here are some useful commands to manage printers from inside gdb:

# show list of loaded boost printers (also shows which, if any, are disabled)
info pretty-printer global boost
# disable some printers
disable pretty-printer global boost;boost::intrusive::list
# re-enable all boost printers
enable pretty-printer global boost;.*

For more information, see the GDB documentation.