traces execution of JavaScript and CoffeeScript programs
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pencil-tracer.js

README.md

pencil-tracer Build Status

pencil-tracer is a library that takes a JavaScript or CoffeeScript program as input, and outputs instrumented JavaScript that records a line-by-line trace of the program's execution when it runs.

This library was developed for Pencil Code as a GSoC 2015 project.

Install

$ npm install pencil-tracer

Build

$ cake build
$ cake test

Try it

To quickly try it out, clone this repository and run these cake tasks.

$ cake -f test/traces/js/simple.js instrument
$ cake -f test/traces/js/simple.js trace

The first task instruments the given file and shows you the output. The second task does a trace on the given file and shows you the trace.

Usage

var pencilTracer = require('pencil-tracer');

// javascript
var output = pencilTracer.instrumentJs('var x = 3;');

// coffeescript
var coffeeScript = require('coffee-script');
var output = pencilTracer.instrumentCoffee('x = 3', coffeeScript);

Two functions are exported: instrumentJs and instrumentCoffee. instrumentJs takes some code and an options object. instrumentCoffee takes the same arguments, as well as a CoffeeScript compiler as the second argument (this lets you use a specific version of CoffeeScript, including Iced CoffeeScript).

Both functions return a string containing the instrumented code. When run, the instrumented code will make a call to pencilTrace() for each line, passing it an object like this:

{
  type: 'after',
  location: {
    first_line: 1,
    first_column: 1,
    last_line: 1,
    last_column: 5
  },
  vars: [{ name: 'x', value: 3 }]
}

type is 'before' or 'after' for normal executed code. It can also be 'enter' or 'leave' when a function is entered or left.

instrumentJs and instrumentCoffee take the following options:

  • traceFunc: the function that will be called for each event (default: 'pencilTrace').
  • ast: if true, returns the instrumented AST instead of the compiled JS.
  • bare (CoffeeScript only): if true, tells coffeescript not to wrap the output in a top-level function.
  • sourceMap: if true, returns a source map as well as the instrumented code.
  • includeArgsStrings: if true, each tracked function call will include a string containing the arguments passed to the function.

pencil-tracer.js is a browserified (UMD) version of the library.

Obtaining a trace

All pencil-tracer gives you is a string of instrumented JavaScript. It is up to you to run that code and collect the events. Here is an example program that does that, using Contextify to the run the instrumented code in a sandbox.

var pencilTracer = require('pencil-tracer');
var Contextify = require('contextify');

var code = pencilTracer.instrumentJs('var x = 3;');

var sandbox = {
  pencilTrace: function(event) {
    sandbox.pencilTraceEvents.push(event);
  },
  pencilTraceEvents: []
};

Contextify(sandbox);
sandbox.run(code);

console.log(sandbox.pencilTraceEvents);

What gets traced

For the most part, every ordinary statement gets instrumented with 'before' and 'after' events. For example,

var x;
x = 1;
x++;

This program would be instrumented like so:

<var x;>
<x = 1;>
<x++;>

Where < is shorthand for pencilTrace('before', ...); and > is shorthand for pencilTrace('after', ...);. I'll continue using this shorthand for the rest of this section.

Functions

Function declarations get instrumented like an ordinary statement.

// javascript
<function square(x) {
  return x * x;
}>

Empty statements

In JavaScript, a semicolon by itself is called an empty statement. Each empty statement gets instrumented like any other statement.

// javascript
<;>

if and unless statements

The condition expression is instrumented in if and unless statements.

// javascript
if (<false>) {
  ...
} else if (<true>) {
  ...
} else {
  ...
}
# coffeescript
if <false>
  ...
else if <true>
  ...
else
  ...

<i += 1> unless <false>

with statements

The object expression is instrumented.

// javascript
with (<obj>) {
  ...
}

switch statements

The expression being switched on is instrumented, and each case expression is instrumented.

// javascript
switch (<3>) {
  case <1>:
    ...
  case <2>:
    ...
  case <3>:
    ...
  default:
    ...
}
# coffeescript
switch <3>
  when <1> then ...
  when <2>, <3> then ...
  else ...

return and throw statements

The expression being returned or thrown is instrumented.

// javascript
return <true>;
throw <"error!">;
# coffeescript
return <true>
throw <"error!">

try statements

Only the error variable of the catch clause is instrumented, if it exists.

// javascript
try {
  ...
} catch (<err>) {
  ...
} finally {
  ...
}
# coffeescript
try
  ...
catch <err>
  ...
finally
  ...

while loops

The loop condition is instrumented.

// javascript
while (<true>) {
  ...
}
# coffeescript
while <true>
  ...

Note: the loop keyword in CoffeeScript is syntax sugar for while true, so it will be instrumented in the same way.

do..while loops

The loop condition is instrumented.

// javascript
do {
  ...
} while (<true>);

for loops

Each of the three expressions in the head of the for loop is instrumented, if they exist.

// javascript
for (<var i = 0>; <i != 3>; <i++>) {
  ...
}

In the case of a for (;;) { ... } loop, the middle conditional expression is instrumented.

// javascript
for (;<>;) {
  ...
}

for in loops

The object being iterated over and the variables being assigned to are both instrumented.

// javascript
for (<key> in <obj>) {
  ...
}
# coffeescript
for <key, value> of <obj>
  ...
for <elem, idx> in <ary>
  ...

Sequence expressions

The comma operator in JavaScript is known as a sequence expression, and even though it can be used to put multiple statement-like expressions in a single expression, the subexpressions are not instrumented in any special way.

// javascript
<x = (i++, i++, i);>
# coffeescript
<x = (i += 1; i += 1; i)>

Classes

The head of the class is instrumented, and each method definition is instrumented.

# coffeescript
<class Person extends Entity>
  <constructor: (@firstName, @lastName) ->
    ...>

  <fullName: ->
    ...>

Loop guards

CoffeeScript allows when clauses on its loops, which act as guards. If a loop has a guard, the guard expression will be instrumented.

# coffeescript
for <n> in <[1, 2, 3, 4, 5]> when <n % 2 is 0>
  ...

List comprehensions

CoffeeScript's list comprehensions are just ordinary loops, which were covered above, but it may helpful to show an example of how they are instrumented.

# coffeescript
<odd_squares = (<n * n> for <n> in <[1, 2, 3, 4, 5]> when <(n * n) % 2 is 1>)>

Full Example

A program's execution can be traced by collecting the events that are triggered by the instrumented code. This simple program demonstrates the four types of events that can be triggered:

var square = function (x) {
  return x * x;
};

var y = square(3);

Here is what the program looks like after being instrumented:

var _returnVar;

pencilTrace({type: 'before', location: {first_line: 1, ...}, vars: [{name: 'square', value: square, functionDef: true}]});
var square = function (x) {
  var _returnOrThrow = { type: 'return', value: undefined };
  pencilTrace({type: 'enter', location: {first_line: 1, ...}, vars: [{name: 'x', value: x}]});
  try {
    pencilTrace({type: 'before', location: {first_line: 2, ...}, vars: [{name: 'x', value: x}]});
    _returnOrThrow.value = x * x;
    pencilTrace({type: 'after', location: {first_line: 2, ...}, vars: [{name: 'x', value: x}]});
    return _returnOrThrow.value;
  } catch (err) {
    _returnOrThrow.type = 'throw';
    _returnOrThrow.value = err;
    throw err;
  } finally {
    pencilTrace({type: 'leave', location: {first_line: 1, ...}, returnOrThrow: _returnOrThrow});
  }
};
pencilTrace({type: 'after', location: {first_line: 1, ...}, vars: [{name: 'square', value: square, functionDef: true}]});

pencilTrace({type: 'before', location: {first_line: 5, ...}, vars: [{name: 'y', value: y}]});
var y = (_returnVar = square(3));
pencilTrace({type: 'after', location: {first_line: 5, ...}, vars: [{name: 'y', value: y}], functionCalls: [{name: 'square', value: _returnVar}]});

(The location property also includes first_column, last_line, and last_column fields, which are left out for readability here.)

Each event is an object with a type of either 'before', 'after', 'enter', or 'leave'. You can collect these events into a full trace by providing a pencilTrace() implementation like this:

var pencilTraceEvents = [];
var pencilTrace = function (event) {
  pencilTraceEvents.push(event);
}

This would produce the following trace of the program above:

[{type: 'before', location: {first_line: 1, ...}, vars: [{name: 'square', value: undefined, functionDef: true}]},
 {type: 'after',  location: {first_line: 1, ...}, vars: [{name: 'square', value: <function>, functionDef: true}]},
 {type: 'before', location: {first_line: 5, ...}, vars: [{name: 'y', value: undefined}]},
 {type: 'enter',  location: {first_line: 1, ...}, vars: [{name: 'x', value: 3}]},
 {type: 'before', location: {first_line: 2, ...}, vars: [{name: 'x', value: 3}]},
 {type: 'after',  location: {first_line: 2, ...}, vars: [{name: 'x', value: 3}]},
 {type: 'leave',  location: {first_line: 1, ...}, returnOrThrow: {type: 'return', value: 9},
 {type: 'after',  location: {first_line: 5, ...}, vars: [{name: 'y', value: 9}], functionCalls: [{name: 'square', value: 9}]}]

As this example shows, each statement in the original program will trigger a 'before' and 'after' event (with variable values that are used in that statement), and each instrumented function will trigger an 'enter' event (with argument values) and a 'leave' event (with either the return value or the the thrown error in the case of an exception).

Events

Every event has type and location properties. location is the start and end location of the original code that this event is associated with.

{
  type: 'before' or 'after' or 'enter' or 'leave',
  location: {
    first_line: 1-indexed integer,
    first_column: 1-indexed integer,
    last_line: 1-indexed integer,
    last_column: 1-indexed integer
  },
  ...
}

'before' Event

Triggered before each instrumented statement. A vars property contains the variables and values used in the original code that this event is associated with. Each object in vars has a name property and a value property.

{
  type: 'before',
  location: { ... },
  vars: [ ... ]
}

'after' Event

For every 'before' event, there is an 'after' event with the same location and the same variable names in vars, but if any variables were updated by the code that this event is associated with, their new values will be available in vars. after events also contain a functionCalls property containing names and values of function calls used in the code.

{
  type: 'after',
  location: { ... },
  vars: [ ... ],
  functionCalls: [ ... ]
}

'enter' Event

Triggered at the beginning of a body of a function. The vars property contains argument names and values. The location will give the start and end of the entire function body.

{
  type: 'enter',
  location: { ... },
  vars: [ ... ]
}

'leave' Event

Triggered after a function returns or throws an error. The returnOrThrow property contains an object with two properties: type tells you whether the function returned normally or threw an error, and value tells you the return value or the error object that was thrown. The location will be the same as the 'enter' event's location.

{
  type: 'leave',
  location: { ... },
  returnOrThrow: {
    type: 'return' or 'throw',
    value: ...
  }
}

Blocks

Statements containing blocks, such as if statements and loops, are handled differently than ordinary statements. For example, consider this while loop:

var x = 3;
while (x--) {
  console.log(x);
}

Instead of instrumenting it like this:

var x = 3;
pencilTrace({type: 'before', ...});
while (x--) {
  console.log(x);
}
pencilTrace({type: 'after', ...});

It's much more useful to instrument it like this:

var x = 3;
var _temp;
while (pencilTrace({type: 'before', ...}), _temp = x--, pencilTrace({type: 'after', ...}), _temp) {
  console.log(x);
}

Here we instrument the conditional expression of the while loop. This way we can show that the condition is being executed on every iteration, and we can track how the value x is being changed.