Logging and Debugging

Learning Outcomes

  • When to use logging and debugging
  • The levels of logging
  • How to run the debugger
  • Commands for the debugger


Using print() statements when debugging your code is a form of logging, but it isn't the most optimal. Python has a built-in logging module that allows us to log helpful messages when we run our code. This is essentially the same thing as using the print() statement, but we are able to disable all log statements in our program. It is important to separate log and print() statements as it makes it easier to move from developing your code to releasing it by not having to manually discern which print statements were meant for logging and not the end user.

Set up

To start, we have to configure the logging module using the logging.basicConfig() function.

import logging
                    format='%(asctime)s %(levelname)s %(message)s')
logging.debug('debug message')


2023-02-07 15:17:39,502 DEBUG debug message

We specified two parameters in our input, the first being the logging level and the second being the format, which prints the current time, the logging level used, and the string message passed to the log.

Logging Level

Logging levels help us prioritize our log messages. The logging level we pass through in the logging.basicConfig() function tells the program the minimum level for which it will accept a log. Below are the log levels in order of importance (least to greatest).

  • logging.debug()
  • logging.info()
  • logging.warning()
  • logging.error()
  • logging.critical()

If we set up our logging.basicConfig() function with the logging level of logging.INFO, then the logging.debug() message wouldn't be logged to the output.

Disabling logging

As we mentioned previously, we can easily disable logging. In our code, we can use the logging.disable(logging_level) function, which will disable all logging at that level or lower. The logging.disable() function works for all logs that happen on lines lower than specified. If you want to disable all logs for a given level, then you should call this function at the top of your program.

import logging
                    format='%(asctime)s %(levelname)s %(message)s')
logging.debug('debug message')
logging.critical('critical message')
logging.debug('second debug message')
logging.critical('second critical message')
logging.error('error message')


2023-02-07 15:32:05,270 DEBUG debug message
2023-02-07 15:32:05,271 CRITICAL critical message
2023-02-07 15:32:05,271 CRITICAL second critical message
2023-02-07 15:32:05,271 ERROR error message

Logging to a File

Logging to a file is also very simple as we can define it in our logging.basicConfig() function with the filename parameter.

                    format='%(asctime)s %(levelname)s %(message)s',
logging.debug('debug message')


Debugging allows us to inspect our code a level deeper while it is running. Python has a built-in interactive debugger called pdb which we can leverage to inspect and step through our code line-by-line.

Invoking the debugger

When testing a program, we can call the debugger simultaneously with the program.

python -m main.py

Debugging Commands

The debugger has a few commands that allow us to inspect our code such as:

  • b <line> - sets a breakpoint at a given line
  • p <variable> - prints the value of a variable/expression
  • n - executes the next line of code
  • c - continues the execution of the program until a breakpoint/end of the program is reached
  • q - quits the debugger
  • h - shows a list of available commands

Debugging Example

Let's consider an example of adding two numbers. We can use the debugger to step through the code and inspect the values of our variables.

def addition(a, b):
    return a + b

a = 5
b = 10
print(print(addition(a, b)))

If we run the program with our debugger until we reach the assignment fo a = 5, we can try printing the value of a with p a. In response, we get a

NameError: name 'a' is not defined

This is because the debugger displays the line to be executed next. If we run n in the command line and then print the value of a, we get the expected output of 5. Play around with the debugger and modify the program to gain familiarity with the commands.

Knowledge Check

  • Why are there different logging levels? What can you do with them?
  • How can you set a breakpoint while debugging?
  • How do you continue running the code in my debugger?
  • How can you specify a file to log in to?

Additional Resources

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