Easier debugging in Joomla!

If you’re a template designer or extension developer (or if you just like to hack existing extensions), you might want to take a look at J!Dump. I started the project more than a year and a half ago, in the dark ages when Joomla! 1.5 was still in beta. I didn’t have the time to maintain it, but luckily Jens-Christian Skibakk (aka jenscki) stepped up and took over development. This month, a brand new version 1.1 was released.

What is J!Dump?

J!Dump solves some often recurring problems during development. When you want to know what a variable contains, you can use var_dump() or print_r(), wrapped in


pre> tags for readability. With large complex objects, this quickly turns into a mess. Furthermore, the output is mixed in with regular Joomla! output, which makes it even messier. And if you’re var_dump() statement is followed at some point by a redirect, you never even get to see the output.

J!Dump does it differently. When you dump($foo);, the contents of $foo are stored in the session data. At runtime, J!Dump opens a popup window, and shows the dumped variables, using a nice javascript tree. This allows you to dig into the variable a much nicer way than reading hundreds of lines of print_r output.

The best way to get a feel of how J!Dump can make your life easier, is to try it. Simply install both the plugin and the component on your test system and put a dump($some_object); statement in your code somewhere. Check the readme for more info.

Of course there are better ways to debug your applications. The nice thing about J!Dump is that it’s very easy to setup and get started, especially if all you need is a quick insight in the code instead of full-blown debugging.

By developers, for developers

J!Dump is a free GPL extension, which not only means you can use it as you wish, you’re also encouranged to contribute to it. If you want to add some features, let me know, and I’ll add you to the project.

The book “Mastering Joomla! 1.5 Extension and Framework Development” by James Kennard mentions J!Dump, as well as J!Code, as being two prominent tools for the developer. Cool!

Written by

Johan Janssens

21 May 2008

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