Beyond Console.log: Debugging Techniques In JavaScript

Updated on · 6 min read
Beyond Console.log: Debugging Techniques In JavaScript

In the field of web development, JavaScript serves as a foundational element, driving everything from simple user interactions to complex applications. However, this versatility brings with it a degree of complexity, and inevitably, bugs.

Bugs are an integral part of the software development lifecycle. They are as certain as death and taxes, and dealing with them is a skill every developer needs to master. Debugging — the process of identifying, analyzing, and resolving these bugs — is a critical skill for any developer. But debugging can often feel like a time-consuming and frustrating process, especially when you're dealing with tricky bugs or complex codebases.

This blog post aims to offer an array of alternatives to the frequently used console.log debugging strategy in JavaScript. While console.log is a valuable tool in a developer's arsenal, it's not always the most efficient or comprehensive method for identifying and resolving bugs in your code. Broadening your debugging toolkit can significantly streamline your debugging process, leading to a more efficient coding experience.

The importance of debugging

In the realm of web development, debugging is as much an art as it is a science. It's a detective's game, requiring sharp analytical skills, patient perseverance, and occasionally, a dash of intuition. But why exactly is debugging so pivotal in web development?

Firstly, debugging is the key to ensuring the quality of your code. Bugs are inevitable in any coding project, no matter the size or complexity. These pesky issues range from simple syntax errors that prevent your code from running to more subtle logic errors that produce unexpected outcomes. By debugging your code, you can identify and fix these issues, ensuring that your application works as intended.

The cost of bugs can be considerable. According to a report by the Consortium for IT Software Quality, poor quality software costs businesses in the US alone up to $2.41 trillion in 2022. This cost includes not just the immediate cost of fixing bugs, but also indirect costs such as lost productivity, damage to reputation, and even potential legal liabilities.

Moreover, efficient debugging skills can make the difference between meeting a project deadline and missing it. The longer a bug goes undetected or unresolved, the more time and resources it will drain. By learning to debug effectively, you can not only reduce the time spent on debugging, but also free up time for other crucial tasks such as feature development or code optimization.

So, let's look at a collection of less-used JavaScript debugging tricks that can help you tackle complex bugs and optimize your debugging process.

If you're curious about working with the Map data structure in JavaScript, you may find these posts helpful: Removing Duplicates with Map In JavaScript and Simplifying Code with Maps In JavaScript and React.

Using console.table for more readable logging

One of the most common debugging techniques in JavaScript is console.log(). It's straightforward and lets you print the value of a variable or the state of your application at any given point. But when it comes to logging arrays or objects, console.log() can sometimes leave us with a less-than-ideal output.

Enter console.table(). This method displays tabular data as a table in the console, making it much easier to read complex data structures.

const people = [ { name: "Alice", age: 25, job: "Engineer" }, { name: "Bob", age: 30, job: "Designer" }, { name: "Charlie", age: 35, job: "Teacher" } ]; console.table(people);
const people = [ { name: "Alice", age: 25, job: "Engineer" }, { name: "Bob", age: 30, job: "Designer" }, { name: "Charlie", age: 35, job: "Teacher" } ]; console.table(people);

Running this code in your console will display a neat table, with columns for index, name, age, and job, and rows for each object in the array.

Console.table result

It's a simple trick, but it can make a big difference when you're trying to make sense of complex data.

Mastering breakpoints in Chrome DevTools

Breakpoints are a powerful tool in a developer's arsenal. They allow you to pause the execution of your code at a specific point, enabling you to inspect the current state of your application.

Chrome DevTools offers a range of options for setting breakpoints, including line-of-code breakpoints, conditional breakpoints, and DOM change breakpoints, to name a few. Mastering these different types of breakpoints can greatly improve your debugging efficiency. For example, you might use a conditional breakpoint to pause execution only when a certain condition is met, saving you from having to manually step through unrelated parts of your code.

Debugging with the JavaScript 'debugger' keyword

The 'debugger' keyword in JavaScript is another handy tool for pausing code execution. When the browser encounters the 'debugger' statement and the DevTools are open, it will automatically pause execution, allowing you to inspect the current state of your application.

This can be particularly useful for tracking down elusive bugs that only occur under certain conditions. By strategically placing 'debugger' statements in your code, you can catch these bugs in the act and analyze their cause.

Using JSON.stringify for logging complex objects

JSON.stringify() is a method that converts a JavaScript object or value to a JSON string. While this method is often used for sending data to a server or saving data in a string format, it can also be a powerful debugging tool.

When you log an object to the console in JavaScript, it's logged by object reference, not by value. This means that if the object changes later in your code, the logged output will also change. However, by using JSON.stringify(), you can log the state of an object at a specific point in time, making it easier to track down bugs related to mutable data.

Profiling JavaScript performance with console.time

Performance bugs can be some of the trickiest to debug, but console.time() can help with those. This method starts a timer that you can use to track how long an operation takes.

To use console.time(), you simply call it with a unique label at the start of the operation you want to time, and then call console.timeEnd() with the same label when the operation has completed. This will log the time in milliseconds that elapsed between the two calls, helping identify any parts of your code that might be causing performance issues.

Monitoring all events with monitorEvents() in DevTools

Ever had a bug that only occurs when a certain sequence of events happens? The monitorEvents() function in Chrome DevTools can be a lifesaver in these situations. This function allows you to listen to all events dispatched to a specified object.

For example, if you want to monitor all events on a button with the ID 'myButton', you would run monitorEvents(document.getElementById('myButton')) in the console. This will then log all events dispatched to this button, helping you understand exactly what's happening and when.

Debugging promises with async/await

Promises are a powerful feature of modern JavaScript, allowing you to write asynchronous code in a more manageable and readable way. However, debugging promises can sometimes be tricky, particularly when dealing with complex chains of them.

By using the async/await syntax, you can write your asynchronous code in a way that looks and behaves more like synchronous code, making it easier to understand and debug. For example, instead of using .then() to chain promises, you can simply use the await keyword to pause the execution of your function until the promise resolves, and then continue with the result of the promise.


In conclusion, debugging is an indispensable aspect of web development that contributes significantly to the quality and efficiency of code. It's not only crucial for fixing errors and ensuring the smooth operation of applications, but also plays a vital role in meeting project deadlines and reducing the cost of poor quality software. With a plethora of effective debugging techniques at our disposal such as using console.table(), breakpoints, employing the 'debugger' keyword, leveraging JSON.stringify(), profiling performance with console.time(), monitoring events with monitorEvents(), and debugging promises with async/await, developers can enhance their debugging skills, leading to a better understanding of their code, increased productivity, and ultimately, the creation of high-quality, robust applications. While debugging can often be a daunting and time-consuming task, these tricks can help make the process more efficient, manageable, and even enjoyable.

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