Debugging Chapel Programs

This document discusses support for debugging your Chapel program and a set of experimental settings to enable task monitoring and memory tracking.

Running in gdb

The compiler-generated executable has a --gdb flag that can be used to launch the program within a gdb session. For best results, make sure that your program has been compiled using the chpl compiler’s -g flag.

When using almost any launcher, you can launch gdb by setting the environment variable CHPL_COMM_USE_GDB when running the program. This will open up a separate terminal emulator window for each locale, each running the debugger on that locale’s program instance. On the Mac OS X (darwin) platform, you can launch lldb instead, by setting the CHPL_COMM_USE_LLDB environment variable. This works in all of these launchers:


The default terminal emulator program is xterm, but by setting the environment variable CHPL_COMM_DBG_TERM=urxvt you can force use of urxvt instead. Whichever terminal emulator is used must be in your PATH on the compute node or an error will result. Note that it is the user’s responsibility to make sure things are set up so the terminal emulator run in the target environment can open its display window in the launch environment.

The utility of this feature depends greatly on your familiarity with the Chapel generated code. However, if your program is crashing or running into a runtime error, you can often determine where that is taking place by looking at a stack trace within gdb.

When debugging Chapel, it is useful to know that in generating its code, the Chapel compiler renames user identifiers. By default, the Chapel compiler munges all user identifiers, such that a variable named x would be code generated as x_chpl. This munging can be controlled using the --[no-]munge-user-idents flag (see the chpl man page for more information). In some cases, additional munging may be required or applied that cannot be turned off.

The net effect of this is that Chapel variables can often be inspected using p name_chpl (or p name_chpl<TAB> in cases where the compiler has further renamed the variable). If the --no-munge-user-idents flag is used, p name or p name<TAB> should work in most cases.

Over time, we plan to improve our ability to debug the generated C code for a Chapel program. If you find yourself debugging the generated code a lot and need help or have requests for better support, please let us know so that we can prioritize accordingly.

Tracking and Reporting on Tasks

For certain tasking layers, Chapel supports an experimental capability for tracking the status of tasks, primarily designed for use in a single-locale execution. To enable this capability, your program must be compiled with the --task-tracking flag.

The feature itself is enabled at execution time by setting the boolean environment variable CHPL_RT_ENABLE_TASK_REPORTING to any of the values “1”, “yes”, or “true”. If this is done, then when <CTRL-C> is entered while a program is executing, a list of pending and executing tasks will be printed to the console, giving an indication of which tasks are at which source locations. This is only supported with CHPL_TASKS=fifo.

Note that task tracking adds a fair amount of runtime overhead to task-parallel programs.

Configuration Constants for Tracking Memory

Chapel supports a number of configuration constants related to dynamic memory allocation for the compiler-generated executable, currently designed for use primarily by the development team to track memory usage in tests. Please note that our generated code currently contains memory leaks, so you should not be surprised if your program requires more memory than it seems it should.

For full information on these configuration constants consult Memory.

A brief synopsis of these configuration constants is as follows:


turn on memory tracking and enable reporting


call printMemAllocStats() on normal termination


call printMemAllocsByType() on normal termination


call printMemAllocs() on normal termination


set maximum level of allocatable memory


set minimum threshold for memory tracking


file to contain all memory reporting


if set, append final stats and leaks-by-type here