Debugger attributes

The following attributes are used for enhancing the debugging experience when using third-party debuggers like GDB or WinDbg.

The debugger_visualizer attribute

The debugger_visualizer attribute can be used to embed a debugger visualizer file into the debug information. This enables an improved debugger experience for displaying values in the debugger. It uses the MetaListNameValueStr syntax to specify its inputs, and must be specified as a crate attribute.

Using debugger_visualizer with Natvis

Natvis is an XML-based framework for Microsoft debuggers (such as Visual Studio and WinDbg) that uses declarative rules to customize the display of types. For detailed information on the Natvis format, refer to Microsoft's Natvis documentation.

This attribute only supports embedding Natvis files on -windows-msvc targets.

The path to the Natvis file is specified with the natvis_file key, which is a path relative to the crate source file:

#![debugger_visualizer(natvis_file = "Rectangle.natvis")]

struct FancyRect {
    x: f32,
    y: f32,
    dx: f32,
    dy: f32,

fn main() {
    let fancy_rect = FancyRect { x: 10.0, y: 10.0, dx: 5.0, dy: 5.0 };
    println!("set breakpoint here");

and Rectangle.natvis contains:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<AutoVisualizer xmlns="">
    <Type Name="foo::FancyRect">
      <DisplayString>({x},{y}) + ({dx}, {dy})</DisplayString>
        <Synthetic Name="LowerLeft">
          <DisplayString>({x}, {y})</DisplayString>
        <Synthetic Name="UpperLeft">
          <DisplayString>({x}, {y + dy})</DisplayString>
        <Synthetic Name="UpperRight">
          <DisplayString>({x + dx}, {y + dy})</DisplayString>
        <Synthetic Name="LowerRight">
          <DisplayString>({x + dx}, {y})</DisplayString>

When viewed under WinDbg, the fancy_rect variable would be shown as follows:

> Variables:
  > fancy_rect: (10.0, 10.0) + (5.0, 5.0)
    > LowerLeft: (10.0, 10.0)
    > UpperLeft: (10.0, 15.0)
    > UpperRight: (15.0, 15.0)
    > LowerRight: (15.0, 10.0)

Using debugger_visualizer with GDB

GDB supports the use of a structured Python script, called a pretty printer, that describes how a type should be visualized in the debugger view. For detailed information on pretty printers, refer to GDB's pretty printing documentation.

Embedded pretty printers are not automatically loaded when debugging a binary under GDB. There are two ways to enable auto-loading embedded pretty printers:

  1. Launch GDB with extra arguments to explicitly add a directory or binary to the auto-load safe path: gdb -iex "add-auto-load-safe-path safe-path path/to/binary" path/to/binary For more information, see GDB's auto-loading documentation.
  2. Create a file named gdbinit under $HOME/.config/gdb (you may need to create the directory if it doesn't already exist). Add the following line to that file: add-auto-load-safe-path path/to/binary.

These scripts are embedded using the gdb_script_file key, which is a path relative to the crate source file.

#![debugger_visualizer(gdb_script_file = "")]

struct Person {
    name: String,
    age: i32,

fn main() {
    let bob = Person { name: String::from("Bob"), age: 10 };
    println!("set breakpoint here");

and contains:

import gdb

class PersonPrinter:
    "Print a Person"

    def __init__(self, val):
        self.val = val = val["name"]
        self.age = int(val["age"])

    def to_string(self):
        return "{} is {} years old.".format(, self.age)

def lookup(val):
    lookup_tag = val.type.tag
    if lookup_tag is None:
        return None
    if "foo::Person" == lookup_tag:
        return PersonPrinter(val)

    return None


When the crate's debug executable is passed into GDB1, print bob will display:

"Bob" is 10 years old.

Note: This assumes you are using the rust-gdb script which configures pretty-printers for standard library types like String.