Recommendations on how to debug AssemblyScript modules.

Source maps

The compiler supports generating a source map alongside a binary using the --sourceMap option.

Relative source maps

By default, specifying the --sourceMap option will create a source mapping section pointing to the source map with a relative path, defaulting to with myModule being the name of the respective binary. This works when instantiating a module with WebAssembly.instantiateStreaming because the VM can obtain the absolute URL the source map is relative to from the provided Response object, but does not work if a module is instantiated from a buffer or otherwise without a path context.

Absolute source maps

Where relative source maps cannot be used, for example if WebAssembly.instantiate is used to instantiate a module from a binary buffer, it is also possible to specify an absolute path to the source map using --sourceMap absolutePathToSourceMap.

Stack traces

A JavaScript VM is able to display stack traces originating in WebAssembly code. However, optimizing a WebAssembly module will usually drop all the debug information, making these stack traces hard to grasp. Using an unoptimized module or a module otherwise preserving debug information can help here. The AssemblyScript compiler preserves debug information by specifying the --debug compiler option.

Disabling assertions

By default, the compiler will preserve any assert(expression)s in a module, leading to an abort if one of the respective expectations failed. These assertions can be disabled with the --noAssert compiler option, though, essentially replacing them with nops, doing nothing. Doing so can lead to smaller binaries once sufficiently confident that no assertions will be hit anyway, but also introduces the risk that a module explodes for no longer asserted reasons.

Overriding abort

As mentioned above, assertions require that an implementation of the abort interface is present, which by default is imported as abort from within the env module, handling aborts externally. This can be overridden by specifying a custom abort handler through --use abort=index/myAbort (here: a function named myAbort in the index file) or the abort interface can be disabled completely (just trapping with an unreachable) through --use abort=. The signature of the abort function, if overridden, is:

function abort(
message: string | null,
fileName: string | null,
lineNumber: u32,
columnNumber: u32
): void;

Manual tracing

The standard library provides a relatively basic trace utility function that is imported from the host and understood by the loader. For example

trace("HERE", 2, value, otherValue);

will, by default, call the trace function imported from the env module with a string message and two arbitrary values that can be anything convertible to an f64. The loader for example will log the output to console. Similar to overriding abort, the implementation can be overridden using the --use compiler option. Signature of the trace function is:

function trace(
message: string,
n: i32 = 0, // number of given parameters a0 to a4
a0?: f64,
a1?: f64,
a2?: f64,
a3?: f64,
a4?: f64
): void;


Some JavaScript engines also support adding break points when running WebAssembly binaries. Please consult your engine's documentation.

Additional resources