Post-Mortem Debugging

Functions to dump the evaluation environments (frames) and to examine dumped frames.

utilities, error
dump.frames(dumpto = "last.dump", to.file = FALSE,
            include.GlobalEnv = FALSE)
debugger(dump = last.dump)

a character string. The name of the object or file to dump to.


logical. Should the dump be to an R object or to a file?


logical indicating if a copy of the .GlobalEnv environment should be included in addition to the sys.frames(). Will be particularly useful when used in a batch job.


an R dump object created by dump.frames.


To use post-mortem debugging, set the option error to be a call to dump.frames. By default this dumps to an R object last.dump in the workspace, but it can be set to dump to a file (a dump of the object produced by a call to save). The dumped object contain the call stack, the active environments and the last error message as returned by geterrmessage.

When dumping to file, dumpto gives the name of the dumped object and the file name has .rda appended.

A dump object of class "dump.frames" can be examined by calling debugger. This will give the error message and a list of environments from which to select repeatedly. When an environment is selected, it is copied and the browser called from within the copy. Note that not all the information in the original frame will be available, e.g.promises which have not yet been evaluated and the contents of any argument.

If dump.frames is installed as the error handler, execution will continue even in non-interactive sessions. See the examples for how to dump and then quit.


Invisible NULL.


Functions such as sys.parent and environment applied to closures will not work correctly inside debugger.

If the error occurred when computing the default value of a formal argument the debugger will report “recursive default argument reference” when trying to examine that environment.

Of course post-mortem debugging will not work if R is too damaged to produce and save the dump, for example if it has run out of workspace.


Becker, R. A., Chambers, J. M. and Wilks, A. R. (1988) The New S Language. Wadsworth & Brooks/Cole.

See Also

browser for the actions available at the Browse prompt.

options for setting error options; recover is an interactive debugger working similarly to debugger but directly after the error occurs.

  • debugger
  • dump.frames
library(utils) options(error = quote(dump.frames("testdump", TRUE))) f <- function() { g <- function() stop("test dump.frames") g() } f() # will generate a dump on file "testdump.rda" options(error = NULL) ## possibly in another R session load("testdump.rda") debugger(testdump) Available environments had calls: 1: f() 2: g() 3: stop("test dump.frames") Enter an environment number, or 0 to exit Selection: 1 Browsing in the environment with call: f() Called from: debugger.look(ind) Browse[1]> ls() [1] "g" Browse[1]> g function() stop("test dump.frames") <environment: 759818> Browse[1]> Available environments had calls: 1: f() 2: g() 3: stop("test dump.frames") Enter an environment number, or 0 to exit Selection: 0 ## A possible setting for non-interactive sessions options(error = quote({dump.frames(to.file = TRUE); q(status = 1)}))
Documentation reproduced from package utils, version 3.4.1, License: Part of R 3.4.1

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