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* Annotate: (annotate). The obsolete annotation interface.
Copyright (C) 1994, 1995, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008,
2009, 2010 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document
under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.3 or
any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no
Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover
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Free Documentation License".
This file documents GDB's obsolete annotations.
Copyright (C) 1994, 1995, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008,
2009, 2010 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document
under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.3 or
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Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover
Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU
Free Documentation License".

File:, Node: Top, Next: Annotations Overview, Up: (dir)
GDB Annotations
This document describes the obsolete level two annotation interface
implemented in older GDB versions.
* Menu:
* Annotations Overview:: What annotations are; the general syntax.
* Limitations:: Limitations of the annotation interface.
* Migrating to GDB/MI:: Migrating to GDB/MI
* Server Prefix:: Issuing a command without affecting user state.
* Value Annotations:: Values are marked as such.
* Frame Annotations:: Stack frames are annotated.
* Displays:: GDB can be told to display something periodically.
* Prompting:: Annotations marking GDB's need for input.
* Errors:: Annotations for error messages.
* Breakpoint Info:: Information on breakpoints.
* Invalidation:: Some annotations describe things now invalid.
* Annotations for Running::
Whether the program is running, how it stopped, etc.
* Source Annotations:: Annotations describing source code.
* Multi-threaded Apps:: An annotation that reports multi-threadedness.
* GNU Free Documentation License::

File:, Node: Annotations Overview, Next: Limitations, Prev: Top, Up: Top
1 What is an Annotation?
To produce obsolete level two annotations, start GDB with the
`--annotate=2' option.
Annotations start with a newline character, two `control-z'
characters, and the name of the annotation. If there is no additional
information associated with this annotation, the name of the annotation
is followed immediately by a newline. If there is additional
information, the name of the annotation is followed by a space, the
additional information, and a newline. The additional information
cannot contain newline characters.
Any output not beginning with a newline and two `control-z'
characters denotes literal output from GDB. Currently there is no need
for GDB to output a newline followed by two `control-z' characters, but
if there was such a need, the annotations could be extended with an
`escape' annotation which means those three characters as output.
A simple example of starting up GDB with annotations is:
$ gdb --annotate=2
Copyright 2000 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
GDB is free software, covered by the GNU General Public License,
and you are welcome to change it and/or distribute copies of it
under certain conditions.
Type "show copying" to see the conditions.
There is absolutely no warranty for GDB. Type "show warranty"
for details.
This GDB was configured as "sparc-sun-sunos4.1.3"
Here `quit' is input to GDB; the rest is output from GDB. The three
lines beginning `^Z^Z' (where `^Z' denotes a `control-z' character) are
annotations; the rest is output from GDB.

File:, Node: Limitations, Next: Migrating to GDB/MI, Prev: Annotations Overview, Up: Top
2 Limitations of the Annotation Interface
The level two annotations mechanism is known to have a number of
technical and architectural limitations. As a consequence, in 2001,
with the release of GDB 5.1 and the addition of GDB/MI, the annotation
interface was marked as deprecated.
This chapter discusses the known problems.
2.1 Dependant on CLI output
The annotation interface works by interspersing markups with GDB normal
command-line interpreter output. Unfortunately, this makes the
annotation client dependant on not just the annotations, but also the
CLI output. This is because the client is forced to assume that
specific GDB commands provide specific information. Any change to
GDB's CLI output modifies or removes that information and,
consequently, likely breaks the client.
Since the GDB/MI output is independent of the CLI, it does not have
this problem.
2.2 Scalability
The annotation interface relies on value annotations (*note Value
Annotations::) and the display mechanism as a way of obtaining
up-to-date value information. These mechanisms are not scalable.
In a graphical environment, where many values can be displayed
simultaneously, a serious performance problem occurs when the client
tries to first extract from GDB, and then re-display, all those values.
The client should instead only request and update the values that
The GDB/MI Variable Objects provide just that mechanism.
2.3 Correctness
The annotation interface assumes that a variable's value can only be
changed when the target is running. This assumption is not correct. A
single assignment to a single variable can result in the entire target,
and all displayed values, needing an update.
The GDB/MI Variable Objects include a mechanism for efficiently
reporting such changes.
2.4 Reliability
The GDB/MI interface includes a dedicated test directory
(`gdb/gdb.mi'), and any addition or fix to GDB/MI must include
testsuite changes.
2.5 Maintainability
The annotation mechanism was implemented by interspersing CLI print
statements with various annotations. As a consequence, any CLI output
change can alter the annotation output.
Since the GDB/MI output is independent of the CLI, and the GDB/MI is
increasingly implemented independent of the CLI code, its long term
maintenance is much easier.

File:, Node: Migrating to GDB/MI, Next: Server Prefix, Prev: Limitations, Up: Top
3 Migrating to GDB/MI
By using the `interp mi' command, it is possible for annotation clients
to invoke GDB/MI commands, and hence access the GDB/MI. By doing this,
existing annotation clients have a migration path from this obsolete
interface to GDB/MI.

File:, Node: Server Prefix, Next: Value Annotations, Prev: Migrating to GDB/MI, Up: Top
4 The Server Prefix
To issue a command to GDB without affecting certain aspects of the
state which is seen by users, prefix it with `server '. This means
that this command will not affect the command history, nor will it
affect GDB's notion of which command to repeat if <RET> is pressed on a
line by itself.
The server prefix does not affect the recording of values into the
value history; to print a value without recording it into the value
history, use the `output' command instead of the `print' command.

File:, Node: Value Annotations, Next: Frame Annotations, Prev: Server Prefix, Up: Top
5 Values
_Value Annotations have been removed. GDB/MI instead provides Variable
When a value is printed in various contexts, GDB uses annotations to
delimit the value from the surrounding text.
If a value is printed using `print' and added to the value history,
the annotation looks like
^Z^Zvalue-history-begin HISTORY-NUMBER VALUE-FLAGS
where HISTORY-NUMBER is the number it is getting in the value history,
HISTORY-STRING is a string, such as `$5 = ', which introduces the value
to the user, THE-VALUE is the output corresponding to the value itself,
and VALUE-FLAGS is `*' for a value which can be dereferenced and `-'
for a value which cannot.
If the value is not added to the value history (it is an invalid
float or it is printed with the `output' command), the annotation is
^Z^Zvalue-begin VALUE-FLAGS
When GDB prints an argument to a function (for example, in the output
from the `backtrace' command), it annotates it as follows:
^Z^Zarg-value VALUE-FLAGS
where ARGUMENT-NAME is the name of the argument, SEPARATOR-STRING is
text which separates the name from the value for the user's benefit
(such as `='), and VALUE-FLAGS and THE-VALUE have the same meanings as
in a `value-history-begin' annotation.
When printing a structure, GDB annotates it as follows:
^Z^Zfield-begin VALUE-FLAGS
where FIELD-NAME is the name of the field, SEPARATOR-STRING is text
which separates the name from the value for the user's benefit (such as
`='), and VALUE-FLAGS and THE-VALUE have the same meanings as in a
`value-history-begin' annotation.
When printing an array, GDB annotates it as follows:
^Z^Zarray-section-begin ARRAY-INDEX VALUE-FLAGS
where ARRAY-INDEX is the index of the first element being annotated and
VALUE-FLAGS has the same meaning as in a `value-history-begin'
annotation. This is followed by any number of elements, where is
element can be either a single element:
`,' WHITESPACE ; omitted for the first element
or a repeated element
`,' WHITESPACE ; omitted for the first element
In both cases, THE-VALUE is the output for the value of the element
and WHITESPACE can contain spaces, tabs, and newlines. In the repeated
case, NUMBER-OF-REPETITIONS is the number of consecutive array elements
which contain that value, and REPETITION-STRING is a string which is
designed to convey to the user that repetition is being depicted.
Once all the array elements have been output, the array annotation is
ended with

File:, Node: Frame Annotations, Next: Displays, Prev: Value Annotations, Up: Top
6 Frames
_Value Annotations have been removed. GDB/MI instead provides a number
of frame commands._
_Frame annotations are no longer available. The GDB/MI provides
`-stack-list-arguments', `-stack-list-locals', and `-stack-list-frames'
Whenever GDB prints a frame, it annotates it. For example, this
applies to frames printed when GDB stops, output from commands such as
`backtrace' or `up', etc.
The frame annotation begins with
^Z^Zframe-begin LEVEL ADDRESS
where LEVEL is the number of the frame (0 is the innermost frame, and
other frames have positive numbers), ADDRESS is the address of the code
executing in that frame, and LEVEL-STRING is a string designed to
convey the level to the user. ADDRESS is in the form `0x' followed by
one or more lowercase hex digits (note that this does not depend on the
language). The frame ends with
Between these annotations is the main body of the frame, which can
consist of
* ^Z^Zfunction-call
where FUNCTION-CALL-STRING is text designed to convey to the user
that this frame is associated with a function call made by GDB to a
function in the program being debugged.
* ^Z^Zsignal-handler-caller
where SIGNAL-HANDLER-CALLER-STRING is text designed to convey to
the user that this frame is associated with whatever mechanism is
used by this operating system to call a signal handler (it is the
frame which calls the signal handler, not the frame for the signal
handler itself).
* A normal frame.
This can optionally (depending on whether this is thought of as
interesting information for the user to see) begin with
where ADDRESS is the address executing in the frame (the same
address as in the `frame-begin' annotation, but printed in a form
which is intended for user consumption--in particular, the syntax
varies depending on the language), and SEPARATOR-STRING is a string
intended to separate this address from what follows for the user's
Then comes
where FUNCTION-NAME is the name of the function executing in the
frame, or `??' if not known, and ARGUMENTS are the arguments to
the frame, with parentheses around them (each argument is annotated
individually as well, *note Value Annotations::).
If source information is available, a reference to it is then
where SOURCE-INTRO-STRING separates for the user's benefit the
reference from the text which precedes it, FILENAME is the name of
the source file, and LINE-NUMBER is the line number within that
file (the first line is line 1).
If GDB prints some information about where the frame is from (which
library, which load segment, etc.; currently only done on the
RS/6000), it is annotated with
Then, if source is to actually be displayed for this frame (for
example, this is not true for output from the `backtrace'
command), then a `source' annotation (*note Source Annotations::)
is displayed. Unlike most annotations, this is output instead of
the normal text which would be output, not in addition.

File:, Node: Displays, Next: Prompting, Prev: Frame Annotations, Up: Top
7 Displays
_Display Annotations have been removed. GDB/MI instead provides
Variable Objects._
When GDB is told to display something using the `display' command,
the results of the display are annotated:
where NUMBER is the number of the display, NUMBER-SEPARATOR is intended
to separate the number from what follows for the user, FORMAT includes
information such as the size, format, or other information about how
the value is being displayed, EXPRESSION is the expression being
displayed, EXPRESSION-SEPARATOR is intended to separate the expression
from the text that follows for the user, and VALUE is the actual value
being displayed.

File:, Node: Prompting, Next: Errors, Prev: Displays, Up: Top
8 Annotation for GDB Input
When GDB prompts for input, it annotates this fact so it is possible to
know when to send output, when the output from a given command is over,
Different kinds of input each have a different "input type". Each
input type has three annotations: a `pre-' annotation, which denotes
the beginning of any prompt which is being output, a plain annotation,
which denotes the end of the prompt, and then a `post-' annotation
which denotes the end of any echo which may (or may not) be associated
with the input. For example, the `prompt' input type features the
following annotations:
The input types are
When GDB is prompting for a command (the main GDB prompt).
When GDB prompts for a set of commands, like in the `commands'
command. The annotations are repeated for each command which is
When GDB wants the user to select between various overloaded
When GDB wants the user to confirm a potentially dangerous
When GDB is asking the user to press return to continue. Note:
Don't expect this to work well; instead use `set height 0' to
disable prompting. This is because the counting of lines is buggy
in the presence of annotations.

File:, Node: Errors, Next: Breakpoint Info, Prev: Prompting, Up: Top
9 Errors
This annotation occurs right before GDB responds to an interrupt.
This annotation occurs right before GDB responds to an error.
Quit and error annotations indicate that any annotations which GDB
was in the middle of may end abruptly. For example, if a
`value-history-begin' annotation is followed by a `error', one cannot
expect to receive the matching `value-history-end'. One cannot expect
not to receive it either, however; an error annotation does not
necessarily mean that GDB is immediately returning all the way to the
top level.
A quit or error annotation may be preceded by
Any output between that and the quit or error annotation is the error
Warning messages are not yet annotated.

File:, Node: Breakpoint Info, Next: Invalidation, Prev: Errors, Up: Top
10 Information on Breakpoints
_Breakpoint Annotations have been removed. GDB/MI instead provides
breakpoint commands._
The output from the `info breakpoints' command is annotated as
where HEADER-ENTRY has the same syntax as an entry (see below) but
instead of containing data, it contains strings which are intended to
convey the meaning of each field to the user. This is followed by any
number of entries. If a field does not apply for this entry, it is
omitted. Fields may contain trailing whitespace. Each entry consists
^Z^Zfield 0
^Z^Zfield 1
^Z^Zfield 2
^Z^Zfield 3
^Z^Zfield 4
^Z^Zfield 5
^Z^Zfield 6
^Z^Zfield 7
^Z^Zfield 8
^Z^Zfield 9
Note that ADDRESS is intended for user consumption--the syntax
varies depending on the language.
The output ends with

File:, Node: Invalidation, Next: Annotations for Running, Prev: Breakpoint Info, Up: Top
11 Invalidation Notices
The following annotations say that certain pieces of state may have
The frames (for example, output from the `backtrace' command) may
have changed.
The breakpoints may have changed. For example, the user just
added or deleted a breakpoint.

File:, Node: Annotations for Running, Next: Source Annotations, Prev: Invalidation, Up: Top
12 Running the Program
When the program starts executing due to a GDB command such as `step'
or `continue',
is output. When the program stops,
is output. Before the `stopped' annotation, a variety of
annotations describe how the program stopped.
`^Z^Zexited EXIT-STATUS'
The program exited, and EXIT-STATUS is the exit status (zero for
successful exit, otherwise nonzero).
The program exited with a signal. After the `^Z^Zsignalled', the
annotation continues:
where NAME is the name of the signal, such as `SIGILL' or
`SIGSEGV', and STRING is the explanation of the signal, such as
`Illegal Instruction' or `Segmentation fault'. INTRO-TEXT,
MIDDLE-TEXT, and END-TEXT are for the user's benefit and have no
particular format.
The syntax of this annotation is just like `signalled', but GDB is
just saying that the program received the signal, not that it was
terminated with it.
`^Z^Zbreakpoint NUMBER'
The program hit breakpoint number NUMBER.
`^Z^Zwatchpoint NUMBER'
The program hit watchpoint number NUMBER.

File:, Node: Source Annotations, Next: Multi-threaded Apps, Prev: Annotations for Running, Up: Top
13 Displaying Source
The following annotation is used instead of displaying source code:
where FILENAME is an absolute file name indicating which source
file, LINE is the line number within that file (where 1 is the first
line in the file), CHARACTER is the character position within the file
(where 0 is the first character in the file) (for most debug formats
this will necessarily point to the beginning of a line), MIDDLE is
`middle' if ADDR is in the middle of the line, or `beg' if ADDR is at
the beginning of the line, and ADDR is the address in the target
program associated with the source which is being displayed. ADDR is
in the form `0x' followed by one or more lowercase hex digits (note
that this does not depend on the language).

File:, Node: Multi-threaded Apps, Next: GNU Free Documentation License, Prev: Source Annotations, Up: Top
14 Multi-threaded Applications
The following annotations report thread related changes of state.
This annotation is issued once for each thread that is created
apart from the main thread, which is not reported.
The selected thread has changed. This may occur at the request of
the user with the `thread' command, or as a result of execution,
e.g., another thread hits a breakpoint.

File:, Node: GNU Free Documentation License, Prev: Multi-threaded Apps, Up: Top
Appendix A GNU Free Documentation License
Version 1.3, 3 November 2008
Copyright (C) 2000, 2001, 2002, 2007, 2008 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim copies
of this license document, but changing it is not allowed.
The purpose of this License is to make a manual, textbook, or other
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assure everyone the effective freedom to copy and redistribute it,
with or without modifying it, either commercially or
noncommercially. Secondarily, this License preserves for the
author and publisher a way to get credit for their work, while not
being considered responsible for modifications made by others.
This License is a kind of "copyleft", which means that derivative
works of the document must themselves be free in the same sense.
It complements the GNU General Public License, which is a copyleft
license designed for free software.
We have designed this License in order to use it for manuals for
free software, because free software needs free documentation: a
free program should come with manuals providing the same freedoms
that the software does. But this License is not limited to
software manuals; it can be used for any textual work, regardless
of subject matter or whether it is published as a printed book.
We recommend this License principally for works whose purpose is
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This License applies to any manual or other work, in any medium,
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A "Modified Version" of the Document means any work containing the
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To "Preserve the Title" of such a section when you modify the
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it refers to gives permission.
K. For any section Entitled "Acknowledgements" or "Dedications",
Preserve the Title of the section, and preserve in the
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M. Delete any section Entitled "Endorsements". Such a section
may not be included in the Modified Version.
N. Do not retitle any existing section to be Entitled
"Endorsements" or to conflict in title with any Invariant
O. Preserve any Warranty Disclaimers.
If the Modified Version includes new front-matter sections or
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designate some or all of these sections as invariant. To do this,
add their titles to the list of Invariant Sections in the Modified
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Node: Annotations Overview2452
Node: Limitations4251
Node: Migrating to GDB/MI6836
Node: Server Prefix7219
Node: Value Annotations7865
Node: Frame Annotations11035
Node: Displays14934
Node: Prompting15965
Node: Errors17468
Node: Breakpoint Info18358
Node: Invalidation19583
Node: Annotations for Running20062
Node: Source Annotations21575
Node: Multi-threaded Apps22521
Node: GNU Free Documentation License23130

End Tag Table