Getting Started#

Please refer to the LLVM Getting Started Guide for general information on how to get started on the LLVM project. A detailed explanation on how to build and test LLDB can be found in the build instructions and test instructions respectively.

Contributing to LLDB#

Please refer to the LLVM Developer Policy for information about authoring and uploading a patch. LLDB differs from the LLVM Developer Policy in the following respects.

For anything not explicitly listed here, assume that LLDB follows the LLVM policy.

Coding Style#

LLDB’s code style differs from LLVM’s coding style in a few ways. The 2 main ones are:

For any other contradications, consider the golden rule before choosing to update the style of existing code.

All new code in LLDB should be formatted with clang-format. Existing code may not conform and should be updated prior to being modified. Bulk reformatting is discouraged.

Test Infrastructure#

Like LLVM it is important to submit tests with your patches, but note that a subset of LLDB tests (the API tests) use a different system. Refer to the test documentation for more details and the lldb/test folder for examples.

Error handling and use of assertions in LLDB#

Contrary to Clang, which is typically a short-lived process, LLDB debuggers stay up and running for a long time, often serving multiple debug sessions initiated by an IDE. For this reason LLDB code needs to be extra thoughtful about how to handle errors. Below are a couple rules of thumb:

  • Invalid input. To deal with invalid input, such as malformed DWARF, missing object files, or otherwise inconsistent debug info, error handling types such as llvm::Expected<T> or std::optional<T> should be used. Functions that may fail should return their result using these wrapper types instead of using a bool to indicate success. Returning a default value when an error occurred is also discouraged.

  • Assertions. Assertions (from assert.h) should be used liberally to assert internal consistency. Assertions shall never be used to detect invalid user input, such as malformed DWARF. An assertion should be placed to assert invariants that the developer is convinced will always hold, regardless what an end-user does with LLDB. Because assertions are not present in release builds, the checks in an assertion may be more expensive than otherwise permissible. In combination with the LLDB test suite, assertions are what allows us to refactor and evolve the LLDB code base.

  • Logging. LLDB provides a very rich logging API. When recoverable errors cannot reasonably be surfaced to the end user, the error may be written to a topical log channel.

  • Soft assertions. LLDB provides lldbassert() as a soft alternative to cover the middle ground of situations that indicate a recoverable bug in LLDB. When asserts are enabled lldbassert() behaves like assert(). When asserts are disabled, it will print a warning and encourage the user to file a bug report, similar to LLVM’s crash handler, and then return execution. Use these sparingly and only if error handling is not otherwise feasible.


New code should not be using lldbassert() and existing uses should be replaced by other means of error handling.

  • Fatal errors. Aborting LLDB’s process using llvm::report_fatal_error() or abort() should be avoided at all costs. It’s acceptable to use llvm_unreachable() for actually unreachable code such as the default in an otherwise exhaustive switch statement.

Overall, please keep in mind that the debugger is often used as a last resort, and a crash in the debugger is rarely appreciated by the end-user.