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Microsoft Makes Windows Debugging More User-Friendly

A new Windows debug (WinDbg) console that Microsoft touts as being "less intimidating" and "a bit easier for beginners" is now in preview.

Currently available for download from the Windows Store, WinDbg version 1.0 can be used to debug "blue screen" Windows crashes via crash dump analyses. The new tool only works with the Windows 10 "Anniversary Update" (version 1607) right now because it's dependent on some of that operating system's features, Microsoft explained in its announcement this week. The download page indicates it'll work just with Home or Pro editions.

The less intimidating aspect of WinDbg appears to be its use of the Ribbon menu, which shows the commands that are available depending on the context of what's happening on the screen. The file menu displays options for debugging sessions. Also, the source windows "should look more like the source windows you're used to seeing in every other modern editor," Microsoft promised. Another cosmetic addition is the ability to select a "dark theme" for the WinDbg console.

Users of WinDbg preview get some tooling help, too. The console "remembers" recent sessions "and some of the settings" that were used, which can be accessed from the File menu. Highlighted items in the console windows will now stay highlighted when you scroll within the window. It's possible to stay within the console to "write and execute your JavaScript and NatVis" scripts instead of having to use a separate development environment to create them. Moreover, script writers get "error highlighting" and color coding via "IntelliSense."

The distribution of the WinDbg preview through the Windows Store seems to be new aspect with this release. Typically, WinDbg is obtained from the Windows Driver Kit or the Windows Software Development Kit. Microsoft intends to release WinDbg updates more frequently than in the past, which is one reason for the Windows Store distribution.

Microsoft is promising that this WinDbg preview will work with all past "commands, extensions and workflows" used with the earlier version of the tool because the preview is using "the same underlying engine." Microsoft is hoping to get comments on the new tool, and plans to prioritize updates based on feedback.

Possibly, the tool is easier to use. Microsoft's documentation on the new preview can be found at this page.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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