CakePHP DebugKit: Take Back your Debugging

Yet another foray into the WORD: The Subtitle blog posts; today we’re going to look at the amazing features of the CakePHP DebugKit.

The DebugKit is a standard plugin for CakePHP written by Mark Story. It provides a lot more information that the standard debugging features of cake (Errors, warnings, SQL Queries) and also keeps them in a nice contained collapsible icon at the top of your page so you don’t have to have error messages and sql queries appearing all over the page.

The Debug Kit Interface

DebugKit Icon

DebugKit Icon

Click the Cake icon at the top of your page, and it expands to all the tools you’ll need.

DebugKit Expanded

DebugKit Expanded

If you click any of the titles there, it shows you various debug information such as the current Session information, how the Request was processed, the SQL Log, a timer for all the functions that were called, currently accessible variables and the current memory usage.

DebugKit Variables View

DebugKit Variables View

DebugKit Timer View

DebugKit Timer View

All in all, an amazing amount of information. And best of all? It stays out of the way so your designs don’t get cluttered with debug information while you’re testing.

Installation

Installation is easy.

Download

Download the debug kit from ohloh. http://www.ohloh.net/p/cakephp-debugkit

Install

Place the DebugKig in the plugins folder of your application:

/app/plugins/debug_kit/[INSERT ME HERE]

Connect

Add the DebugKit Toolbar component to your app_controller, so it will be available to all your controllers.


// app_controller.php
var $components = array('DebugKit.Toolbar');

Then set the debug mode to at least 1.

Problems

DebugKit isn’t a perfect system (or maybe my understanding of it isn’t quite perfect). In any case, these are some problems I’ve had with DebugKit, but even they’re not enough to really gripe about.

Speed

DebugKit does seem to take a lot more processing power to run it than the standard Debug functions of cake.

This is easy to understand, though, as with the timers, reporters and everything, it’s doing quite a bit more than the standard Debug functions, and gives you a lot more information. I’ve had my dev-laptop exceed the 30sec execution time limit quite a few times while running DebugKit, but nothing like that has ever happened on my dev-server, so I doubt it’s anything major. It does make navigation a bit slower though, so when testing user flow, I would recommend turning it off by setting the Debug level to 0 for the duration of the session.

And remember, if you switch your debug to 0, then the DebugKit isn’t run at all, so there’s no worries about it eating precious resources on your live server.

Ajax Reporting

Ajax doesn't seem to be affected

Ajax doesn't seem to be affected

When you make a request with Ajax, the DebugKit doesn’t seem to get spun up like it should — which results in it reverting to the standard CakePHP reporting, which (while not bad) is definitely a grade down compared to the glory of DebugKit. It would have been nice to have the reporting fed into another icon inside the div that displays the ajax result, or something to that effect. Perhaps there is a way, and I just haven’t found it yet. Always a possibility.

Conclusion

Really, there isn’t much else to say except: why are you waiting? Go download this thing now!