Type Printing API

GDB provides a way for Python code to customize type display. This is mainly useful for substituting canonical typedef names for types.

A type printer is just a Python object conforming to a certain protocol. A simple base class implementing the protocol is provided; see gdb.types. A type printer must supply at least:

Instance Variable of type_printer
A boolean which is True if the printer is enabled, and False otherwise. This is manipulated by the enable type-printer and disable type-printer commands.
Instance Variable of type_printer
The name of the type printer. This must be a string. This is used by the enable type-printer and disable type-printer commands.
Method on type_printer
instantiate (self)
This is called by GDB at the start of type-printing. It is only called if the type printer is enabled. This method must return a new object that supplies a recognize method, as described below.

When displaying a type, say via the ptype command, GDB will compute a list of type recognizers. This is done by iterating first over the per-objfile type printers (see Objfiles In Python), followed by the per-progspace type printers (see Progspaces In Python), and finally the global type printers.

GDB will call the instantiate method of each enabled type printer. If this method returns None, then the result is ignored; otherwise, it is appended to the list of recognizers.

Then, when GDB is going to display a type name, it iterates over the list of recognizers. For each one, it calls the recognition function, stopping if the function returns a non-None value. The recognition function is defined as:

Method on type_recognizer
recognize (self, type)
If type is not recognized, return None. Otherwise, return a string which is to be printed as the name of type. The type argument will be an instance of gdb.Type (see Types In Python).

GDB uses this two-pass approach so that type printers can efficiently cache information without holding on to it too long. For example, it can be convenient to look up type information in a type printer and hold it for a recognizer’s lifetime; if a single pass were done then type printers would have to make use of the event system in order to avoid holding information that could become stale as the inferior changed.