Sunday, August 21, 2005

Loading symbols

Never before a year ago did I have a phrase I hate as much as "loading symbols." I spend too much time looking at that phrase.

For those who don't know: FrontPage is a big project that uses a lot of code. In order to debug it meaningfully, Visual Studio has to load "symbols" for the various modules of FrontPage, as well as the shared Office stuff like the toolbar and menu system, and the various system components that we use. Basically, without the "symbols," all Visual Studio would know about the program being debugged is that memory address 8f8291ba just called into 10dbacb3, and passed it a particular chunk of memory. The symbols tell it that 8f8291ba is function A, and 10dbacb3 is function E. That's a bit rough, but that's the gist of it.

The problem is that there are just a ton of these things, and they're huge. I have a feeling that there's work that could be done to precache some of this information to make debugging a little faster. Then all I'd have to deal with is how slow a debug build of FrontPage is. It's like my 3 GHz machine is suddenly a Pentium II.

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