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28. GDB Annotations

This chapter describes annotations in GDB. Annotations were designed to interface GDB to graphical user interfaces or other similar programs which want to interact with GDB at a relatively high level.

The annotation mechanism has largely been superseded by GDB/MI (see section The GDB/MI Interface).

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28.1 What is an Annotation?

Annotations start with a newline character, two `control-z' characters, and the name of the annotation. If there is no additional information associated with this annotation, the name of the annotation is followed immediately by a newline. If there is additional information, the name of the annotation is followed by a space, the additional information, and a newline. The additional information cannot contain newline characters.

Any output not beginning with a newline and two `control-z' characters denotes literal output from GDB. Currently there is no need for GDB to output a newline followed by two `control-z' characters, but if there was such a need, the annotations could be extended with an `escape' annotation which means those three characters as output.

The annotation level, which is specified using the `--annotate' command line option (see section Choosing Modes), controls how much information GDB prints together with its prompt, values of expressions, source lines, and other types of output. Level 0 is for no annotations, level 1 is for use when GDB is run as a subprocess of GNU Emacs, level 3 is the maximum annotation suitable for programs that control GDB, and level 2 annotations have been made obsolete (see (annotate)Limitations section `Limitations of the Annotation Interface' in GDB's Obsolete Annotations).

set annotate level

The GDB command set annotate sets the level of annotations to the specified level.

show annotate

Show the current annotation level.

This chapter describes level 3 annotations.

A simple example of starting up GDB with annotations is:

$ gdb --annotate=3
GNU gdb 6.0
Copyright 2003 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
GDB is free software, covered by the GNU General Public License,
and you are welcome to change it and/or distribute copies of it
under certain conditions.
Type "show copying" to see the conditions.
There is absolutely no warranty for GDB.  Type "show warranty"
for details.
This GDB was configured as "i386-pc-linux-gnu"



Here `quit' is input to GDB; the rest is output from GDB. The three lines beginning `^Z^Z' (where `^Z' denotes a `control-z' character) are annotations; the rest is output from GDB.

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28.2 The Server Prefix

If you prefix a command with `server ' then it will not affect the command history, nor will it affect GDB's notion of which command to repeat if RET is pressed on a line by itself. This means that commands can be run behind a user's back by a front-end in a transparent manner.

The server prefix does not affect the recording of values into the value history; to print a value without recording it into the value history, use the output command instead of the print command.

Using this prefix also disables confirmation requests (see confirmation requests).

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28.3 Annotation for GDB Input

When GDB prompts for input, it annotates this fact so it is possible to know when to send output, when the output from a given command is over, etc.

Different kinds of input each have a different input type. Each input type has three annotations: a pre- annotation, which denotes the beginning of any prompt which is being output, a plain annotation, which denotes the end of the prompt, and then a post- annotation which denotes the end of any echo which may (or may not) be associated with the input. For example, the prompt input type features the following annotations:


The input types are


When GDB is prompting for a command (the main GDB prompt).


When GDB prompts for a set of commands, like in the commands command. The annotations are repeated for each command which is input.


When GDB wants the user to select between various overloaded functions.


When GDB wants the user to confirm a potentially dangerous operation.


When GDB is asking the user to press return to continue. Note: Don't expect this to work well; instead use set height 0 to disable prompting. This is because the counting of lines is buggy in the presence of annotations.

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28.4 Errors


This annotation occurs right before GDB responds to an interrupt.


This annotation occurs right before GDB responds to an error.

Quit and error annotations indicate that any annotations which GDB was in the middle of may end abruptly. For example, if a value-history-begin annotation is followed by a error, one cannot expect to receive the matching value-history-end. One cannot expect not to receive it either, however; an error annotation does not necessarily mean that GDB is immediately returning all the way to the top level.

A quit or error annotation may be preceded by


Any output between that and the quit or error annotation is the error message.

Warning messages are not yet annotated.

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28.5 Invalidation Notices

The following annotations say that certain pieces of state may have changed.


The frames (for example, output from the backtrace command) may have changed.


The breakpoints may have changed. For example, the user just added or deleted a breakpoint.

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28.6 Running the Program

When the program starts executing due to a GDB command such as step or continue,


is output. When the program stops,


is output. Before the stopped annotation, a variety of annotations describe how the program stopped.

^Z^Zexited exit-status

The program exited, and exit-status is the exit status (zero for successful exit, otherwise nonzero).


The program exited with a signal. After the ^Z^Zsignalled, the annotation continues:


where name is the name of the signal, such as SIGILL or SIGSEGV, and string is the explanation of the signal, such as Illegal Instruction or Segmentation fault. intro-text, middle-text, and end-text are for the user's benefit and have no particular format.


The syntax of this annotation is just like signalled, but GDB is just saying that the program received the signal, not that it was terminated with it.

^Z^Zbreakpoint number

The program hit breakpoint number number.

^Z^Zwatchpoint number

The program hit watchpoint number number.

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28.7 Displaying Source

The following annotation is used instead of displaying source code:

^Z^Zsource filename:line:character:middle:addr

where filename is an absolute file name indicating which source file, line is the line number within that file (where 1 is the first line in the file), character is the character position within the file (where 0 is the first character in the file) (for most debug formats this will necessarily point to the beginning of a line), middle is `middle' if addr is in the middle of the line, or `beg' if addr is at the beginning of the line, and addr is the address in the target program associated with the source which is being displayed. addr is in the form `0x' followed by one or more lowercase hex digits (note that this does not depend on the language).

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