React Native is a game changer in mobile app development as it allows us to build cross platform apps using React framework. This is great because we don’t need a separate code base or development skills for iOS and Android. While this works on React framework it's not as easy to debug the issues. In any conventional web app we can just open our browser’s dev tools and we will get all the tools needed to debug. We get the UI inspector, source tab for putting debuggers, and network tab for debugging network calls. But for React Native apps it's not as straightforward. Before delving into the tools and techniques, let's understand why React Native debugging is so vital.
Impact on app reliability and user experience
Debugging React Native apps, or any app for that matter can help fix issues and bugs before they manifest as App crashes, logical failures, network issues or other code errors. By resolving those issues during development you can provide a more stable release. Effective react native debugging includes implementing error handling and exception management. This ensures that when unexpected issues do occur, the app can gracefully handle them, preventing complete application failures. Debugging can also help discover performance issues that the users might face. Solving these issues will give your users a smooth experience which is vital for keeping users engaged. Solving issues before they reach the customers, and giving them a smooth user experience, goes a long way in building trust for your product. Debugging issues in the production environment is also a key to customer satisfaction and revenue, hence the need for react native debugging in both development and live environments.
Benefits for developers and businesses
Effective React Native debugging is a fundamental skill for react native mobile developers. Exposure to different types of issues helps developers become more proficient in problem solving and code analysis. Using efficient, good debugging tools and practices can increase productivity of developers significantly and eventually lead to time and cost saving for the business. As mentioned above providing a good error free experience for users can help in building trust in your product or brand and keep your customer loyalty intact.
To debug react native apps, there are techniques and tools that react native developers would find handy. Some of these are listed here but we discuss some of the key techniques below while using some of these tools.
Adding breakpoints to your code while debugging is a great way to search for issues. Breakpoints help us understand the code flow and the state of variables at a particular point of code execution. It’s also a great way to understand any new codebase. Adding breakpoints to your React Native app is not as straightforward as something you can do in any web app. But there are some tools that solve this problem.
You can run your app in debug mode and then enable remote debugging. This opens a new Chrome tab. In the newly opened tab, open the developer tools and navigate to sources tab. In there you will see all your project files and folders just like you will see for a normal web app. Navigate to the desired file and add a breakpoint to the required line. This is a fundamental aspect of React Native debugging.
VS Code is the most widely used IDE for React Native debugging and development. Having your debugging tool in the IDE can speed up your development process. For React Native debugging, you need to have the React-Native-Tools extension installed. If you have the extension installed just add a breakpoint next to the line number. After making necessary changes to the “launch.json” file, run your app through “run and debug” and it will start pausing your app on the breakpoints.
React Native debugger
React Native debugger is a popular standalone debugging tool that provides a user-friendly interface for React Native debugging. It integrates with the Chrome Developer Tools and offers various features. You need to install “React Native Debugger” in your system for this to work. Then you need to start your app in development mode. After your app starts running, open React Native Debugger and connect your app from the list of running connections. In the sources tab of the debugger, you will see all your project files and folders just like you will see in Chrome dev tools. You can then add a breakpoint to the required line and start interacting with your app.
Stepping through code
After adding breakpoints through any of the above-mentioned methods in React Native debugging, your app will pause at your added breakpoint during the code execution. You can navigate the code line by line, jump inside function definition, and understand your code flows. This is a great method for understanding any issues or overall understanding of your program’s behavior in React Native debugging. After your app pauses on your breakpoint, you can do any of the following:
Evaluating variables in React Native Debugging
Evaluating variables is a crucial part of React Native debugging, as it allows you to inspect the state of your application and understand how variables are changing during code execution. Once your app stops at the added breakpoint during React Native debugging, you can check the variable value by just hovering over it. You can also see the sequence in which that particular function is called during the code execution in the “Call Stack” panel. This works no matter which tool you use for React Native debugging.
Inspecting component hierarchy
Component Hierarchy in React Native is the tree-like organization of components. This is similar to a DOM structure that we see in inspect tab Chrome devtools.
You can inspect the UI component Hierarchy by using the “React Devtools”.” “React Devtools” is a Chrome extension used for debugging React apps. Same extension can be used for debugging React Native apps also. You just need to run your app in debug mode, enable remote debugging and when the Chrome tab opens. open the React devtools tab. You will see the whole Component Hierarchy.
Similarly, “React Native Debugger” also supports viewing component hierarchy. After connecting your app to “React Native Debugger”, you can view the component Hierarchy in the UI inspect panel. Inspecting component hierarchy doesn’t work in VS code.
After inspecting a particular element in the hierarchy you can also check the associated styles of the component. This helps in understanding the structure of your application and also debug any UI related issues.
Debugging state and props
Checking state and props are integral parts of any React Native debugging. It forms the basis of the data flow and the business logic of your application. Hence inspecting and evaluating state and props becomes important for a React Native developer.
As mentioned above “React Devtools” chrome extension is a great tool for debugging your application’s state and props. You can select any component from the component hierarchy and view its state and props. You can also monitor the change in state and props of the component by interacting with your app and seeing the changes in devtools.
“React Native Debugger” also works in the same ways for monitoring components state and props.
Monitoring your state and props while interacting with the app is a great way to solve bugs related to data flow in your application.
Debugging network and data issues
Tracking network calls during debugging and development is essential for monitoring API calls, identifying potential issues, and improving the overall performance of your application. In the debug menu of your phone or emulator which is running your React Native app, you can select “Toggle Inspector”. A UI with multiple tabs will open, and under the network tab you can view all the network requests as and when they are going in your app. Apart from this, other external tools also support tracking the network calls in React Native.
Zipy is a new entry in the field of react native debugging. Zipy helps to provide a complete picture of your production issues and helps you debug live customer bugs faster. From crash logs, to ANRs, network requests, ADB logs to custom exceptions, all can be detected and monitored by Zipy. Zipy SDK can be plugged into your react native app for faster debugging of customer problems. To learn more check here.
You need to connect your app to the React Native Debugger tool and then go to the “network” tab to view the network calls. This works if network inspection is enabled. You can enable network inspection by opening the context menu (by right-clicking on the left panel) and selecting “Enable Network Inspect”. You can filter requests by various criteria, including request type (e.g., XHR, Fetch), status code, method, and URL. You can Click on a specific request to inspect its details, including headers, request and response data, and timing information.
Reactotron is another popular tool for debugging React Native apps. It’s a great tool which offers many debugging features along with tracking Network requests. You need to install Reactotron and then run your app in debug mode. You can see your network requests in the API tabs in Reactotron. For more details on installation and how to use Reactotron refer this.
Performance and memory optimization
Optimizing performance of your app is an important part of the development process for any developer. Providing smooth and crash free user experience is crucial for any product. For Optimizing you need to understand how to monitor your app’s performance. You can do that with following tools
React Devtools is a great tool if you want to analyze your app's re-renders. You need to enable remote debugging in your app for React Devtools to work as mentioned above. Once the browser opens, open the profiler tab in your Chrome devtools. Then start recording and perform actions on your app. After you stop recording it will show all the components and how many times it rerendered. You can identify unwanted rerenders and solve them.
React Native debugger
Similar to React Devtools, React Native Debugger also has a performance tab in which you get to see the components and their renders. Analyzing and optimizing performance is a continuous process. Performance issues in apps are not easily identified. So Profiling and optimizing should be an ongoing part of your development process.
State management in React Native apps becomes very crucial when the app size grows. There are a lot of tools out there for state management but Redux is the most popular state management library for React Native. Using a state management library like Redux helps a lot in managing your application’s data and state, but can lead to many issues. Debugging Redux becomes very important while debugging any issue in React Native.
Just like any React app, Redux devtools Chrome extensions also work with React Native. Just as you will use React Devtools to debug your state, props or component hierarchy, you can use Redux devtools. It will show all of your Redux state and also the diffs between them whenever any state change happens.
Other tools like Reactotron also support debugging Redux states.
To understand more about this you can check the top react native debugging tools listed here.
Debugging doesn't end when you release your app to production, it's an ongoing process. Here's how to handle React Native debugging in a production environment
To summarize, react native is quite popular amongst mobile app developers today. It is important to understand how to debug and solve react native code issues in various development phases including development, QA and production environments. Various techniques and react native debugging tools like chrome dev tools, VS Code extensions and react native debugger along with third party tools have been shared to throw some light on this topic. Zipy is one such product which helps in debugging and fixing live customer bugs in production environments. Check out this page to apply for access.
How to Integrate React Native SDK
Data Captured by Zipy to Debug Customer Issues
Zipy's SDK is designed to capture a wide array of data, crucial for in-depth debugging:
In the realm of React Native development, debugging stands as a pillar of success. Tools like Zipy not only simplify the debugging process but also bring a level of depth and insight into app performance and user experience that was previously hard to achieve. Effective debugging leads to higher-quality applications, elevates user satisfaction, and ultimately contributes to the success of the product. As developers embrace advanced debugging tools and strategies, the quality and reliability of React Native applications are set to reach new heights.
If you have any more questions feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let's study a detailed example of React Native debugging: Imagine your app is crashing intermittently on specific devices. With Zipy, you can observe user sessions as they occur, capturing vital data points like logs, user interactions, and exceptions during React Native debugging. This real-time data allows you to identify patterns or specific actions leading up to the crash in the context of React Native debugging. Perhaps the crash occurs during a particular network request or after a unique sequence of user interactions. By examining these insights during React Native debugging, you can isolate the problem, whether it's a coding error, a memory leak, or a compatibility issue with certain devices, and apply targeted fixes.
When faced with non-functioning debugging tools in React Native debugging, the first step is a thorough check of your setup. Ensure all components and tools are updated to their latest versions and correctly configured for React Native debugging, as outdated or misconfigured tools can lead to ineffective debugging. If the issue persists, leverage the wealth of knowledge available in the React Native community. Online forums, documentation, and discussion groups can be invaluable resources for React Native debugging, offering insights from developers who may have encountered similar issues. They can provide practical solutions, alternative approaches, and advice on best practices in React Native debugging, helping you overcome any debugging roadblocks you encounter.
Zipy provides you with full customer visibility without multiple back and forths between Customers, Customer Support and your Engineering teams.