pycdb stands for Python Core Debugger or Python C Debugger.

pycdb is a debugger completely written in Python using pyelftools library. It reads symbol(ELF) files, parses debug(DWARF)sections, reads coredump(elfcore) files and executes the commands given.

Backtrace with color


  • Input and output can be redirected.
  • Color screen.
  • All C data structures are represented as python class.
  • More information from DWARF.
  • Easy to extend or add extension since the whole debugger is in python.


  • backtrace - CFI walker(even if compiled -fomitframe) or stack walker(just in case needed).
  • info threads - List all the threads in the core
  • info registers - Provide register information of the current frame
  • list - Display source file with syntax coloring.
  • disassemble - Disassemble code and provide it in easy to read format.
  • thread <thread number> - To change to different thread
  • frame <frame number> - To change to different thread
  • examine <addr> - To display data at the given address


  • -i or --interactive - Starts an interactive session
  • -v or -verbose - Increases the verbosity
  • -nc or --no-color - Disable color formatting the output
  • -cl <lexer> or --color-lexer = <lexer> - Select the color pygments lexer for formatting the output


  • To show backtrace pycdb.py backtrace
  • To show backtrace with color pycdb.py list
  • To disassemble and grep for EAX pycdb.py -nc disassemble | grep -i -e 'EAX'


Source listing Disassembly Examining a data structure Help


Debugger helper functions are provided to get thread/frame/register etc. Using those functions new python programs can be written easily as needed. For example to print backtrace

for frame in get_threads()[0].get_frames()
    print frame.filename, frame.line, frame.function

The following program shows how to print registers from all the frames in the current thread.

thread = get_threads()[0]
print 'Thread {t} registers : {r}'.format(t=thread, r=thread.get_registers())
for frame in thread.get_frames()
    print 'Frame {f} registers : {r}'.format(f=frame, r=frame.registers)

Interactive Mode

Interactive mode is available when started with -i option. It will just start a ipython shell. A wrapper function is provided in interactive mode to easy to run commands - r. For example to run backtrace in interactive mode, the developer has to type - r 'backtrace'.


The following python libraries are used and without them pycdb could have not made. I like to thank authors of all these libraries and especially Eli Bendersky for pyelftools.