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Debugging the build process

Gatsby’s build and develop steps run as a Node.js application which you can debug using standard tools for Node.js applications.

In this guide you will learn how to debug some code using:

As an example let’s use the following code snippet in a gatsby-node.js file:

const { createFilePath } = require("gatsby-source-filesystem")

exports.onCreateNode = args => {
  const { actions, Node } = args

  if (Node.internal.type === "MarkdownRemark") {
    const { createNodeField } = actions

    const value = createFilePath({ node, getNode })
      name: `slug`,

There is a bug in this code and using it will produce the error below:

TypeError: Cannot read property 'internal' of undefined

  - gatsby-node.js:6 Object.exports.onCreateNode.args [as onCreateNode]

VS Code Debugger (Auto-Config)

If you use VS Code and its integrated terminal, you can configure it to automatically create the debug config for you.

  1. Press Ctrl + , or ⌘ + , to open your preferences. Type node debug into the search bar. Make sure the Auto Attach option is set to on. Search for on debug and set attach to enable

  2. Using VS Code’s integrated terminal run node --inspect node_modules/.bin/gatsby develop instead of gatsby develop

  3. Set breakpoints and debug!

VS Code Debugger (Manual Config)

Using built in debuggers in code editors is very convenient. You will be able to skip a lot of setup needed to use Chrome DevTools. You will also be able to put breakpoints in the same view you write your code.

We won’t go in depth here about how to debug in VS Code - for that you can check the excellent VS Code documentation. We will however share a launch configuration needed to run and debug Gatsby:

  "version": "0.2.0",
  "configurations": [
      "name": "Gatsby develop",
      "type": "node",
      "request": "launch",
      "protocol": "inspector",
      "program": "${workspaceRoot}/node_modules/gatsby/dist/bin/gatsby",
      "args": ["develop"],
      "stopOnEntry": false,
      "runtimeArgs": ["--nolazy"],
      "sourceMaps": false
      "name": "Gatsby build",
      "type": "node",
      "request": "launch",
      "protocol": "inspector",
      "program": "${workspaceRoot}/node_modules/gatsby/dist/bin/gatsby",
      "args": ["build"],
      "stopOnEntry": false,
      "runtimeArgs": ["--nolazy"],
      "sourceMaps": false

After putting a breakpoint in gatsby-node.js and using the Start debugging command from VS Code you can see the final result:

VSCode breakpoint hit

Chrome DevTools for Node

Running Gatsby with the inspect flag

In your project directory instead of running npm run develop run the following command:

node --inspect-brk --no-lazy node_modules/gatsby/dist/bin/gatsby develop
  • --inspect-brk will enable Node’s inspector agent which will allow you to connect a debugger. It will also pause execution until the debugger is connected and then wait for you to resume it.
  • --no-lazy - this will force Node’s V8 engine to disable lazy compilation and will help with using breakpoints.

Connecting DevTools

Open chrome://inspect in Chrome browser and connect to a “Remote Target” by clicking the inspect link:

Chrome inspect page

You should see Chrome DevTools start and that code execution is paused at the start of the gatsby.js entry file:

Paused Chrome DevTools

Setting up Sources

Right now you can’t see your files in Sources. You need to add those using the “Add folder to workspace” button and pick the directory with the code you want to debug. If you want to debug code in your gatsby-node.js or your local plugins, pick your project directory. If you want debug the gatsby package you will have to pick the gatsby directory inside node_modules.

This example has problematic code in your local gatsby-node.js file, so let’s add the directory containing it to Sources. You should have a directory with your code in the left pane:

Files added to Sources tab

Using DevTools

Let’s go ahead and add a breakpoint just before the place that the error is thrown. To add a breakpoint navigate to gatsby-node.js and left click on a line number:

Added breakpoint

Now you can resume code execution by clicking the “resume” icon in the DevTools debug toolbar (or press F8 on your keyboard). Gatsby will start running and pause once it reaches a breakpoint, allowing you to inspect variables:

Breakpoint hit

To inspect variables you can hover your mouse over them or go to the Scope section in the right-hand pane (either collapse the “Call Stack” section or scroll through it to the bottom).

In the example Node is undefined and to figure out why, let’s go backwards. Node is extracted from args so let’s examine that by hovering args:

Examine variable

We can now see the problem - args doesn’t contain Node - it contains node. So this small typographic mistake was causing our code to fail. Adjusting our code to use a lowercase node fixes the problem and we did that without adding tons of console.log output!

Finishing thoughts on DevTools

You can successfully debug your code using Chrome DevTools but using it isn’t really that convenient. There are a lot of steps you need to do manually every time you want to use debugger, thankfully there are other methods that make it simpler to start such as the ones outlined above.

  • This was an introduction to Node.js debugging. Using information from this section you can setup debugging in your code editor or IDE of choice (if it supports node debugging).
  • You don’t need a code editor or IDE to debug Node.js applications. Using Chrome DevTools is usually a safe fallback.
  • Debugging isn’t the only thing you can do in Chrome DevTools. Once you connect to DevTools you can use CPU or memory profilers. Check the Profiler and Memory tabs in DevTools.

Additional resources

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