.NET Tip: Debugging: Dynamically Determining the Name of the Current Function

Friday Sep 7th 2007 by Jay Miller
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Are you tired of hard-coding function names in trace messages? Have you ever used cut and paste to copy a trace statement and forgot to change the function name? There'll be no more wild goose chases because of bad function names when you determine the function name dynamically.

Determining function names dynamically can simplify your debugging and trace logic as well as ensure that your trace messages match the actual code that generated them. All you have to do is wrap all your calls to Trace() with your own custom function. This utility function then can reference the stack frame to find the name of the function that called it. Here is the utility function:

public static void TraceContext(string FormattedMessage)
{
   Trace.WriteLine(string.Format(FormattedMessage,
      new System.Diagnostics.StackFrame(1).GetMethod().Name));
}

This function takes the message to output to Trace() and replaces the '{0}' in the message string with the name of the function that called TraceContext(). That is really all there is to it. To test the function, I created a form and added a button. In the button's click event, I call TraceContext() and call another function that also calls TraceContext(). Here is the sample code for calling TraceContext():

private void button1_Click(object sender, EventArgs e)
{
   TraceContext("In event handler: {0}");
   DynamicNameTest();
}

private void DynamicNameTest()
{
   TraceContext("In function: {0}");
}

Here is the trace output when the button is clicked:

In event handler: button1_Click
In function: DynamicNameTest

You now can have confidence in your trace output because you do not have any hard-coded function names in your messages.

About the Author

Jay Miller is a Software Engineer with Electronic Tracking Systems, a company dedicated to robbery prevention, apprehension, and recovery based in Carrollton, Texas. Jay has been working with .NET since the release of the first beta and is co-author of Learn Microsoft Visual Basic.Net In a Weekend. Jay can be reached via email at jmiller@sm-ets.com.

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