[llvm-dev] llvm-pdbdump proposal

Adrian McCarthy via llvm-dev llvm-dev at lists.llvm.org
Fri Apr 7 13:33:23 PDT 2017

I came across a PDB that caused llvm-pdbdump to crash.  I tracked it down
to a missing overload for a data type in the variable printer.  When I
tried to provide an implementation, I discovered that there were some bugs
in the existing overloads and it was easy to come up with combinations of
types that weren't being dumped right.  I created some test cases and tried
to fix these problems but realized that there's a limitation to how
printing the type information is structured.

The cause of the difficulty is the conflict between these two facts:

1.  C and C++ variable declarations are described inside-out
2.  Printing with color requires printing left-to-right

Simple types generally work, because all the type information is on the
left side, so VariableDumper can just work left-to-right.  To handle more
complex types (like arrays and function signatures), VariableDumper
attempts to special case the complex types.  Unfortunately, the special
cases can't be combined generally (e.g., making an array of pointers to
functions), so it's always possible to find a new bug by adding an extra
layer of type information.

I'm proposing a restructure of VariableDumper (PrettyVariableDumper.cpp)
that I think should allow for pretty-printing of all types and actually
simplify away most of the special-case code.

The existing approach is to emit the type information for a symbol and then
the identifier, using recursion as necessary to emit the type information
of subtypes.  For example, if foo is a pointer to an int, it's dumped by
first recursively dumping the pointee type (int), then the '*', and then
the name (foo).  But if bar is a pointer to an array of ints, this breaks

My proposal is to extend this slightly by having dumpers for the
"left-side" and the "right-side" of the type information.  The pattern for
printing a variable them becomes:

    call dumpLeft with the symbol type
    emit the symbol name
    call dumpRight with the symbol type

Most of the dumpLeft implementations would be identical to the current dump
implementations.  The default for a dumpRight implementation would be to
emit nothing, but for arrays and function signatures, dumpRight would print
the bracketed array size and argument lists.  This depth-first order of the
recursion should produce the necessary output in order, which means there
should be no change to how we stream the output in color.

Any questions, comments, objections?
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