Visual Studio Debugger Tips and Tricks: pseudovariables

Mariusz Wojcik

There are two pseudovariables available in debugger when running C# or VB.NET project: $exception and $user. The former one relates to the last exception while the latter one displays information about the account which runs the application. I haven’t found much use for $user pseudovariable, but the $exception proved to be very useful in cases where I need to cast exception to a specific type.

For example, when working with remote WCF services, the service can indicate error through FaultException(TDetail), where TDetail is an object containing error details. The problem is that when debugger breaks on exception and you click View Detail…, not all properties will always be accessible. I came across this problem when working with Bing Ads services, but also when handling SoapExceptions while using Google AdWords services. In case of Bing Ads, the exception thrown will be FaultException<ApiFaultDetail>, where Detail property contains information buried in either BatchErrors or OperationErrors collection. Unfortunately, neither of those will show you more than the type name (see figure-1).

To get access to those properties you have to cast the exception to FaultException<ApiFaultDetail> type. You can easily do that without stopping debugger and modifying the code. Just cast $exception pseudovariable to given type in the watch window:

csharp $exception as FaultException&lt;ApiFaultDetail&gt;

and you can access all the information. In my case the problem was invalid CampaignId.

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