Time Travel (Debugging) with ReactNative

One of the things I love about React and ReactNative is the emphasis on DX (Developer Experience), in addition to the amazing UX (User Experience). I was particularly fascinated by the Time Travel Debugging feature in Redux.
Being a fan of Time Travel (the last 3 books I read were stories of time travel; I am re-watching Dr. Who these days), I started experimenting with bringing true Time Travel to ReactNative. Recently, folks from the Chakra team showed off support for time travel debugging in Node at the NodeSummit. In a previous blog post, I had also explained how I was using a node process to enable VSCode debug ReactNative apps.
Putting these together, I was able to enable time travel debugging for ReactNative using VSCode and Chakra core - here is a demo.

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=waiZsNI4SYA

What is Time Travel Debugging ?

In addtition to typical debugging actions like stepping into or stepping over code, time travel also allows developers to "step back" into previous statements, inspecting state of variables backward in time. This is typically achieved by first recording user actions and then replaying them with a debugger attached.

Chakra TTD ? 

To record a new debug session in Chakra, the -TTRecord flag is passed. Due to this flag, all the states of the app at various points in time are recorded and finally written into a folder when the node process exits. The node process is then started with a -TTReplay flag that replays the actions. VSCode can attach to that node process as a debugger and has support to step back into statements, in addition to the usual debug workflows. The Chakra Core page has more information about how to get the latest builds and try it out.

Chakra and ReactNative

When the developer selects "Debug JS Remotely" from the menu, ReactNative is put into a proxy mode. The packager then simply opens Chrome and runs all the ReactNative code on Chrome. Chrome Dev tools are attached to this Chrome page and features like breakpoints or watches are possible.
In the VSCode ReactNative debugger, we replace Chrome with a Node process that VSCode can attach to, as a debugger.

Try it today

As VSCode simply runs Node, I just needed to replace Node with Node-Chakra. Alternatively, here is a version of the code extracted from the Chrome debugger. You can download this and run it using Node or Node Chakra. When starting debug from the app, all instructions are now executed on this process. There are many IDEs and tools that can attach to and debug node apps - any one of them could be used.

Check out the ReactNative VSCode extension that I am working on, or follow me on twitter for updates on this experiment :)