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How to Report Bugs Effectively

How to Report Bugs Effectively: "How to Report Bugs Effectively

by Simon Tatham, professional and free-software programmer


Anybody who has written software for public use will probably have received at least one bad bug report. Reports that say nothing ('It doesn't work!'); reports that make no sense; reports that don't give enough information; reports that give wrong information. Reports of problems that turn out to be user error; reports of problems that turn out to be the fault of somebody else's program; reports of problems that turn out to be network failures.

There's a reason why technical support is seen as a horrible job to be in, and that reason is bad bug reports. However, not all bug reports are unpleasant: I maintain free software, when I'm not earning my living, and sometimes I receive wonderfully clear, helpful, informative bug reports.

In this essay I'll try to state clearly what makes a good bug report. Ideally I would like everybody in the world to read this essay before reporting any bugs to anybody. Certainly I would like everybody who reports bugs to me to have read it.

In a nutshell, the aim of a bug report is to enable the programmer to see the program failing in front of them. You can either show them in person, or give them careful and detailed instructions on how to make it fail. If they can make it fail, they will try to gather extra information until they know the cause. If they can't make it fail, they will have to ask you to gather that information for them.

In bug reports, try to make very clear what are actual facts ('I was at the computer and this happened') and what are speculations ('I think the problem might be this'). Leave out speculations if you want to, but don't leave out facts.

When you report a bug, you are doing so because you want the bug fixed. There is no point in swearing at the programmer or being d"
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