Node: Bug Reporting, Previous: Bug Lists, Up: Bugs

How to Report Bugs

The fundamental principle of reporting bugs usefully is this: report all the facts. If you are not sure whether to state a fact or leave it out, state it!

Often people omit facts because they think they know what causes the problem and they conclude that some details don't matter. Thus, you might assume that the name of the variable you use in an example does not matter. Well, probably it doesn't, but one cannot be sure. Perhaps the bug is a stray memory reference which happens to fetch from the location where that name is stored in memory; perhaps, if the name were different, the contents of that location would fool the compiler into doing the right thing despite the bug. Play it safe and give a specific, complete example. That is the easiest thing for you to do, and the most helpful.

Keep in mind that the purpose of a bug report is to enable someone to fix the bug if it is not known. It isn't very important what happens if the bug is already known. Therefore, always write your bug reports on the assumption that the bug is not known.

Sometimes people give a few sketchy facts and ask, "Does this ring a bell?" This cannot help us fix a bug, so it is rarely helpful. We respond by asking for enough details to enable us to investigate. You might as well expedite matters by sending them to begin with. (Besides, there are enough bells ringing around here as it is.)

Try to make your bug report self-contained. If we have to ask you for more information, it is best if you include all the previous information in your response, as well as the information that was missing.

Please report each bug in a separate message. This makes it easier for us to track which bugs have been fixed and to forward your bugs reports to the appropriate maintainer.

Do not compress and encode any part of your bug report using programs such as uuencode. If you do so it will slow down the processing of your bug. If you must submit multiple large files, use shar, which allows us to read your message without having to run any decompression programs.

(As a special exception for GNU Fortran bug-reporting, at least for now, if you are sending more than a few lines of code, if your program's source file format contains "interesting" things like trailing spaces or strange characters, or if you need to include binary data files, it is acceptable to put all the files together in a tar archive, and, whether you need to do that, it is acceptable to then compress the single file (tar archive or source file) using gzip and encode it via uuencode. Do not use any MIME stuff--the current maintainer can't decode this. Using compress instead of gzip is acceptable, assuming you have licensed the use of the patented algorithm in compress from Unisys.)

To enable someone to investigate the bug, you should include all these things:

Here are some things that are not necessary: