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8.9 Convenience Variables

No value for GDBN provides convenience variables that you can use within No value for GDBN to hold on to a value and refer to it later. These variables exist entirely within No value for GDBN; they are not part of your program, and setting a convenience variable has no direct effect on further execution of your program. That is why you can use them freely.

Convenience variables are prefixed with ‘$’. Any name preceded by ‘$’ can be used for a convenience variable, unless it is one of the predefined machine-specific register names (see section Registers). (Value history references, in contrast, are numbers preceded by ‘$’. See section Value History.)

You can save a value in a convenience variable with an assignment expression, just as you would set a variable in your program. For example:

set $foo = *object_ptr

would save in $foo the value contained in the object pointed to by object_ptr.

Using a convenience variable for the first time creates it, but its value is void until you assign a new value. You can alter the value with another assignment at any time.

Convenience variables have no fixed types. You can assign a convenience variable any type of value, including structures and arrays, even if that variable already has a value of a different type. The convenience variable, when used as an expression, has the type of its current value.

show convenience

Print a list of convenience variables used so far, and their values. Abbreviated show conv.

init-if-undefined $variable = expression

Set a convenience variable if it has not already been set. This is useful for user-defined commands that keep some state. It is similar, in concept, to using local static variables with initializers in C (except that convenience variables are global). It can also be used to allow users to override default values used in a command script.

If the variable is already defined then the expression is not evaluated so any side-effects do not occur.

One of the ways to use a convenience variable is as a counter to be incremented or a pointer to be advanced. For example, to print a field from successive elements of an array of structures:

set $i = 0
print bar[$i++]->contents

Repeat that command by typing <RET>.

Some convenience variables are created automatically by No value for GDBN and given values likely to be useful.


The variable $_ is automatically set by the x command to the last address examined (see section Examining Memory). Other commands which provide a default address for x to examine also set $_ to that address; these commands include info line and info breakpoint. The type of $_ is void * except when set by the x command, in which case it is a pointer to the type of $__.


The variable $__ is automatically set by the x command to the value found in the last address examined. Its type is chosen to match the format in which the data was printed.


The variable $_exitcode is automatically set to the exit code when the program being debugged terminates.

On HP-UX systems, if you refer to a function or variable name that begins with a dollar sign, No value for GDBN searches for a user or system name first, before it searches for a convenience variable.

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