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Using console.log() debugging in Visual Studio Code

Christian Heilmann
Open Web guy at Microsoft and long-time JavaScript user
・3 min read

Using the new in-built JavaScript debugger in Visual Studio code you can use the browser developer tools Console right inside the editor.

I just published a "TikTok" style video on the official Visual Studio Code channel explaining this and - after lots of criticism for the quality of the video (lads, this is on purpose!) - people had more questions, so here goes.

In the video I use a project I have open with a launch.json file already defined, which means it opens the correct URL for you when you start debugging. You can, however, also do that by hand. And it even works without a local server. So, let's do this.

Step 1: Create a folder and call it consoledebug
Step 2: Start Visual Studio Code, choose "open" - select that folder

New instance of Visual Studio Code with Open Folder selected

Step 3: Select New File, call it index.html
Step 4: Add some HTML/JS and save it, for example:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en">
<head>
    <meta charset="UTF-8">
    <meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0">
    <title>Console Demo</title>
</head>
<body>
    <h1>🤩 Console Debugging in VS Code</h1>
    <script>
        console.log('I am the Console, I speak for the trees');
    </script>
</body>
</html>
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

HTML Example for console debugging

Step 5: Select the Run and Debug icon and press the Run and Debug button

Selecting the Run and Debug workflow

Visual Studio Code now opens a browser window for you and you can see the console.log() message from the demo code in the Debug Console.

Console messages in the Debug Console of Visual Studio Code

You can use the Debug Console to do anything you normally do in the Console of the browser tools. You also have access to all the convenience methods, like $ for document.querySelector. Try it out by using $('body') in the Debug Console. You get all the information about the body element of the current document.

Accessing the document body from the debug console

This is a full REPL console, and you can just type in any JavaScript to try out, for example 2+3 or 'log'.repeat(20).

Running JavaScript in the Debug Console

You also have full access to the window object and the DOM of the current page, for example, to change the background colour of the document, you can use $('h1').style.background = 'peachpuff' (and not what I did first in the screenshot).

Changing CSS from Console

For all the features of Console, check the documentation.

If you use Microsoft Edge as your debugging browser, you also get something extra. Hitting the Inspect button on the debug bar will open the Developer Tools Elements and Network right inside your editor.

Developer Tools in VS Code

But more on that later.

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