Debugging ArcPy scripts?

Usually Python debuggers/IDEs assume the Python script is running in the same process as itself so debugging a script running in ArcMap.exe is right out -- you need to get enough of the GP scripting environment bootstrapped in a Python script as you can to debug with.

A method that's worked very well for me over the past few years is to write a simple script that just calls the tool and use that as my main script in the Python IDE (Wing or Pythonwin) and have my breakpoints set in the tool's .py file also open in the same IDE session.

So basically I do this:

  1. Get the set of inputs that aren't working in my script tool
  2. Open a simple .py file in the same folder as the .tbx that calls the tool
  3. Open up the caller script and the script tool .py file in the IDE
  4. Set breakpoints in script tool file
  5. Run the caller script

And my caller script is usually pretty simple:

import os
import arcpy
arcpy.ImportToolbox(os.path.join(os.path.dirname(__file__), 'my.tbx'))
arcpy.MyToolThatIsFailing_myalias("inputs", "that", "don't" "work")

I've tried winpdb to debug scripts running in ArcMap but I've never had any luck. If you want to try it out and you get it working well, please share your findings.

You can change it from the GP options dialog, just point to your executable of choice for editor/debugger.

GP Settings Dialog

For users of 10, clearly the best route to go is with Jason's post, which I marked as the "best answer". For users of 9.3, I was able to follow the ESRI KB Support instructions linked in Brad's post to get it working.

Ultimately the key to get to default editing of ArcGIS python scripts in Pyscripter was to edit the system "action" for "registered file types" ending in *.py files (step #4). I created a new "Edit" action type and then included the Pyscripter.exe path. Once I did this, the default edit action was setup to launch Pyscripter instead of IDLE.

The string I used (because it was cut off in the dialog box shown below) is:

"C:\Program Files\PyScripter\PyScripter.exe" "%1"

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