LTRACE(1) User Commands LTRACE(1)
ltrace - A library call tracer
ltrace [-e filter|-L] [-l|--library=library_pattern] [-x filter] [-S] [-b|--no-signals]
[-i] [-w|--where=nr] [-r|-t|-tt|-ttt] [-T] [-F pathlist] [-A maxelts] [-s strsize]
[-C|--demangle] [-a|--align column] [-n|--indent nr] [-o|--output filename] [-D|--debug
mask] [-u username] [-f] [-p pid] [[--] command [arg ...]]
ltrace -c [-e filter|-L] [-l|--library=library_pattern] [-x filter] [-S] [-o|--output
filename] [-f] [-p pid] [[--] command [arg ...]]
ltrace is a program that simply runs the specified command until it exits. It intercepts
and records the dynamic library calls which are called by the executed process and the
signals which are received by that process. It can also intercept and print the system
calls executed by the program.
Its use is very similar to strace(1).
ltrace shows parameters of invoked functions and system calls. To determine what argu-
ments each function has, it needs external declaration of function prototypes. Those are
stored in files called prototype libraries--see ltrace.conf(5) for details on the syntax
of these files. See the section PROTOTYPE LIBRARY DISCOVERY to learn how ltrace finds
-a, --align column
Align return values in a specific column (default column is 5/8 of screen width).
Maximum number of array elements to print before suppressing the rest with an
ellipsis ("..."). This also limits number of recursive structure expansions.
Disable printing of signals recieved by the traced process.
-c Count time and calls for each library call and report a summary on program exit.
Decode (demangle) low-level symbol names into user-level names. Besides removing
any initial underscore prefix used by the system, this makes C++ function names
-D, --debug mask
Show debugging output of ltrace itself. mask is a number describing which debug
messages should be displayed. Use the option -Dh to see what can be used, but note
that currently the only reliable debugmask is 77, which shows all debug messages.
A qualifying expression which modifies which library calls to trace. The format of
the filter expression is described in the section FILTER EXPRESSIONS. If more than
one -e option appears on the command line, the library calls that match any of them
are traced. If no -e is given, @MAIN is assumed as a default.
-f Trace child processes as they are created by currently traced processes as a result
of the fork(2) or clone(2) system calls. The new process is attached immediately.
Contains a colon-separated list of paths. If a path refers to a directory, that
directory is considered when prototype libraries are searched (see the section PRO-
TOTYPE LIBRARY DISCOVERY). If it refers to a file, that file is imported implic-
itly to all loaded prototype libraries.
Show a summary of the options to ltrace and exit.
-i Print the instruction pointer at the time of the library call.
-l, --library library_pattern
Display only calls to functions implemented by libraries that match library_pat-
tern. Multiple library patters can be specified with several instances of this
option. Syntax of library_pattern is described in section FILTER EXPRESSIONS.
Note that while this option selects calls that might be directed to the selected
libraries, there's no actual guarantee that the call won't be directed elsewhere
due to e.g. LD_PRELOAD or simply dependency ordering. If you want to make sure
that symbols in given library are actually called, use -x @library_pattern instead.
-L When no -e option is given, don't assume the default action of @MAIN. In practice
this means that library calls will not be traced.
-n, --indent nr
Indent trace output by nr spaces for each level of call nesting. Using this option
makes the program flow visualization easy to follow. This indents uselessly also
functions that never return, such as service functions for throwing exceptions in
the C++ runtime.
-o, --output filename
Write the trace output to the file filename rather than to stderr.
-p pid Attach to the process with the process ID pid and begin tracing. This option can
be used together with passing a command to execute. It is possible to attach to
several processes by passing more than one option -p.
-r Print a relative timestamp with each line of the trace. This records the time dif-
ference between the beginning of successive lines.
Specify the maximum string size to print (the default is 32).
-S Display system calls as well as library calls
-t Prefix each line of the trace with the time of day.
-tt If given twice, the time printed will include the microseconds.
-ttt If given thrice, the time printed will include the microseconds and the leading
portion will be printed as the number of seconds since the epoch.
-T Show the time spent inside each call. This records the time difference between
the beginning and the end of each call.
Run command with the userid, groupid and supplementary groups of username. This
option is only useful when running as root and enables the correct execution of
setuid and/or setgid binaries.
-w, --where nr
Show backtrace of nr stack frames for each traced function. This option enabled
only if libunwind support was enabled at compile time.
A qualifying expression which modifies which symbol table entry points to trace.
The format of the filter expression is described in the section FILTER EXPRESSIONS.
If more than one -x option appears on the command line, the symbols that match any
of them are traced. No entry points are traced if no -x is given.
Show the version number of ltrace and exit.
Filter expression is a chain of glob- or regexp-based rules that are used to pick symbols
for tracing from libraries that the process uses. Most of it is intuitive, so as an exam-
ple, the following would trace calls to malloc and free, except those done by libc:
This reads: trace malloc and free, but don't trace anything that comes from libc. Semi-
formally, the syntax of the above example looks approximately like this:
Symbol_pattern is used to match symbol names, library_pattern to match library SONAMEs.
Both are implicitly globs, but can be regular expressions as well (see below). The glob
syntax supports meta-characters * and ? and character classes, similarly to what basic
bash globs support. ^ and $ are recognized to mean, respectively, start and end of given
Both symbol_pattern and library_pattern have to match the whole name. If you want to
match only part of the name, surround it with one or two *'s as appropriate. The excep-
tion is if the pattern is not mentioned at all, in which case it's as if the corresponding
pattern were *. (So malloc is really malloc@* and @libc.* is really *@libc.*.)
In libraries that don't have an explicit SONAME, basename is taken for SONAME. That holds
for main binary as well: /bin/echo has an implicit SONAME of echo. In addition to that,
special library pattern MAIN always matches symbols in the main binary and never a library
with actual SONAME MAIN (use e.g. ^MAIN or [M]AIN for that).
If the symbol or library pattern is surrounded in slashes (/like this/), then it is con-
sidered a regular expression instead. As a shorthand, instead of writing /x/@/y/, you can
If the library pattern starts with a slash, it is not a SONAME expression, but a path
expression, and is matched against the library path name.
The first rule may lack a sign, in which case + is assumed. If, on the other hand, the
first rule has a - sign, it is as if there was another rule @ in front of it, which has
the effect of tracing complement of given rule.
The above rules are used to construct the set of traced symbols. Each candidate symbol is
passed through the chain of above rules. Initially, the symbol is unmarked. If it
matches a + rule, it becomes marked, if it matches a - rule, it becomes unmarked again.
If, after applying all rules, the symbol is marked, it will be traced.
PROTOTYPE LIBRARY DISCOVERY
When a library is mapped into the address space of a traced process, ltrace needs to know
what the prototypes are of functions that this library implements. For purposes of
ltrace, prototype really is a bit more than just type signature: it's also formatting of
individual parameters and of return value. These prototypes are stored in files called
After a library is mapped, ltrace finds out what its SONAME is. It then looks for a file
named SONAME.conf--e.g. protolib for libc.so.6 would be in a file called libc.so.6.conf.
When such file is found (more about where ltrace looks for these files is below), ltrace
reads all prototypes stored therein. When a symbol table entry point (such as those
traced by -x) is hit, the prototype is looked up in a prototype library corresponding to
the library where the hit occured. When a library call (such as those traced by -e and
-l) is hit, the prototype is looked up in all prototype libraries loaded for given
process. That is necessary, because a library call is traced in a PLT table of a caller
library, but the prototype is described at callee library.
If a library has no SONAME, basename of library file is considered instead. For the main
program binary, basename is considered as well (e.g. protolib for /bin/echo would be
called echo.conf). If a name corresponding to soname (e.g. libc.so.6.conf) is not found,
and the module under consideration is a shared library, ltrace also tries partial matches.
Ltrace snips one period after another, retrying the search, until either a protolib is
found, or X.so is all that's left. Thus libc.so.conf would be considered, but libc.conf
When looking for a prototype library, ltrace potentially looks into several directories.
On Linux, those are $XDG_CONFIG_HOME/ltrace, $HOME/.ltrace, X/ltrace for each X in
$XDG_CONFIG_DIRS and /usr/share/ltrace. If the environment variable XDG_CONFIG_HOME is
not defined, ltrace looks into $HOME/.config/ltrace instead.
There's also a mechanism for loading legacy config files. If $HOME/.ltrace.conf exists it
is imported to every loaded prototype library. Similarly for /etc/ltrace.conf. If both
exist, both are imported, and $HOME/.ltrace.conf is consulted before /etc/ltrace.conf.
If -F contains any directories, those are searched in precedence to the above system
directories, in the same order in which they are mentioned in -F. Any files passed in -F
are imported similarly to above legacy config files, before them.
See ltrace.conf(5) for details on the syntax of ltrace prototype library files.
It has most of the bugs stated in strace(1).
It only works on Linux and in a small subset of architectures.
If you would like to report a bug, send a message to the mailing list (ltrace-
email@example.com), or use the reportbug(1) program if you are under the
Debian GNU/Linux distribution.
System configuration file
Personal config file, overrides /etc/ltrace.conf
Juan Cespedes <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Petr Machata <email@example.com>
ltrace.conf(5), strace(1), ptrace(2)
January 2013 LTRACE(1)