[Debugging] ltrace Tool

ltrace is a powerful Linux debugging utility that allows you to intercept and trace library calls made by a program. It helps developers and system administrators understand how a program interacts with shared libraries, identify potential issues, and gain insights into the program’s behavior. ltrace is particularly useful for understanding the dynamic behavior of applications, as it traces the library calls at runtime

ltrace is a powerful tool for tracing library calls and gaining insights into program behavior..


Before using ltrace, you need to ensure that it is installed on your system. To install ltrace on a Debian-based system, use the following command:


  • sudo apt-get install ltrace

For Red Hat-based systems, use:

  • sudo yum install ltrace

For macOS, you can install ltrace using Homebrew:

  • brew install ltrace

Basic Usage:

The basic syntax of ltrace is as follows:

  • ltrace [options] [command]

Here, [options] are the various command-line options that you can use with ltrace, and [command] is the executable or command you want to trace.

ltrace is typically used in scenarios where you want to:

  • Understand how a program interacts with shared libraries.
  • Diagnose issues related to library calls.
  • Identify potential performance bottlenecks caused by library functions.
  • Debug issues that may not be easily traceable with traditional debugging tools.
  • Now, let’s explore some practical examples to illustrate the usage of ltrace.

Example 1: Tracing Library Calls of a Simple Program

Let’s start with a simple C program, example.c, which uses the printf function from the standard C library:

Compile the program:

  • gcc -o example example.c

Trace the library calls using ltrace:

  • ltrace ./example

In the output, you can see the library calls made by the printf function. For example, puts is called with the string “Hello, World!”.

Example 2: Tracing a Specific Library Function

In this example, we will trace only the strlen function from the C library:

1. Compile the program:

  • gcc -o example2 example2.c

2. Trace only the strlen function using ltrace:

  • ltrace -e strlen ./example2

In the output, you can see that the strlen function is called with the string “Hello, ltrace!” and the length is printed.

Example 3: Tracing Child Processes

ltrace can also trace child processes created by the main program. Let’s create a simple C program, child.c, that will be executed as a child process:

Compile the child program:

  • gcc -o child child.c

Create a parent program that will execute the child program:

Compile the parent program:

  • gcc -o parent parent.c

Trace the library calls of the parent and child programs using ltrace:

  • ltrace -f ./parent

In the output, you can see the library calls made by both the parent and child processes. The calls to puts correspond to the printf statements in each program.