Unlike web apps, desktop apps crash without the app’s developer knowing about it, unless the user sends a crash report to the developer. Whenever an app crashes, OS X puts up a dialog for the user to submit a crash report to Apple. Unfortunately for non-Apple apps that crash report never gets to the developer!

So, Arq needs its own “crash reporter”. After reading Daniel Jalkut’s nice roundup of crash reporters, I chose Breakpad because it seems the most similar to Apple’s built-in crash reporter.

Adding Breakpad to your Mac OS X app is easy since the Breakpad team created a Framework around it.

Building Breakpad

Just download the source, open the XCode project under src/client/mac and compile the target “All”.

If you’re on 10.6 though, you’ll need to set the compiler for all the targets and sub-projects to “GCC 4.0″, or else you’ll get an error “GCC 4.2 is not compatible with the Mac OS X 10.4 SDK”.

The default settings for the project (at least as of svn revision 394) create a “32-bit Universal” build. 64-bit isn’t supported yet. See the Breakpad issues list for more details.

Adding Breakpad to Your App

Once you’ve built Breakpad, drag Breakpad.framework into the Linked Frameworks folder of your XCode project. Be sure to check the “copy items into the destination group’s folder” box in the sheet that appears. Also check the target you want to add Breakpad to.

Next, create a “Copy Files” build phase in your target with a destination of “Frameworks”, and drag Breakpad.framework into that.

Next, add a bunch of variables to your app’s Info.plist, including:


See the comments in Breakpad.h for how to set those variables. One tricky bit: BreakpadRequestComments should be a <string> with a value of "TRUE" in your Info.plist, not a <true>.

As an example, here’s how I set my plist variables for Arq:

    <string>Haystack Software</string>

Finally, create a Breakpad object in your app:

    BreakpadRef bp = BreakpadCreate([[NSBundle mainBundle] infoDictionary]);
    if (bp == NULL) {
        NSLog(@"failed to create Breakpad");

That’s it! Now crash your app to try it out :)

On the server side, you’ll need something to process the report. I’ll post my server-side code soon. Tweet me @reitshamer if you need it right now.

UPDATE: I put the server-side code at http://github.com/sreitshamer/breakpadserver.

  One Response to “Using Breakpad on Mac OS X 10.6”

  1. Glad to hear you were able to use Breakpad! I think we’ll be getting 64-bit OS X support soon, since we’ll want to ship a 64-bit Firefox in the near future. It’s probably very close to working and just needs a bit of cleanup.

    I’d be interested to see what your server solution looks like. We’re using Socorro, but that’s probably a bit heavyweight for smaller software projects that aren’t getting millions of crash reports. It would probably be nice to have a smaller solution that we could recommend to other projects.

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