Debugging Smali code with apk-tool and NetBeans

Aug 27, 2012

Ho-ho-ho, it works now! Here is a (more or less detailed) instruction to debug a Smali code of a third-part Android application. To debug Smali code with apk-tool, you need

  1. Apk-tool 1.4.1 and NetBeans 6.8. Use these versions, not the latest ones! Currently, the latest versions of apk-tool and NetBeans do not allow to debug Smali code.

  2. Java, JDK and other stuff installed in your system to make Apk-tool and NetBeans working

The step-by-step instruction:

  1. Decode your .apk file to out directory, use -d option:`java -jar apktool.jar d -d out

  2. Add android:debuggable="true" attribute to <application> section in out/AndroidManifest.xml file.

  3. Build out directory to .apk file:

    $ java -jar apktool.jar b -d out
  4. Sing and install to the Android device used for debugging

  5. Delete out/build folderRun NetBeans, click “File” –> “New Project”. Choose “Java” –> “Java Project with Existing Sources”. Click “Next”.

  6. Specify out as “Project Folder”. Click “Next”.

  7. Add out/smali folder to the “Source Package Folder” list. Click “Next” and then “Finish”.

  8. Start on the device, run DDMS, find your application on a list and click it. Note port information in last column - it should be something like 86xx / 8700.

  9. In NetBeans, click “Debug” –> “Attach Debugger” –> select “JPDA” and set “Port” to 8700 (or whatever you saw in previous step). Rest of fields should be ok, click “OK”.

  10. Debugging session should start: you will see some info in a log and debugging buttons will show up in top panel.

  11. Set a breakpoint. You must select line with some instruction, you can’t set breakpoint on lines starting with ., : or #.

  12. Trigger some action in application. If you run at breakpoint, then thread should stop and you will be able to debug step by step, watch variables, etc.

I copy-pasted steps 9-13 from the original instruction (sorry, English is not my native language… and I’m too lazy to “produce unique content for the blog”™, so just copy-pasted description of last 5 steps :)).

Questions are welcome. Have a nice day :)

P.S. If you have problems with breakpoints, this may help.

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