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Use VSCode debugger when working with AWS CDK

Tomasz Łakomy

November 15, 2020

(Before we start - if you've never heard of AWS Cloud Development Kit, I've created a quick, 64 minute course on - Build an App with the AWS Cloud Development Kit)

This is a quick tip I've learned from Nathan Glover's CDK Debugging in VSCode blogpost and I'd like to share it further because it may be useful to some of you.

VSCode comes with a built-in debugger which comes in handy whenever you get an unexpected behaviour in your code and you'd like to dig in. Since CDK allows us to use a general purpose programming language (e.g. TypeScript), this VSCode feature can be useful for infrastructure code as well.

Suppose you have a stack like this (taken from my Build a file upload email subscription with CDK, S3 and SNS) post and you'd like to debug what exactly is the value of emailAddress on line 20 (spoiler: it's not a string).

import * as cdk from '@aws-cdk/core';
import * as s3 from '@aws-cdk/aws-s3';
import * as sns from '@aws-cdk/aws-sns';
import * as s3Notifications from '@aws-cdk/aws-s3-notifications';
import * as snsSubscriptions from '@aws-cdk/aws-sns-subscriptions';
export class VscodeDebugStack extends cdk.Stack {
constructor(scope: cdk.Construct, id: string, props?: cdk.StackProps) {
super(scope, id, props);
// We're going to leave everything by default, but you might want to enable versioning on the bucket
const dataBucket = new s3.Bucket(this, 'DataBucket');
const topic = new sns.Topic(this, 'Topic');
// Whenever there's an OBJECT_CREATED event, send a notification to SNS topic
new s3Notifications.SnsDestination(topic),
// This value is provided as a CloudFormation parameter
const emailAddress = new cdk.CfnParameter(this, 'subscriptionEmail');
new snsSubscriptions.EmailSubscription(
// Since we're using TypeScript, we will immediately know if we've forgot to convert the `value` to a `string`

To do that, first create a .vscode/launch.json file with the following content:

"version": "0.2.0",
"configurations": [
"type": "node",
"request": "launch",
"name": "CDK Debugger",
"skipFiles": ["<node_internals>/**"],
"runtimeArgs": [
// Entry point of your stack
"args": ["${workspaceFolder}/bin/vscode-debug.ts"]

(Make sure to replace the bin/vscode-debug.ts path with whatever is the main entry of your CDK stack).

This is going to enable a CDK Debugger VSCode debug configuration:


Once it's enabled, enable a breakpoint on the line you wish to debug by clicking on the left of the line number:


Everything is ready now, you're free to start the debugger by clicking on the green arrow in the debug panel:


And voila! We're able to debug our CDK stack code without leaving our editor and adding lots of debug console.log statements (like every developer does, don't lie):


Notice that it's possible to either take a peek at what's inside of emailAddress variable by either hovering over it or by using the VSCode built-in debug console.

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