Built-in tracers

Geth comes bundled with a choice of tracers ready for usage through the tracing API. Some of them are implemented natively in Go, and others in JS. In this page a summary of each of these will be outlined. They have to be specified by name when sending a request. The only exception is the opcode logger (otherwise known as struct logger) which is the default tracer for all the methods and cannot be specified by name.

Struct logger

Struct logger or opcode logger is a native Go tracer which executes a transaction and emits the opcode and execution context at every step. This is the tracer that will be used when no name is passed to the API, e.g. debug.traceTransaction(<txhash>). The following information is emitted at each step:

field type description
pc uint64 program counter
op byte opcode to be executed
gas uint64 remaining gas
gasCost uint64 cost for executing op
memory []byte EVM memory. Enabled via enableMemory
memSize int Size of memory
stack []uint256 EVM stack. Disabled via disableStack
returnData []byte Last call’s return data. Enabled via enableReturnData
storage map[hash]hash Storage slots of current contract read from and written to. Only emitted for SLOAD and SSTORE. Disabled via disableStorage
depth int Current call depth
refund uint64 Refund counter
error string Error message if any

Note that the fields memory, stack, returnData, and storage have dynamic size and depending on the exact transaction they could grow large in size. This is specially true for memory which could blow up the trace size. It is recommended to keep them disabled unless they are explicitly required for a given use-case.

Native tracers

The following tracers are implement in Go and as such have offer good performance. They are selected by their name when invoking a tracing API method, e.g. debug.traceTransaction(<txhash>, { tracer: 'callTracer' }).


Solidity contract functions are addressed by the first four four byte of the Keccak-256 hash of their signature. Therefore when calling the function of a contract, the caller must send this function selector as well as the ABI-encoded arguments as call data.

The 4byteTracer collects the function selectors of every function executed in the lifetime of a transaction, along with the size of the supplied call data. The result is a map[string]int where the keys are SELECTOR-CALLDATASIZE and the values are number of occurances of this key. E.g.:

> debug.traceTransaction( "0x214e597e35da083692f5386141e69f47e973b2c56e7a8073b1ea08fd7571e9de", {tracer: "4byteTracer"})
  "0x27dc297e-128": 1,
  "0x38cc4831-0": 2,
  "0x524f3889-96": 1,
  "0xadf59f99-288": 1,
  "0xc281d19e-0": 1


The callTracer tracks all the call frames executed during a transaction, including depth 0. The result will be a nested list of call frames, resembling how EVM works. They form a tree with the top-level call at root and sub-calls as children of the higher levels. Each call frame has the following fields:

field type description
type string CALL or CREATE
from string address
to string address
value string hex-encoded amount of value transfer
gas string hex-encoded gas provided for call
gasUsed string hex-encoded gas used during call
input string call data
output string return data
error string error, if any
revertReason string Solidity revert reason, if any
calls []callframe list of sub-calls

Things to note about the call tracer:

  • Calls to precompiles are also included in the result
  • In case a frame reverts, the field output will contain the raw return data
  • In case the top level frame reverts, its revertReason field will contain the parsed reason of revert as returned by the Solidity contract

callTracer has an option to only trace the main (top-level) call and none of the sub-calls. This avoids extra processing for each call frame if only the top-level call info are required. Here’s how it can be configured:

> debug.traceTransaction('0xc73e70f6d60e63a71dabf90b9983f2cdd56b0cb7bcf1a205f638d630a95bba73', { tracer: 'callTracer', tracerConfig: { onlyTopCall: true } })


This tracer is noop. It returns an empty object and is only meant for testing the setup.


Executing a transaction requires the prior state, including account of sender and recipient, contracts that are called during execution, etc. The prestateTracer replays the tx and tracks every part of state that is touched. This is similar to the concept of a stateless witness, the difference being this tracer doesn’t return any cryptographic proof, rather only the trie leaves. The result is an object. The keys are addresses of accounts. The value is an object with the following fields:

field type description
balance string balance in Wei
nonce uint64 nonce
code string hex-encoded bytecode
storage map[string]string storage slots of the contract

JS tracers

The following are a list of tracers written in JS that come as part of Geth:

  • bigramTracer: Counts the opcode bigrams, i.e. how many times 2 opcodes were executed one after the other
  • evmdisTracer: Returns sufficient information from a trace to perform evmdis-style disassembly
  • opcountTracer Counts the total number of opcodes executed
  • trigramTracer: Counts the opcode trigrams
  • unigramTracer: Counts the occurances of each opcode