Troubleshoot Python Errors: A Guide to Using %tb for Full Traceback when An Exception Has Occurred

Errors are inevitable when programming in Python. However, understanding and resolving these errors is crucial to becoming a better developer. This guide will walk you through using %tb to obtain a full traceback when an exception occurs in Python.

Table of Contents

Introduction to %tb

%tb is a magic command in IPython that allows you to obtain a full traceback when an exception occurs. It is a valuable tool to debug your Python code effectively. By using %tb, you can quickly identify the root cause of an error and improve your code's performance.

Source: IPython Magic Commands

Step-by-Step Guide on Using %tb

Follow these steps to use %tb for debugging Python errors:

Install IPython: If you haven't installed IPython yet, install it by running the following command in your terminal or command prompt:

pip install ipython

Source: IPython Installation

Run IPython: Open your terminal or command prompt and run IPython by typing the following command:


Trigger an exception: Write some code that triggers an exception. For example:

def divide(a, b):
    return a/b

result = divide(1, 0)
  1. Use %tb to view the traceback: After the exception occurs, type the %tb command in IPython and press Enter. You will see a detailed traceback of the error:

ZeroDivisionError                         Traceback (most recent call last)
     2     return a/b
----> 4 result = divide(1, 0)

in divide(a, b)
     1 def divide(a, b):
----> 2     return a/b
     4 result = divide(1, 0)

ZeroDivisionError: division by zero


  1. Analyze the traceback: The traceback shows the error type (ZeroDivisionError), a brief description of the error (division by zero), and the lines of code that caused the error. Use this information to fix the error in your code.


1. What is a traceback in Python?

A traceback is a report that displays the call stack of a program when an exception is raised. It helps developers identify the root cause of an error and trace the sequence of function calls leading to the error.

2. What is IPython?

IPython is an interactive command-line shell for Python. It provides a powerful interface to the Python language with advanced features such as magic commands, syntax highlighting, and code completion.

3. Can I use %tb in a Jupyter Notebook?

Yes, %tb can be used in Jupyter Notebook cells since Jupyter Notebook uses IPython as its default kernel.

4. What are other useful IPython magic commands for debugging?

Some other useful IPython magic commands for debugging are %debug, %run, %reset, and %timeit. You can find a full list of IPython magic commands in the official documentation.

5. Can I use %tb in the standard Python shell?

No, %tb is an IPython magic command and cannot be used in the standard Python shell. However, the standard Python shell automatically displays tracebacks when exceptions occur.

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to

Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.