I have a complex program that prints out lots of diagnostic/tracing information. Is there some mechanism to evaluate it and suppress all printing? I know I could protect every Print[ ] with If[printswitch, Print[...]]. But it would be convenient if there were some way to shunt all printing to /dev/null rather than to the notebook, or its functional equivalent.

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    $\begingroup$ Do you still want the printed messages to be shunted somewhere else, or are you fine with disposing of them altogether? If it's the second, one hack-ish way would be a construction like Block[{Print = If[$verbose, Print, Identity]}, (* stuff *)]. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 12:48
  • $\begingroup$ @J. M. Disposing altogether is fine. Thanks! $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 12:50
  • $\begingroup$ There might be a cleaner/more canonical way, but it's not coming to me at the moment… :) $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 12:53
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    $\begingroup$ @JosephO'Rourke Block[{sym}, expr] evaluates expr with the definition of sym temporarily removed. This works even if sym is a builtin like Print. Block[{Print}, ...] makes Print behave like any undefined symbol while the body of the Block is evaluated. $\endgroup$
    – Szabolcs
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 13:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Szabolcs:Thank you for the explanation! $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 13:51

3 Answers 3


One common way to deal with diagnostic messages is something like this:

Instead of Print use some other head of your choosing, e.g. debugPrint.

f[x_] := (debugPrint["x is ", x]; x^2)

Now you can either simply define debugPrint = Print to enable messages permanently, or you can do it temporarily in a localized way with

Block[{debugPrint = Print}, f[5]]

This is both simpler to write and more flexible to manage than flags and If constructs (as in If[flag, Print[...]]).

An improvement to the technique is to set

SetAttributes[debugPrint, HoldAll]

Now when we write debugPrint[f[x]], the argument f[x] won't even be computed unless debugPrint = Print is set. This way debugPrint[ expensiveToComputeFunction[x] ] won't slow down your functions when debugging is turned off.

  • $\begingroup$ I think I first saw this style used by Brett Champion. $\endgroup$
    – Szabolcs
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 13:32
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    $\begingroup$ This is extremely useful, especially the HoldAll idea! $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 13:55
  • $\begingroup$ @JosephO'Rourke It seems to be used by quite a few internal functions. Try this: Block[{System`GeoGraphicsDump`geoDebugPrint = Print}, GeoGraphics[]]. $\endgroup$
    – Szabolcs
    Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 11:39

Seems like you are looking for Inactivate:

ClearAll[x, y];
 Print[x = 1];
 Print[y = x + 3];


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    $\begingroup$ Ah, so that is the modern approach… :) $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 13:21
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    $\begingroup$ Block[{modern = lazy}, yes this is the modern approach]. Block is much more powerful of course... esp. with @Szabolcs HoldAll observation $\endgroup$
    – mfvonh
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 13:48
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think this works if the Prints are in an external script, as in Inactivate[<<"foo.m",Print]. $\endgroup$
    – Reb.Cabin
    Commented Oct 21, 2018 at 19:18

This works for simple things

    output = $Output;
    $Output = OpenWrite["/dev/null"]; (*or "NUL" on windows *)
    $Output = output;

Not sure if it might have some unintended side effects.


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