Boost C++ Libraries

...one of the most highly regarded and expertly designed C++ library projects in the world. Herb Sutter and Andrei Alexandrescu, C++ Coding Standards

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Boost Exception

Transporting of Arbitrary Data to the Catch Site

All exception types that derive from boost::exception can be used as type-safe containers of arbitrary data objects, while complying with the no-throw requirements (15.5.1) of the ANSI C++ standard for exception types. Data can be added to a boost::exception at the time of the throw, or at a later time.

Adding of Arbitrary Data at the Point of the Throw

The following example demonstrates how errno can be stored in exception objects using Boost Exception:

#include <boost/exception.hpp>
#include <errno.h>
#include <iostream>

typedef boost::error_info<struct tag_errno,int> errno_info; //(1)

class my_error: public boost::exception, public std::exception { }; //(2)

void
f()
    {
    throw my_error() << errno_info(errno); //(3)
    }

First, we instantiate the error_info template using a unique identifier -- tag_errno, and the type of the info it identifies -- int. This provides compile-time type safety for the various values stored in exception objects.

Second, we define class my_error, which derives from boost::exception.

Finally, (3) illustrates how the typedef from (1) can be used with operator<< to store values in exception objects at the point of the throw.

The stored errno value can be recovered at a later time like this:

// ...continued

void
g()
    {
    try
        {
        f();
        }
    catch(
    my_error & x )
        {
        if( boost::shared_ptr<int const> err=boost::get_error_info<errno_info>(x) )
            std::cerr << "Error code: " << *err;
        }
    }

The get_error_info function template is instantiated with the typedef from (1), and is passed an exception object of a polymorphic type. If the exception object contains the requested value, the returned shared_ptr will point to it; otherwise an empty shared_ptr is returned.

Adding of Arbitrary Data to Active Exception Objects

Sometimes the throw site does not have all the information that is needed at the catch site to make sense of what went wrong. Here is an example:

#include <stdio.h>
#include <string>
        
class
file_read_error
    {
    public:

    explicit
    file_read_error( std::string const & fn ):
        fn_(fn)
        {
        };

    std::string const &
    file_name() const
        {
        return fn_;
        }

    private:

    std::string fn_;
    };

void
file_read( FILE * f, void * buffer, size_t size )
    {
    if( size!=fread(buffer,1,size,f) )
        throw file_read_error("????");
    }

We have defined an exception class file_read_error which can store a file name, so that when we catch a file_read_error object, we know which file the failure is related to. However, the file_read function does not have the file name at the time of the throw; all it has is a FILE handle.

One possible solution is to not use FILE handles directly. We could have our own class file which stores both a FILE handle and a file name, and pass that to file_read. However, this could be problematic if we communicate with 3rd party code that does not use our class file (probably because they have their own similar class.)

A better solution is to make class file_read_error derive (possibly indirectly) from boost::exception, and free the file_read function from the burden of storing the file name in exceptions it throws:

#include <boost/exception.hpp>
#include <stdio.h>
#include <errno.h>

typedef boost::error_info<struct tag_errno,int> errno_info;

class file_read_error: public boost::exception { };

void
file_read( FILE * f, void * buffer, size_t size )
    {
    if( size!=fread(buffer,1,size,f) )
        throw file_read_error() << errno_info(errno);
    }

If file_read detects a failure, it throws an exception which contains the information that is available at the time, namely the errno. Other relevant information, such as the file name, can be added in a context higher up the call stack, where it is known naturally:

#include <boost/exception.hpp>
#include <boost/shared_ptr.hpp>
#include <stdio.h>
#include <string>

typedef boost::error_info<struct tag_file_name,std::string> file_name_info;

boost::shared_ptr<FILE> file_open( char const * file_name, char const * mode );
void file_read( FILE * f, void * buffer, size_t size );

void
parse_file( char const * file_name )
    {
    boost::shared_ptr<FILE> f = file_open(file_name,"rb");
    assert(f);
    try
        {
        char buf[1024];
        file_read( f.get(), buf, sizeof(buf) );
        }
    catch(
    boost::exception & e )
        {
        e << file_name_info(file_name);
        throw;
        }
    }

The above function is (almost) exception-neutral -- if an exception is emitted by any function call within the try block, parse_file does not need to do any real work, but it intercepts any boost::exception object, stores the file name, and re-throws using a throw-expression with no operand (15.1.6). The rationale for catching any boost::exception object is that the file name is relevant to any failure that occurs in parse_file, even if the failure is unrelated to file I/O.

As usual, the stored data can be retrieved using get_error_info.

Adding Grouped Data to Exceptions

The code snippet below demonstrates how boost::tuple can be used to bundle the name of the function that failed, together with the reported errno so that they can be added to exception objects more conveniently together:

#include <boost/exception/info_tuple.hpp>
#include <boost/shared_ptr.hpp>
#include <stdio.h>
#include <string>
#include <errno.h>

typedef boost::error_info<struct tag_file_name,std::string> file_name_info;
typedef boost::error_info<struct tag_function,char const *> function_info;
typedef boost::error_info<struct tag_errno,int> errno_info;
typedef boost::tuple<function_info,errno_info> clib_failure;

class file_open_error: public boost::exception { };

boost::shared_ptr<FILE>
file_open( char const * name, char const * mode )
    {
    if( FILE * f=fopen(name,mode) )
        return boost::shared_ptr<FILE>(f,fclose);
    else
        throw file_open_error() <<
            file_name_info(name) <<
            clib_failure("fopen",errno);
    }

Note that the members of a boost::tuple are stored separately in exception objects; they can only be retrieved individually, using get_error_info.