Hello all:

I would be grateful for some basic advice about C++ error handling.

From my reading, I understand that the "try, throw, catch" method is preferable to dealing with return values, which can be cryptic. But I'm not sure if I understand exactly how this works. I made a simple example below and any comments would be appreciated. I would like to make a function out of the example below that checks the results of another calculation.

This is what I'm wondering. (1) Should the catch statement be included in that function? Or should it be somewhere else? (2) More generally, is it overkill to use try, catch, throw for something this simple (I would like to improve my style)? (3) If there is an error, I would like to terminate the program. How would I do that? Or does "catch" mean that that is done automatically?

These are probably dumb questions--thanks in advance for your patience.

double calculated   = 10.2;  // from previous calculation
double tolerance    =  0.3;  
double valueWanted  = 10.0;  // from previous calculation
const int calcError = 5;

    if (fabs(fTargetValue - fCalculated) <= fTolerance)
        cout << "Result is within range.";
        cout << "Calculation failed."; 
    throw calcError;

catch (const int calcError) 
    cerr << "The calculation failed.\n" << endl;

Firstly, be aware that the appropriate time to use exceptions is a matter of opinion, and if you ask five people, you'll get back more than five different opinions :)

All the following, thus, is my opinion. To my mind, the clue is in the name; exceptions are for exceptional circumstances.

From my reading, I understand that the "try, throw, catch" method is preferable to dealing with return values, which can be cryptic.

I believe this to be fundamentally wrong; using exceptions because you can't understand your own return values is flawed, especially since exception handling is inherently more complicated than returning a value. You're writing the code, so if you can identify circumstances in which you can pass information by return value, you should. Return values are far less difficult to work with, to my mind.

In your example above, you will always be throwing an exception. Could you not do something like this?

// Declare function prototype
int checkValue(int calculated, int tolerance, int valueWanted);

// Define function
int checkValue(int calculated, int tolerance, int valueWanted)
  if (fabs(valueWanted- calculated) <= tolerance)
    return 0; // Common return value for calculation working
    return 1; // Your chosen return value to indicate calculation failed
// Example usage somewhere in code
int failed = checkValue(calculated, tolerance, valueWanted);
if (failed == 0)
  cout<< "Calculation worked.";
  cout << "Calculation failed.";

If you think you'll lose track of the return value meanings, this sort of thing is common:


and then you would replace the '0' and '1' return values in your code with 'CALCULATION_WORKED' and 'CALCULATION_FAILED', which would make your meaning obvious to everyone who reads the code. For those who don't like


for their constants, there is the option of a suitable scoped



To my mind, that is simpler and easier to understand; using return values to pass information about {success/failure/more detailed information} is very common.

You can terminate your programme at any time with abort(), although it's generally considered better practice to structure your programme so that you end the code using the usual return statement in main().

Catch does not mean that the programme terminates; catch is actually your attempt to stop it terminating! If you do not handle an exception with a suitable catch, it will be thrown ever higher until finally the programme ends (if it is never caught and dealt with).

All the above is, as stated, no more than opinion. I know there are people who prefer exception over return values. That's their choice and I'm sure they're happy with it, which is nice :)

commented: Thanks for taking so much time Moschops. This really helped. +2
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