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Java Fundamental Classes Reference

Previous Chapter 4
Exception Handling

4.3 Generating Exceptions

A Java program can use the exception-handling mechanism to deal with program-specific errors in a clean manner. A program simply uses the throw statement to signal an exception. The throw statement must be followed by an object that is of type Throwable or one of its subclasses. For program-defined exceptions, you typically want an exception object to be an instance of a subclass of the Exception class. In most cases, it makes sense to define a new subclass of Exception that is specific to your program.

Consider the following example:

class WrongDayException extends Exception {
    public WrongDayException () {}
    public WrongDayException(String msg) {
public class ThrowExample {
    void doIt() throws WrongDayException{
        int dayOfWeek =(new java.util.Date()).getDay();
        if (dayOfWeek != 2  && dayOfWeek != 4)
            throw new WrongDayException("Tue. or Thur.");
        // The rest of doIt's logic goes here
        System.out.println("Did it");
    public static void main (String [] argv) {
        try {
            (new ThrowExample()).doIt();
        } catch (WrongDayException e) {
            System.out.println("Sorry, can do it only on "
                                + e.getMessage());

The code in this example defines a class called WrongDayException to represent the specific type of exception thrown by the example. The Throwable class, and most subclasses of Throwable, have at least two constructors. One constructor takes a string argument that is used as a textual message that explains the exception, while the other constructor takes no arguments. Thus, the WrongDayException class defines two constructors.

In the class ThrowExample, if the current day of the week is neither Tuesday nor Thursday, the doIt() method throws a WrongDayException. Note that the WrongDayException object is created at the same time it is thrown. It is common practice to provide some information about an exception when it is thrown, so a string argument is used in the allocation statement for the WrongDayException. The method declaration for the doIt() method contains a throws clause, to indicate the fact that it can throw a WrongDayException.

The main() method in ThrowExample encloses its call to the doIt() method in a try statement, so that it can catch any WrongDayException thrown by doIt(). The catch block prints an error message, using the getMessage() method of the exception object. This method retrieves the string that was passed to the constructor when the exception object was created.

Printing Stack Traces

When an exception is caught, it can be useful to print a stack trace to figure out where the exception came from. A stack trace looks like the following:

java.lang.ArithmeticException: / by zero
        at t.cap(t.java:16)
        at t.doit(t.java:8)
        at t.main(t.java:3)

You can print a stack trace by calling the printStackTrace() method that all Throwable objects inherit from the Throwable class. For example:

int cap (x) {return 100/x}
try {
} catch(ArithmeticException e) {

You can also print a stack trace anywhere in an application, without actually throwing an exception. For example:

new Throwable().printStackTrace();

Rethrowing Exceptions

After an exception is caught, it can be rethrown if is appropriate. The one choice that you have to make when rethrowing an exception concerns the location from where the stack trace says the object was thrown. You can make the rethrown exception appear to have been thrown from the location of the original exception throw, or from the location of the current rethrow.

To rethrow an exception and have the stack trace indicate the original location, all you have to do is rethrow the exception:

try {
} catch(ArithmeticException e) {
    throw e;

To arrange for the stack trace to show the actual location from which the exception is being rethrown, you have to call the exception's fillInStackTrace() method. This method sets the stack trace information in the exception based on the current execution context. Here's an example using the fillInStackTrace() method:

try {
} catch(ArithmeticException e) {
    throw (ArithmeticException)e.fillInStackTrace();

It is important to call fillInStackTrace() on the same line as the throw statement, so that the line number specified in the stack trace matches the line on which the throw statement appears. The fillInStackTrace() method returns a reference to the Throwable class, so you need to cast the reference to the actual type of the exception.

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