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Thinking in Java
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The exception specification

In Java, you’re encouraged to inform the client programmer, who calls your method, of the exceptions that might be thrown from your method. This is civilized, because the caller can know exactly what code to write to catch all potential exceptions. Of course, if source code is available, the client programmer could hunt through and look for throw statements, but often a library doesn’t come with sources. To prevent this from being a problem, Java provides syntax (and forces you to use that syntax) to allow you to politely tell the client programmer what exceptions this method throws, so the client programmer can handle them. This is the exception specification and it’s part of the method declaration, appearing after the argument list.

The exception specification uses an additional keyword, throws, followed by a list of all the potential exception types. So your method definition might look like this:

void f() throws TooBig, TooSmall, DivZero { //... 


If you say

void f() { // ...


it means that no exceptions are thrown from the method (except for the exceptions inherited from RuntimeException, which can be thrown anywhere without exception specifications—this will be described later).

You can’t lie about an exception specification. If the code within your method causes exceptions, but your method doesn’t handle them, the compiler will detect this and tell you that you must either handle the exception or indicate with an exception specification that it may be thrown from your method. By enforcing exception specifications from top to bottom, Java guarantees that a certain level of exception correctness can be ensured at compile time.

There is one place you can lie: You can claim to throw an exception that you really don’t. The compiler takes your word for it, and forces the users of your method to treat it as if it really does throw that exception. This has the beneficial effect of being a placeholder for that exception, so you can actually start throwing the exception later without requiring changes to existing code. It’s also important for creating abstract base classes and interfaces whose derived classes or implementations may need to throw exceptions.

Exceptions that are checked and enforced at compile time are called checked exceptions.
Thinking in Java
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   Reproduced courtesy of Bruce Eckel, MindView, Inc. Design by Interspire