Catching Multiple Exception Types and Rethrowing Exceptions with Improved Type Checking

This page covers the following topics:

Handling More Than One Type of Exception

In Java SE 7 and later, a single catch block can handle more than one type of exception. This feature can reduce code duplication and lessen the temptation to catch an overly broad exception.

Consider the following example, which contains duplicate code in each of the catch blocks:

catch (IOException ex) {
     logger.log(ex);
     throw ex;
catch (SQLException ex) {
     logger.log(ex);
     throw ex;
}

In releases prior to Java SE 7, it is difficult to create a common method to eliminate the duplicated code because the variable ex has different types.

The following example, which is valid in Java SE 7 and later, eliminates the duplicated code:

catch (IOException|SQLException ex) {
    logger.log(ex);
    throw ex;
}

The catch clause specifies the types of exceptions that the block can handle, and each exception type is separated with a vertical bar (|).

Note: If a catch block handles more than one exception type, then the catch parameter is implicitly final. In this example, the catch parameter ex is final and therefore you cannot assign any values to it within the catch block.

Bytecode generated by compiling a catch block that handles multiple exception types will be smaller (and thus superior) than compiling many catch blocks that handle only one exception type each. A catch block that handles multiple exception types creates no duplication in the bytecode generated by the compiler; the bytecode has no replication of exception handlers.

Rethrowing Exceptions with More Inclusive Type Checking

The Java SE 7 compiler performs more precise analysis of rethrown exceptions than earlier releases of Java SE. This enables you to specify more specific exception types in the throws clause of a method declaration.

Consider the following example:

  static class FirstException extends Exception { }
  static class SecondException extends Exception { }

  public void rethrowException(String exceptionName) throws Exception {
    try {
      if (exceptionName.equals("First")) {
        throw new FirstException();
      } else {
        throw new SecondException();
      }
    } catch (Exception e) {
      throw e;
    }
  }

This examples's try block could throw either FirstException or SecondException. Suppose you want to specify these exception types in the throws clause of the rethrowException method declaration. In releases prior to Java SE 7, you cannot do so. Because the exception parameter of the catch clause, e, is type Exception, and the catch block rethrows the exception parameter e, you can only specify the exception type Exception in the throws clause of the rethrowException method declaration.

However, in Java SE 7, you can specify the exception types FirstException and SecondException in the throws clause in the rethrowException method declaration. The Java SE 7 compiler can determine that the exception thrown by the statement throw e must have come from the try block, and the only exceptions thrown by the try block can be FirstException and SecondException. Even though the exception parameter of the catch clause, e, is type Exception, the compiler can determine that it is an instance of either FirstException or SecondException:

  public void rethrowException(String exceptionName)
  throws FirstException, SecondException {
    try {
      // ...
    }
    catch (Exception e) {
      throw e;
    }
  }

This analysis is disabled if the catch parameter is assigned to another value in the catch block. However, if the catch parameter is assigned to another value, you must specify the exception type Exception in the throws clause of the method declaration.

In detail, in Java SE 7 and later, when you declare one or more exception types in a catch clause, and rethrow the exception handled by this catch block, the compiler verifies that the type of the rethrown exception meets the following conditions:

The Java SE 7 compiler allows you to specify the exception types FirstException and SecondException in the throws clause in the rethrowException method declaration because you can rethrow an exception that is a supertype of any of the types declared in the throws.

In releases prior to Java SE 7, you cannot throw an exception that is a supertype of one of the catch clause's exception parameters. A compiler from a release prior to Java SE 7 generates the error, "unreported exception Exception; must be caught or declared to be thrown" at the statement throw e. The compiler checks if the type of the exception thrown is assignable to any of the types declared in the throws clause of the rethrowException method declaration. However, the type of the catch parameter e is Exception, which is a supertype, not a subtype, of FirstException andSecondException.


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