Effective Java 8 - Exception

57. Use exceptions only for exceptional conditions

Do not use catch block to implement regular control flow.

Actually, executing catch block is 100 times slower than normal block.

A well-designed API must not force its clients to use exceptions for ordinary control flow.

58. Use checked exceptions for recoverable conditions and runtime exceptions for programming errors

Java provides three throwables:

Checked exception

Use try..catch to implement it. If the caller want to recover after failed in the method, then we should use checked exception. It forces programmer to deal with exceptions.

Unchecked exception: run-time exception

Unchecked exception should not be catched inside the method. It always means a unrecoverable condition.

If program runs to precondition violation, we can throw runtime exception. eg. ArrayIndexOutofBoundsException

You'd better extends from RuntimeException if you have a custom exception class.

Unchecked exception: Error

Uncatched throwable.

59. Avoid unnecessary use of checked exceptions

Checked exception will make program more complicated.

// Invocation with state-testing method and unchecked exception
if (obj. actionPermitted(args)) {
} else {
    // Handle exceptional condition

60. Favor the use of standard exceptions

  • IllegalArgumentException
  • IllegalStateException
  • NullPointerException
  • ConcurrentModificationException
  • UnsupportedOperationException

61. Throw exceptions appropriate to the abstraction

If the throwing exception has no obvious relation with the executing job, higher level implementation should catch the exception, and throw an exception with good explanation. This is called exception translation.

Example from List<E>

public E get(int index) {
    ListIterator<E> i = listIterator(index);
    try {
        return i.next();
    } catch (NoSuchElementException e) {
        throw new IndexOutOfBoundsException("Index: " + index);

Exception chaining

Pass lower level exception to the constructor of a higher level exception, for the purpose of better debugging.

The custom exception should be like:

class HigherLevelException extends Exception {
    HigherLevelException(Throwable cause) {

Throwable has initCause() to set cause, and getCause() to access cause.

62. Document all exceptions thrown by each method

Use @throws to note down the condition that method may throw exception, describe the precondition.

Use @throws to note down the unchecked exception, but do not use throws keyword to declare them in the method prototype.

63. Include failure-capture information in detail messages

Set good exception message.

64. Strive for failure atomicity

Failure atomic: A failed method invocation should leave the object in the state that it was in prior to the invocation.

There are several approaches to implement failure atomicity.

  • Validate parameters before computation.
  • Compute the result first, to see whether there is an exception. If result is valid, then set it to the object.
  • Create recovery code, like rollback operation. It is not very recommended.
  • Create a copy of the object and compute. If valid, replace the original one with the copy.

65. Do not ignore exceptions

Do not write empty catch block. At least comment why the exception can be ignored.