I have read this and this and this: if my question misses the point in those answers, please point it out and we'll get this one deleted. These questions indicate that this may actually be a bad thing under certain circumstances, but I think I understand that difference.

QUESTION: If I am using a function from another library that throws an unchecked exception that can be corrected, AND I want to be safe, AND my program will be outputting directly to the user (there should be no reason to fail completely), do I:

  1. handle these individually AND include a catch-all catch block with a general unchecked Exception (say to request user input again)?
  2. handle the specific exceptions individually AND declare throws exception passing it to the caller?
  3. handle the specific exceptions AND leave the general exception out altogether?

What is standard / defensive / unecessary programming?

  • I'm afraid this question will be marked as duplicated or worse, downvoted. To clarify, I am asking if a General Exception parallels the use of a catch-all else statement at the end of a series of control blocks.
    – user58446
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 13:47
  • If you can meaningfully handle a specific exception (e.g. "request user input again") (3), by all means do so. If you can meaningfully handle any exception (1), kudos to you. I see no need to declare an unchecked exception (2) (maybe document it via javadoc instead if you can explain why it might be thrown). Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 14:17
  • 1
    It sounds like you're overly concerned with being "correct." What is the solution that most effectively solves whatever specific problem you're having? Commented Oct 22, 2016 at 17:52
  • Maybe I don't understand exceptions the way I thought I did. I think this is the crux of the problem: when using third party libraries I check to see what exceptions may be thrown by the functions I call and handle or pass them up accordingly. If a library function does not declare a general exception, is there still any need for it? If writing my own source, I never "expect" a general checked exception to occur, and would always be as specific as possible when throwing them anyways. I use validation to avoid errors/exceptions as well...
    – user58446
    Commented Oct 27, 2016 at 8:28
  • I code defensively and always leave an else case to catch any unknowns during testing and remove it later if appropriate... hence the else analogy. I read this already.
    – user58446
    Commented Oct 27, 2016 at 8:32

1 Answer 1


If I am using a function from another library that throws an unchecked exception that can be corrected

If you got an exception you specifically can do something about at the current code level, by all means catch it specifically and do your thing.

AND my program will be outputting directly to the user (there should be no reason to fail completely)

The question should rather be whether the code you're looking at directly outputs to "the user".

If you're at an interface boundary(*) (e.g. GUI action vs. function call) that you only have two choices:

  • Catch Exception and inform the "user" in a general way that whatever he did failed. (With as much or as little info as you deem necessary.)
  • Do not catch Exception and either die or have your specific interface boundary handle - or not - it in a (very?) generic way (which may include just aborting the program).

So as I see this, #2 is often undesirable, so the question then becomes where to catch(Exception). I'd say do it at an interface boundary, and possibly only there. As high up as possible, but not higher - probably not at the catch block where you handle the specific 3rd part exceptions, unless the full operation is basically just the call to the 3rd party code.

In my book, defensive here would mean to make sure your handling code works in a deterministic way in the face of an unknown Exception, it does not mean you have to add the unknown to the handler block where you handle the specific. Basically it amounts to writing "exception safe code" so that your code always works in the face of exceptional exceptions.

(*) "interface boundary" - loose term here. Do not get caught up on it.

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