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Error Handling in JabRef

Throwing and Catching Exceptions


  • All exceptions we throw should be or extend JabRefException; This is especially important if the message stored in the Exception should be shown to the user. JabRefException has already implemented the getLocalizedMessage() method which should be used for such cases (see details below!).
  • Catch and wrap all API exceptions (such as IOExceptions) and rethrow them
    • Example:

         try {
             // ...
         } catch (IOException ioe) {
             throw new JabRefException("Something went wrong...",
                 Localization.lang("Something went wrong...", ioe);
  • Never, ever throw and catch Exception or Throwable
  • Errors should only be logged when they are finally caught (i.e., logged only once). See Logging for details.
  • If the Exception message is intended to be shown to the User in the UI (see below) provide also a localizedMessage (see JabRefException).

(Rationale and further reading:

Outputting Errors in the UI

Principle: Error messages shown to the User should not contain technical details (e.g., underlying exceptions, or even stack traces). Instead, the message should be concise, understandable for non-programmers and localized. The technical reasons (and stack traces) for a failure should only be logged.

To show error message two different ways are usually used in JabRef:

  • showing an error dialog
  • updating the status bar at the bottom of the main window
TODO: Usage of status bar and Swing Dialogs