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Several things may go wrong in any program, including problems in programming, bad or missing input, unreachable external resources, and many other things. Perl doesn't have any built-in error handling. It knows when it couldn't do something and it can tell me about errors, but it's up to me as the Perl programmer to ensure that my program does the right thing and when it can't, try to do something useful about it.

Perl Error Basics

Perl has four special variables it uses to report errors: $!, $?, $@, and $^E. Each reports different sorts of errors. Table 1 shows the four variables and their descriptions, which are also in perlvar:

Operating System Errors

The simplest errors occur when Perl asks the system to do something, but the system can't or doesn't do it for some reason. In most cases the Perl built-in returns false and sets $! with the error message. If I try to read a file that isn't there, open returns false and puts the reason it failed in $!:

        open my( $fh ), '<', 'does_not_exist.txt'
                or die "Couldn't open file! $!";

The Perl interpreter is a C program and it does its work through the library of C functions it's built upon. The value of $! represents the result of the call to the underlying C function, which comes from the errno.h header file. That's the one from the standard C library. Other applications might have a file of the same name. The errno.h file associates symbolic constants with each error value and gives a text description for them. Here's an excerpt from the errno.h from Mac OS X:

        #define EPERM   1   /* Operation not permitted */
        #define ENOENT  2   /* No such file or directory */
        #define ESRCH   3   /* No such process */

In my open example I interpolated $! in a string and got a human-readable error message out of it. The variable, however, has a dual life. Scalars that have different string and numeric values are known as dualvarsI can create them myself with the dualvar function in Scalar::Util.. The numeric value is the errno value from the C function and the string value is a human-readable message. By setting $! myself I can see both values. I use printf's format specifiers to force both the numeric and string versions of the same scalar:

        for ($! = 0; $! <= 102; $!++)
                {
                printf("%d: %s\n", $!, $! );
                }

The output shows the numeric value as well as the string value:

        1: Operation not permitted
        2: No such file or directory
        3: No such process
        ...

The value of $! is only reliable immediately after the library call. I should only use $! immediately after the expression I want to check. My next Perl statement might make another library call, which could again change its value, but with a different message. Also, a failed library call sets the value, but a successful one doesn't do anything to it and won't reset $!. If I don't check the value of $! right away, I might associate it with the wrong statement.

That's not the whole story, though. The %! hash has some magic to go along with $!. The keys to %! are the symbolic constants, such as ENOENT, from errno.h. This is a magic hash so only the key that corresponds to the current $! has a value. For instance, when Perl can't open my does_not_exist.txt, it sets $! with the value represented by ENOENT. At the same time Perl sets the value of $!{ENOENT}. No other keys in %! will have a value. This means I can check what happened when I try to recover from the failed open by taking appropriate action based on the type of error.

If Perl sees %! anywhere in the program, it automatically loads the Errno module, which provides functions with the same name as the errno.h symbolic constants so I can get the number for any error. I don't have to use %! to get this, though. I can load it myself, and even import the symbols I want to use:

        use Errno qw(ENOENT);

        print "ENOENT has the number " . ENOENT . "\n";

In this example program, I want to write some information to disk. It's very important information, so I want to take extra care to ensure I save it. I can't simply die and hope somebody notices. Indeed, if I can't write to the file because the disk is full, my warning may never even make it to a log file:

        #!/usr/bin/perl

        use File::Spec;

        my $file = 'does_not_exist.txt';
        my $dir  = 'some_dir';
        my $fh;

        my $try = 0;
        OPEN: {
        last if $try++ >= 2;
        my $path = File::Spec->catfile( $dir, $file );
        last if open $fh, '>', $path;

        warn "Could not open file: $!...\n";

        if( $!{ENOENT} )     # File doesn't exist
                {                # Ensure the directory is there
                warn "\tTrying to make directory $dir...\n";
                mkdir $dir, 0755;
                }
        elsif( $!{ENOSPC} )  # Full disk
                {                # Try a different disk or mount point
                warn "\tDisk full, try another partition...\n";
                $dir = File::Spec->catfile(
                        File::Spec->rootdir,
                        'some_other_disk',
                        'some_other_dir'
                        );
                }
        elsif( $!{EACCES} )  # Permission denied
                {
                warn "\tNo permission! Trying to reset permissions...\n";
                system( '/usr/local/bin/reset_perms' );
                }
        else
                {
                # give up and email it directly...
                last;
                }

        redo;
        }

        print $fh "Something very important\n";

Though this is a bit of a toy example, I can see that I have a lot of power to try to recover from a system error. I try to recover in one of four ways, and I'll keeping running the naked block I've labeled with OPEN until it works or I've tried enough things (at some point it's hopeless, so give up). If I can open the filehandle, I break out of the naked block with last. Otherwise, I look in %! to see which key has a true value. Only one key will hold a true value, and that one corresponds to the value in $!. If I get back an error saying the file doesn't exist, I'll try to create the directory it's going to so I know it's there. If there's no space left on the disk, I'll try another disk. If I don't have the right permissions, I'll try to reset the permissions on the file. This used to be a big problem at one of my jobs. A lot of people had admin privileges and would do things that inadvertently changed permissions on important files. I wrote a setuid program that pulled the right permissions from a database and reset them. I could run that from any program and try the open again. That sure beats a phone call in the middle of the night. Since then, I've realized the lack of wisdom in letting just anyone be root.

Child Process Errors

To tell me what went wrong with subprocesses that my programs start, Perl uses $? to let me see the child process exit status. Perl can communicate with external programs through a variety of mechanisms, including:

        system( ... );
        `....`;
        open my($pipe), "| some_command";
        exec( 'some command' );
        my $pid = fork(); ...; wait( $pid );

If something goes wrong, I don't see the error right away. To run an external program, Perl first forks, or makes a copy of the current process, then uses exec to turn itself into the command I wanted. Since I'm already running the Perl process, it's almost assured that I'll be able to run another copy of it unless I've hit a process limit or run out of memory. The first part, the fork, will work. There won't be any error in $! because there is no C library error. However, once that other process is up and running, it doesn't show its errors through the $! in the parent process. It passes its exit value back to the parent when it stops running, and Perl puts that in the $?. I won't see that error until I try to clean up after myself when I use close or wait:

        close( $pipe ) or die "Child error: $?";
        wait( $pid ) or die "Child error: $?";

The value of $? is a bit more complicated than the other error variables. It's actually a word (two bytes). The high byte is the exit status of the child process. I can shift all the bits to the right eight places to get that number. This number is specific to the program I run so I need to check its documentation to assign the proper meaning:

        my $exit_value = $? >> 8;

The lower seven bits of $? hold the signal number from which the process died if it died from a signal:

        my $signal = $? & 127;  # or use 0b0111_1111

If the child process dumped core, the eighth bit in the low word is set:

        my $core_dumped = $? & 128; # or use 0b1000_000;

When I use Perl's exit, the number I give as an argument is the return value of the process. That becomes the high word in $? if some other Perl program is the parent process. My exit-with-value.pl program exits with different values:

        #!/usr/bin/perl
        # exit-with-value.pl

        # exit with a random value
        exit time % 256;

I can call exit-with-value.pl with another program, exit-with-value-call.pl. I call the first program with system after which I get the exit value by shifting $? down eight positions:

        #!/usr/bin/perl
        # exit-with-value-call.pl

        system( "perl exit-with-value.pl" );

        my $rc = $? >> 8;

        print "exit value was $rc\n";

When I run my program, I see the different exit values:

        $ perl exit-with-value-call.pl
        exit value was 102
        $ perl exit-with-value-call.pl
        exit value was 103
        $ perl exit-with-value-call.pl
        exit value was 104

If I use die instead of exit, Perl uses the value 255 as the exit value. I can change that by using an END block and assigning to $? just before Perl is going to end the program. When Perl enters the END block right after a die, $? has the value Perl intends to use as the exit value. If I see that is 255, I know I came from a die and can set the exit value to something more meaningful.

        END { $? = 37 if $? == 255 }

Errors Specific to the Operating System

On some systems, Perl might even be able to give me more information about the error by using the $^E variable. These errors typically come from outside Perl, so even though Perl might not detect a problem using external libraries, the operating system can set its own error variable.

As far as standard Perl is concerned, the value for $^E is usually the same as $!. For the things that the Perl language does I'm not going to get extra information in $^E. On VMS, OS/2, Windows, or MacPerl, I might get extra information, though.

That doesn't mean that platform-specific modules can't use $^E to pass back information. When they talk to other libraries or resources, Perl isn't necessarily going to pick up on errors in those operations. If a library call returns a result indicating failure, Perl might treat it as nothing special. The calling module, however, might be able to interpret the return value, determine it's an error, and then set $^E on its own.

The Mac::Carbon module passes back error information from the Mac interface through $^E, and I can use Mac::Errors to translate that information into the number, symbolic constant, or description for the error. The Mac::Glue program I use to run RealPlayer on another machine I have hooked up to my home stereo system looks at $^E to figure out what went wrong:

        #!/usr/bin/perl
        # mac-realplayer.pl

        use Mac::Errors qw($MacError);
        use Mac::Glue;

        print "Trying machine $ENV{REALPLAYER_MACHINE}...\n";

        my $realplayer = Mac::Glue->new(
                'Realplayer',
                eppc => 'RealPlayer',
                $ENV{REALPLAYER_MACHINE},
                undef, undef,
                map { $ENV{"REALPLAYER_MACHICE_$_"} } qw( USER PASS )
                );

        $realplayer->open_clip( with_url => $ARGV[0] );

        if( $^E )
                {
                my $number = $^E + 0;
                die "$number: $MacError\n";
                }

Several things might go wrong in this program. I require several environment variables and a command-line argument. If I forget to set $ENV{REALPLAYER_MACHINE} or specify a URL on the command line, I get an error telling me something is missing:

        $ perl mac-realplayer.pl
        Trying machine ...
        -1715: a required parameter was not accessed

If I forget to set $ENV{REALPLAYER_MACHINE_USER} or $ENV{REALPLAYER_MACHINE_PASS}, Mac OS X prompts me for a username and password to access the remote machine. If I cancel that dialog, I get a different error showing that I didn't go through the authentication:

        $ perl mac-realplayer.pl
        Trying machine realplayer.local...
        -128: userCanceledErr

For Windows, $^E has whatever Win32::GetLastError() returns. The Win32 family of modules uses $^E to pass back error information. I can use Win32::FormatMessage() to turn the number into a descriptive string. The Text::Template::Simple module, for instance, tries to use the Win32 module to get a Windows path, and if it can't do that, it uses GetLastError:

        package Text::Template::Simple;
        
        if(IS_WINDOWS) {
         require Win32;
         $wdir = Win32::GetFullPathName($self->{cache_dir});
         if( Win32::GetLastError() ) {
            warn "[  FAIL  ] Win32::GetFullPathName\n" if DEBUG;
            $wdir = ''; # croak "Win32::GetFullPathName: $^E";
         }
         else {
            $wdir = '' unless -e $wdir && -d _;
         }
      }

On VMS, if $!{VMSERR} is true, I'll find more information in $^E. Other operating systems may use this too.

Reporting Module Errors

So far I've shown how Perl tells me about errors, but what if I want to tell the programmer about something that went wrong in one of my modules? I have a few ways to do this. I'm going to use Andy Wardley's Template Toolkit to show this since it has all of the examples I need. Other modules might do it their own way.

The simplest thing to do, and probably the one that annoys me the most when I see it, is to set a package variable and let the user check it. I might even set $! myself. I mean, I can do that, but don't mistake that for an endorsement. The Template module sets the $Template::ERROR variable when something goes wrong:

    my $tt = Template->new() || carp $Template::ERROR, "\n";

Package variables aren't very nice, though. They are bad karma and programmers should avoid them when possible. In addition to, and much better than, the package variable is the error class method. Even if I don't get an object when I try to create one, I can still ask the Template class to give me the error:

    my $tt = Template->new() || carp Template->error, "\n";

If I already have an object, I can use error to find out what went wrong with the last operation with that object. The error method returns an error object from Template::Exception. I can inspect the type and description of the error:

        $tt->process( 'index.html' );
        if( my $error = $tt->error )
                {
                croak $error->type . ": " . $error->info;
                }

In this case, I don't need to build the error message myself since the as_string method does it for me:

        $tt->process( 'index.html' );
        if( my $error = $tt->error )
                {
                croak $error->as_string;
                }

I don't even need to call as_string since the object will automatically stringify itself:

        $tt->process( 'index.html' );
        if( my $error = $tt->error )
                {
                croak $error;
                }

Separation of Concerns

The main design at play in error handling in Template is that the return value of a function or method does not report the error. The return value shouldn't do more than the function is supposed to do. I shouldn't overload the return value to be an error communicator too. Sure, I might return nothing when something goes wrong, but even a false value has problems, since 0, the empty string, or the empty list might be perfectly valid values from a successful execution of the subroutine. That's something I have to consider in the design of my own systems.

Suppose I have a function named foo that returns a string. If it doesn't work, it returns nothing. By not giving return a value, the caller gets no value in scalar or list context (which Perl will translate to undef or the empty list):

        sub foo {
                ...
                return unless $it_worked;
                ...
                return $string;
                }

That's simple to document and understand. I certainly don't want to get into a mess of return values. Down that road lies madness and code bloat as even the seemingly simple functions are overrun by code to handle every possible error path. If foo starts to return a different value for everything that goes wrong, I dilute the interesting parts of foo:

        sub foo {
                ...
                return -1 if $this_error;
                return -2 if $that_error;
                ...
                return $string;
                }

Instead, I can store the error information so the programmer can access it after she notices the call doesn't work. I might just add an error slot to the instance or class data. In Template's process method, if anything goes wrong another part of the system handles and stores it. The process method just returns the error:

        # From Template.pm
        sub process {
                my ($self, $template, $vars, $outstream, @opts) = @_;

                ...

                if (defined $output) {
                        ...
                        return 1;
                }
                else {
                        return $self->error($self->{ SERVICE }->error);
                }
        }

The error method actually lives in Template::Base and it does double duty as a method to set and later access the error message. This function lives in the base class because it services all of the modules in the Template family. It's actually quite slick in its simplicity and utility:

        # From Template/Base.pm
        sub error {
                my $self = shift;
                my $errvar;

                {
                no strict qw( refs );
                $errvar = ref $self ? \$self->{ _ERROR } : \${"$self\::ERROR"};
                }
                if (@_) {
                $$errvar = ref($_[0]) ? shift : join('', @_);
                return undef;
                }
                else {
                return $$errvar;
                }
        }

After getting the first argument, it sets up $errvar. If $self is a reference (i.e. called as $tt->error), it must be an instance it looks in $self->{_ERROR}. If $self isn't a reference, it must be a class name (i.e. called as Template->error), so t looks in the package variable to get a reference to the error object. Notice that Andy has to turn off symbolic reference checking there so he can construct the full package specification for whichever class name is in $self, which can be any of the Template modules.

If there are additional arguments left in @_, I must have asked error to set the message so it does that and returns undefThat's not normally a good idea since in list context I end up with ( undef ), a list of one item.. Back in process the return value is just what the error method returns. On the other hand if @_ is empty, it must mean that I'm trying to get the error message so it dereferences $errvar and returns it. That's what I get back in $error in my program.

That's it. Although I may not want to do it exactly the way that Andy did, it's the same basic idea: put the data somewhere else and give the programmer a way to find it. Return an undefined value to signal failure.

Exceptions

Perl doesn't have exceptions. Let's just get that clear right now. Like some other things Perl doesn't really have, people have figured out how to fake them. If you're used to languages, such as Java or Python, set the bar much lower so you aren't too disappointed. In those other languages exceptions are part of the fundamental design and that's how I'm supposed to deal with all errors. Exceptions aren't part of Perl's design, and it's not how Perl programmers tend to deal with errors.

Although I'm not particularly fond of exceptions in Perl, there's a decent argument in favor of them: the programmer has to handle the error or the program stops.

eval

Having said all that, though, I can fake rudimentary exceptions. The easiest method uses a combination of die and eval. The die throws the exception (meaning I have to do it on my own) and the eval catches it so I can handle it. When eval catches an error, it stops the block of code and it puts the error message into $@. After the eval, I check that variable to see if something went wrong:

        eval {
                ...;

                open my($fh), ">", $file
                        or die "Could not open file! $!";
                };
        if ( $@ )
                {
                ...; # catch die message and handle it
                }

The eval might even catch a die several levels away. This "action at a distance" can be quite troubling, especially since there's no way to handle the error, then pick up where the code left off. That means I should try to handle any exceptions as close to their origin as possible.

Multiple Levels of die

If I use die as an exception mechanism, I can propagate its message through several layers of eval. If I don't give die a message, it uses the current value of $@:

        #!/usr/bin/perl
        # chained-die.pl

        eval{
                eval {
                        eval {
                                # start here
                                open my($fh), ">", "/etc/passwd" or die "$!";
                                };
                        if( $@ )
                                {
                                die; # first catch
                                }
                        };
                if( $@ )
                        {
                        die; # second catch
                        }
                };
        if( $@ )
                {
                print "I got $@"; # finally
                }

When I get the error message I see the chain of propagations. The original message Permission denied comes from the first die, and each succeeding die tacks on a ...propagated message until I finally get to something that handles the error:

        I got Permission denied at chained-die.pl line 8.
                ...propagated at chained-die.pl line 12.
                ...propagated at chained-die.pl line 17.

I might use this to try to handle errors and failing that pass the error up to the next level. I modify my first error catch to append some additional information to $@, although I still use die without an argument:

        #!/usr/bin/perl
        # chained-die-more-info.pl

        eval{
                eval {
                        my $file = "/etc/passwd";

                        eval {
                                # start here
                                open my($fh), ">", $file or die "$!";
                                };
                        if( $@ )
                                {
                                my $user = getpwuid( $< );
                                my $mode = ( stat $file )[2];
                                $@ .= sprintf "\t%s mode is %o\n", $file, $mode;
                                $@ .= sprintf( "\t%s is not writable by %s\n", $file, $user )
                                        unless -w $file;
                                die; # first catch
                                }
                        };
                if( $@ )
                        {
                        die; # second catch
                        }
                };
        if( $@ )
                {
                print "I got $@"; # finally
                }

I get the same output as I did before, but with my additions. The subsequent dies just take on their ...propagated message:

        I got Permission denied at chained-die-more-info.pl line 10.
                /etc/passwd mode is 100644
                /etc/passwd is not writable by brian
                ...propagated at chained-die-more-info.pl line 19.
                ...propagated at chained-die-more-info.pl line 24.

die with a Reference

Exceptions need to provide at least three things to be useful: the type of error, where it came from, and the state of the program when the error occurred. Since the eval may be far removed from the point where I threw an exception, I need plenty of information to track down the problem. A string isn't really good enough for that.

I can give die a reference instead of a string. It doesn't matter what sort or reference it is. If I catch that die within an eval, the reference shows up in $@. That means, then, that I can create an exception class and pass around exception objects. When I inspect $@, it has all the object goodness I need to pass around the error information.

In this short program I simply give die an anonymous hash. I use the Perl compiler directives __LINE__ and __PACKAGE__ to insert the current line number and current package as the values, and I make sure that __LINE__ shows up on the line that I want to report (the one with die on it). My hash includes entries for the type of error and a text message too. When I look in $@, I dereference it just like a hash:

        #!/usr/bin/perl
        # die-with-reference.pl

        eval {
                die {   'line'    => __LINE__,
                                'package' => __PACKAGE__,
                                'type'    => 'Demonstration',
                                'message' => 'See, it works!',
                                };
                };

        if ( $@ )
                {
                print "Error type: $@->{type}\n" .
                        "\t$@->{message}\n",
                        "\tat $@->{package} at line $@->{line}\n";
                }

This works with objects too since they are just blessed references, but I have to make an important change. Once I have the object in $@, I need to save it to another variable so I don't lose it. I can call one method on $@ before Perl has a chance to reset its value. It was fine as a simple reference because I didn't do anything that would change $@. As an object, I'm not sure what's going on in the methods that might change it:

        #!/usr/bin/perl
        # die-with-blessed-reference.pl

        use Hash::AsObject;
        use Data::Dumper;

        eval {
                my $error = Hash::AsObject->new(
                        {       'line'    => __LINE__ - 1,
                                'package' => __PACKAGE__,
                                'type'    => 'Demonstration',
                                'message' => 'See, it works!',
                        } );

                die $error;
                };

        if ( $@ )
                {
                my $error = $@; # save it! $@ might be reset later

                print "Error type: " . $error->type . "\n" .
                        "\t"    . $error->message . "\n",
                        "\tat " . $error->package . " at line " . $error->line . "\n";
                }

Propagating Objects with die

Since die without an argument propagates whatever is in $@, it will do that if $@ holds a reference. This next program is similar to my previous chained-die example except that I'm storing the information in an anonymous hash. This makes the error message easier to use later because I can pull out just the parts I need when I want to fix the problem. When I want to change $@, I first get a deep copy of it (see Chapter 14) since anything I might call could reset $@. I put my copy in $error and use it in my die. Once I have my reference, I don't have to parse a string to get the information I need:

        #!/usr/bin/perl
        # chanined-die-reference.pl

        eval{
                eval {
                        my $file = "/etc/passwd";

                        eval {
                                # start here
                                open my($fh), ">", $file or die { errno => $! }
                                };
                        if ( $@ )
                                {
                                use Storable qw(dclone);
                                my $error = dclone( $@ );
                                @{ $error }{ qw( user file mode time ) } = (
                                        scalar getpwuid( $< ),
                                        $file,
                                        (stat $file)[2],
                                        time,
                                        );

                                die $error; # first catch
                                }
                        };
                if ( $@ )
                        {
                        die; # second catch
                        }
                };
        if ( $@ )
                {
                use Data::Dumper;
                print "I got " . Dumper($@) . "\n"; # finally
                }

This gets even better if my reference is an object because I can handle the propagation myself. The special method named PROPAGATE, if it exists, gets a chance to affect $@ and its return value replaces the current value of $@. I modify my previous program to use my own very simple Local::Error package to handle the errors. In Local::Error I skip the usual good module programming practices to illustrate the process. In new I simply bless the first argument into the package and return it. In my first die I use as the argument my Local::Error object. After that each die without an argument uses the value of $@. Since $@ is an object, Perl calls its PROPAGATE method, in which I add a new element to $self->{chain} to show the file and line that passed on the error:

        #!/usr/bin/perl
        # chained-die-propagate.pl
        use strict;
        use warnings;

        package Local::Error;

        sub new { bless $_[1], $_[0] }

        sub PROPAGATE
                {
                my( $self, $file, $line ) = @_;

                $self->{chain} = [] unless ref $self->{chain};
                push @{ $self->{chain} }, [ $file, $line ];

                $self;
                }

        package main;

        eval{
                eval {
                        my $file = "/etc/passwd";

                        eval {
                                # start here
                                unless( open my($fh), ">", $file )
                                        {
                                        die Local::Error->new( { errno => $! } );
                                        }
                                };
                        if( $@ )
                                {
                                die; # first catch
                                }
                        };
                if( $@ )
                        {
                        die; # second catch
                        }
                else
                        {
                        print "Here I am!\n";

                        }
                };
        if( $@ )
                {
                use Data::Dumper;
                print "I got " . Dumper($@) . "\n"; # finally
                }

I just dump the output to show that I now have all of the information easily accessible within my object:

        I got $VAR1 = bless( {
                                         'chain' => [
                                                                  [
                                                                        'chained-die-propagate.pl',
                                                                        37
                                                                  ],
                                                                  [
                                                                        'chained-die-propagate.pl',
                                                                        42
                                                                  ]
                                                                ],
                                         'errno' => 'Permission denied'
                                   }, 'Local::Error' );

My example has been very simple, but I can easily modify it to use a much more useful object to represent exceptions and specific sorts of errors.

Fatal

The Fatal module makes exceptions out of errors from Perl built-ins that normally return false on failure. It uses some of the subroutine wrapping magic I showed in Chapter 10. I don't have to check return values anymore because I'll catch them as exceptions. I have to specify in the Fatal import list exactly which functions should do this:

        use Fatal qw(open);

        open my($fh), '>', $file;

Instead of silently failing, Fatal causes the program to automatically die when the open fails. The message it produces is a string, although not a particularly good-looking one:

        Can't open(GLOB(0x1800664), <, does_not_exist): No such file or directory at (eval 1) line 3
                main::__ANON__('GLOB(0x1800664)', '<', 'does_not_exist') called at 
                        /Users/brian/Dev/mastering_perl/trunk/Scripts/Errors/Fatals.pl line 5

To catch that I wrap an eval around my open to catch the die that Fatal installs:

        use Fatal qw(open);

        eval {
                open my($fh), '>', $file;
                }
        if( $@ )
                {
                print "Could not open $file: $@";
                }

I can also do it the more conventional way by specifying :void in the import list. When I do that, Fatal only does its magic when I don't use the return value of the function. In the next snippet I use the return value in the short-circuit or so Fatal stays out of my way:

        use Fatal qw(:void open);

        open my($fh), ">", $file or die "..."; # no exception

        eval {
                open my($fh), '>', $file;
                }
        if( $@ )
                {
                print "Could not open $file: $@";
                }

I can use Fatal with any of the Perl built-ins except for system and exec, but I have to list all of the functions that I want to affect in the import list. Even if I don't like exceptions, this is a handy module to find the places where I have unchecked calls to open or any other functions that should have a bit of supervision.

Summary

Perl has many ways to report something that goes wrong, and I have to know which one is appropriate for what am I doing. Besides the things that Perl can detect are errors from operating system libraries and other modules.

Further Reading

The perlfunc entries for die and eval explain more of the details.

Arun Udaya Shankar covers "Object Oriented Exception Handling in Perl" for Perl.com: http://www.perl.com/pub/a/2002/11/14/exception.html. He shows the Error module, which provides an exception syntax that looks more like Java than Perl with its try-catch-finally blocks.

POD ERRORS

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