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Exception::Class - A module that allows you to declare real exception classes in Perl


  use Exception::Class
      ( 'MyException',

        'AnotherException' =>
        { isa => 'MyException' },

        'YetAnotherException' =>
        { isa => 'AnotherException',
          description => 'These exceptions are related to IPC' },

        'ExceptionWithFields' =>
        { isa => 'YetAnotherException',
          fields => [ 'grandiosity', 'quixotic' ],
          alias => 'throw_fields',

  # try
  eval { MyException->throw( error => 'I feel funny.'; };

  # catch
  if ( $@ && ref $@ && $@->isa('MyException') )
     warn $@->error, "\n, $@->trace->as_string, "\n";
     warn join ' ',  $@->euid, $@->egid, $@->uid, $@->gid, $@->pid, $@->time;

  elsif ( $@->isa('ExceptionWithFields') )
     $@->quixotic ? do_something_wacky() : do_something_sane();

  # use an alias - without parens subroutine name is checked at
  # compile time
  throw_fields error => "No strawberry", grandiosity => "quite a bit";


Exception::Class allows you to declare exception hierarchies in your modules in a "Java-esque" manner.

It features a simple interface allowing programmers to 'declare' exception classes at compile time. It also has a base exception class, Exception::Class::Base, that can be easily extended.

It is designed to make structured exception handling simpler and better by encouraging people to use hierarchies of exceptions in their applications, as opposed to a single catch-all exception class.

This module does not implement any try/catch syntax. Please see the "OTHER EXCEPTION MODULES (try/catch syntax)" section for more information on how to get this syntax.


Importing Exception::Class allows you to automagically create Exception::Class::Base subclasses. You can also create subclasses via the traditional means of defining your own subclass with @ISA. These two methods may be easily combined, so that you could subclass an exception class defined via the automagic import, if you desired this.

The syntax for the magic declarations is as follows:

'MANDATORY CLASS NAME' => \%optional_hashref

The hashref may contain the following options:

  • isa

    This is the class's parent class. If this isn't provided then the class name in $Exception::Class::BASE_EXC_CLASS is assumed to be the parent (see below).

    This parameter lets you create arbitrarily deep class hierarchies. This can be any other Exception::Class::Base subclass in your declaration or a subclass loaded from a module.

    To change the default exception class you will need to change the value of $Exception::Class::BASE_EXC_CLASS before calling import. To do this simply do something like this:

    BEGIN { $Exception::Class::BASE_EXC_CLASS = 'SomeExceptionClass'; }

    If anyone can come up with a more elegant way to do this please let me know.

    CAVEAT: If you want to automagically subclass an Exception::Class::Base subclass loaded from a file, then you must compile the class (via use or require or some other magic) before you import Exception::Class or you'll get a compile time error.

  • fields

    This allows you to define additional attributes for your exception class. Any field you define can be passed to the throw or new methods as additional parameters for the constructor. In addition, your exception object will have an accessor method for the fields you define.

    This parameter can be either a scalar (for a single field) or an array reference if you need to define multiple fields.

    Fields will be inherited by subclasses.

  • alias

    Specifying an alias causes this class to create a subroutine of the specified name in the caller's namespace. Calling this subroutine is equivalent to calling <class>->throw(@_) for the given exception class.

    Besides convenience, using aliases also allows for additional compile time checking. If the alias is called without parentheses, as in throw_fields "an error occurred", then Perl checks for the existence of the throw_fields() subroutine at compile time. If instead you do ExceptionWithFields->throw(...), then Perl checks the class name at runtime, meaning that typos may sneak through.

  • description

    Each exception class has a description method that returns a fixed string. This should describe the exception class (as opposed to any particular exception object). This may be useful for debugging if you start catching exceptions you weren't expecting (particularly if someone forgot to document them) and you don't understand the error messages.

The Exception::Class magic attempts to detect circular class hierarchies and will die if it finds one. It also detects missing links in a chain, for example if you declare Bar to be a subclass of Foo and never declare Foo.

Exception::Class::Base CLASS METHODS

  • Trace($boolean)

    Each Exception::Class::Base subclass can be set individually to include a a stracktrace when the as_string method is called. The default is to not include a stacktrace. Calling this method with a value changes this behavior. It always returns the current value (after any change is applied).

    This value is inherited by any subclasses. However, if this value is set for a subclass, it will thereafter be independent of the value in Exception::Class::Base.

    This is a class method, not an object method.

  • NoRefs($boolean)

    When a Devel::StackTrace is created, it walks through the stack and stores the arguments which were passed to each subroutine on the stack. If any of these arguments are references, then that means that the Devel::StackTrace ends up increasing the refcount of these references, delaying their destruction.

    Since Exception::Class::Base uses Devel::StackTrace internally, this method provides a way to tell Devel::StackTrace not to store these references. Instead, Devel::StackTrace replaces references with their stringified representation.

    This method defaults to false. As with Trace, it is inherited by subclasses but setting it in a subclass makes it independent thereafter.

  • throw( $message )

  • throw( message => $message )

  • throw( error => $error )

    This method creates a new Exception::Class::Base object with the given error message. If no error message is given, $! is used. It then die's with this object as its argument.

    This method also takes a show_trace parameter which indicates whether or not the particular exception object being created should show a stacktrace when its as_string method is called. This overrides the value of Trace for this class if it is given.

    If only a single value is given to the constructor it is assumed to be the message parameter.

    Additional keys corresponding to the fields defined for the particular exception subclass will also be accepted.

  • new

    This method takes the same parameters as throw, but instead of dying simply returns a new exception object.

  • description

    Returns the description for the given Exception::Class::Base subclass. The Exception::Class::Base class's description is "Generic exception" (this may change in the future). This is also an object method.

Exception::Class::Base OBJECT METHODS

  • rethrow

    Simply dies with the object as its sole argument. It's just syntactic sugar. This does not change any of the object's attribute values. However, it will cause caller to report the die as coming from within the Exception::Class::Base class rather than where rethrow was called.

    Of course, you always have access to the original stacktrace for the exception object.

  • message

  • error

    Returns the error/message associated with the exception.

  • pid

    Returns the pid at the time the exception was thrown.

  • uid

    Returns the real user id at the time the exception was thrown.

  • gid

    Returns the real group id at the time the exception was thrown.

  • euid

    Returns the effective user id at the time the exception was thrown.

  • egid

    Returns the effective group id at the time the exception was thrown.

  • time

    Returns the time in seconds since the epoch at the time the exception was thrown.

  • package

    Returns the package from which the exception was thrown.

  • file

    Returns the file within which the exception was thrown.

  • line

    Returns the line where the exception was thrown.

  • trace

    Returns the trace object associated with the object.

  • show_trace($boolean)

    This method can be used to set whether or not a strack trace is included when the as_string method is called or the object is stringified.

  • as_string

    Returns a string form of the error message (something like what you'd expect from die). If the class or object is set to show traces then then the full trace is also included. The result looks like Carp::confess.

  • full_message

    Called by the as_string method to get the message. By default, this is the same as calling the message method, but may be overridden by a subclass. See below for details.


The Exception::Class::Base object is overloaded so that stringification produces a normal error message. It just calls the as_string method described above. This means that you can just print $@ after an eval and not worry about whether or not its an actual object. It also means an application or module could do this:

 $SIG{__DIE__} = sub { Exception::Class::Base->throw( error => join '', @_ ); };

and this would probably not break anything (unless someone was expecting a different type of exception object from die).


By default, the as_string method simply returns the value message or error param plus a stack trace, if the class's Trace method returns a true value or show_trace was set when creating the exception.

However, once you add new fields to a subclass, you may want to include those fields in the stringified error.

Inside the as_string method, the message (non-stack trace) portion of the error is generated by calling the full_message method. This can be easily overridden. For example:

  sub full_message
      my $self = shift;

      my $msg = $self->message;

      $msg .= " and foo was " . $self->foo;

      return $msg;


If you're creating a complex system that throws lots of different types of exceptions, consider putting all the exception declarations in one place. For an app called Foo you might make a Foo::Exceptions module and use that in all your code. This module could just contain the code to make Exception::Class do its automagic class creation. Doing this allows you to more easily see what exceptions you have, and makes it easier to keep track of them.

This might look something like this:

  package Foo::Bar::Exceptions;

  use Exception::Class ( Foo::Bar::Exception::Senses =>
                        { description => 'sense-related exception' },

                         Foo::Bar::Exception::Smell =>
                         { isa => 'Foo::Bar::Exception::Senses',
                           fields => 'odor',
                           description => 'stinky!' },

                         Foo::Bar::Exception::Taste =>
                         { isa => 'Foo::Bar::Exception::Senses',
                           fields => [ 'taste', 'bitterness' ],
                           description => 'like, gag me with a spoon!' },

                         ... );

You may want to create a real module to subclass Exception::Class::Base as well, particularly if you want your exceptions to have more methods.

OTHER EXCEPTION MODULES (try/catch syntax)

If you are interested in adding try/catch/finally syntactic sugar to your code then I recommend you check out U. Arun Kumar's module, which implements this syntax. It also includes its own base exception class, Error::Simple.

If you would prefer to use the Exception::Class::Base class included with this module, you'll have to add this to your code somewhere:

  push @Exception::Class::Base::ISA, 'Error';

It's a hack but apparently it works.


Dave Rolsky, <>


Devel::StackTrace - used by this module to create stack traces - implements try/catch in Perl. Also provides an exception base class.

Test::Exception - a module that helps you test exception based code.

Numerous other modules/frameworks seem to have their own exception classes (SPOPS and Template Toolkit, to name two) but none of these seem to be designed for use outside of these packages.