Studying the Prevalence of Exception Handling Anti-Patterns

Guilherme B. de Pádua, Weiyi Shang

Modern programming languages, such as Java and C#, typically provide features that handle exceptions. These features separate error-handling code from regular source code and are proven to enhance the practice of software reliability, comprehension, and maintenance. Having acknowledged the advantages of exception handling features, the misuse of them can still cause catastrophic software failures, such as application crash. Prior studies suggested anti-patterns of exception handling; while little knowledge was shared about the prevalence of these anti-patterns. In this paper, we investigate the prevalence of exception-handling anti-patterns. We collected a thorough list of exception anti-patterns from 16 open-source Java and C# libraries and applications using an automated exception flow analysis tool. We found that although exception handling anti- patterns widely exist in all of our subjects, only a few anti- patterns (e.g. Unhandled Exceptions, Catch Generic, Unreachable Handler, Over-catch, and Destructive Wrapping) can be commonly identified. On the other hand, we find that the prevalence of anti- patterns illustrates differences between C# and Java. Our results call for further in-depth analyses on the exception handling practices across different languages.

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