[swift-evolution] Throws? and throws!

Xiaodi Wu xiaodi.wu at gmail.com
Thu Jan 12 17:50:10 CST 2017

Some additional thoughts: if I recall correctly from my (limited) Java
days, throwing in Java worked essentially like your proposed `throws!`.
That the Swift model expressly deviates from that example was not by
accident, as far as I can tell. According to the error handling docs in the
Swift repo:

"Once an error is thrown, Swift will automatically propagate it out of
scopes (that permit it), rather than relying on the programmer to manually
check for errors and do their own control flow. This is just a lot less
boilerplate for common error handling tasks. However, doing this naively
would introduce a lot of implicit control flow, which makes it difficult to
reason about the function's behavior. This is a serious maintenance problem
and has traditionally been a considerable source of bugs in languages that
heavily use exceptions.

"Therefore, while Swift automatically propagates errors, it requires that
statements and expressions that can implicitly throw be marked with the
`try` keyword."

So I think what this is saying is that requiring `try` _every time_ is core
to the design of Swift error handling, and that `throws!` or even `throws?`
would undo it.

On Thu, Jan 12, 2017 at 5:35 PM, Xiaodi Wu <xiaodi.wu at gmail.com> wrote:

> On Thu, Jan 12, 2017 at 4:58 PM, Jonathan Hull via swift-evolution <
> swift-evolution at swift.org> wrote:
>> I really like swift’s error handling system overall. It strikes a good
>> balance between safety and usability.
>> There are some cases where it would be nice to throw errors, but errors
>> are rarely expected in most use cases, so the overhead of ‘try’, etc… would
>> make things unusable. Thus fatalError or optionals are used instead.  For
>> example, operators like ‘+’ could never throw because adding ’try’
>> everywhere would make arithmetic unbearable. But in a few cases it would
>> make my algorithm much cleaner if I just assume it will work and then catch
>> overflow/underflow errors if they happen, and resolve each of them with
>> special cases.  Or perhaps I am dealing with user entered values, and want
>> to stop the calculation and display a user visible error (e.g. a symbol in
>> a spreadsheet cell) instead of crashing.
> Unless I'm mistaken, there is a performance overhead for throwing
> functions, and thus a much greater barrier to the use cases outlined above
> is that the performance penalty for '+' would be unacceptable in any case,
> whatever syntactic sugar you could come up with.
>> I would like to propose adding ‘throws?’ and ‘throws!’ variants to
>> ‘throws’.
>> These would be used for cases where error handling is not the default
>> desired behavior, but having it as an option is desired occasionally.
> While I admit the idea has an appeal on a practical level, I have an
> uncomfortable feeling about this. It's by definition true that error
> handling is never the default desired behavior, and if I recall correctly
> the performance of Swift error handling is tuned on the assumption that not
> throwing is far more common than throwing. If we accept this statement at
> face value as the justification for including `throws!`, then essentially
> all `throws` should be `throws!`. And indeed I suspect that if the feature
> were be implemented, that would rapidly become the case in much written
> Swift. In essence, then, I think you're effectively proposing to invert the
> assignment of responsibility for determining how errors are handled from
> the call site to the declaration site, at least by default. It goes against
> an overarching design principle in Swift (discussed earlier in the thread
> about DefaultConstructible) not to provide such defaults and to require
> explicitness at the call site.
> Essentially, the user would no longer have to preface the call with ‘try’,
>> as the compiler would implicitly add ‘try?’ or ‘try!’ respectively.
>> Thus, the function would act like a non-throwing function (either
>> trapping or returning an optional in the case of error), but the user could
>> add ‘try’ to the call to override that behavior and deal with the error
>> more explicitly.
>> Another example would be bounds checking on arrays.  If subscripting
>> arrays was marked as ‘throws!’ then it would have the same default behavior
>> it does now (trapping on bounds error).  But a user could add ‘try?’ to
>> return nil for a bounds error in cases where they explicitly want that, or
>> they could add ‘try’ to deal with it as an error using do-catch.
> Subscripts cannot throw at all at the moment, and in another thread some
> of the challenges for designing throwing subscripts were just mentioned. I
> suspect any sort of throwing subscript will not be possible in the
> immediate future, so the argument for `throws!` here is moot.
> I think this would really increase the availability of error handling in
>> areas where it is impractical right now…
> I think the practical argument could be made stronger by use cases not
> encumbered by other difficulties as outlined above. Is there a currently
> throwing function you've encountered that would be greatly improved by such
> a feature? Besides that, though, my discomfort is (as mentioned above) that
> the practical effect of such a feature is that it will actually altogether
> invert the default responsibility for error handling, and I'm not sure that
> it's entirely consistent with Swift's design as a consequence. In any case
> it'd be a far greater change than you've made it out to be. Interesting
> suggestion, definitely.
> Thanks,
>> Jon
>> _______________________________________________
>> swift-evolution mailing list
>> swift-evolution at swift.org
>> https://lists.swift.org/mailman/listinfo/swift-evolution
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <https://lists.swift.org/pipermail/swift-evolution/attachments/20170112/aef6d037/attachment.html>

More information about the swift-evolution mailing list