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Use of std::bad_exception

std::bad_exception is a useful device to handle unexpected exceptions in a C++ program , which works in conjunction with unexpected_handler. unexpected_handler and terminate_handler are a traditional way of dealing with unknown exceptions. std::set_unexpected () and std::set_terminate () functions let us register custom handlers instead of standard handlers, which usually abort the program. More information can be found here.

Assuming g++ 4.0.2 complies with the standard in this area, I verified that if function f() throws an exception that is not listed in its exception specification list, our custom function pointed to by the unexpected_handler is invoked if we have set one. If our custom handler rethrows whatever unknown exception caused the unexpected() to be invoked, following things happen.

* If the exception specification of f() included the class std::bad_exception, unexpected() will throw an object of type std::bad_exception, and the C++ run time will search for another handler at the call of f(). So basically, you have an opportunity to translate the unknown exception into a std::bad_exception from within your custom handler by simply rethrowing. This is useful because now you can catch std::bad_exception and can print meaningful diagnostic message. I also saw that uncaught_exception() returns false.

* If the exception specification of f() did not include the class std::bad_exception, the function terminate() is called. You can of course set a terminate handler but you have to terminate the program from this point onwards because C++ runtime will terminate it anyways!

A simple program can make this a lot clear.

void my_unexpected ()
if (!std::uncaught_exception())
std::cerr << "my_unexpected called\n";
void my_terminate ()
std::cerr << "my_terminate called\n";
void func ()
std::cerr << "func called\n";
void g () throw (std::bad_exception, int)
throw 1.0; // throws double

int main (void)
std::set_unexpected (my_unexpected);
std::set_terminate (my_terminate);
atexit (func);
try {
catch (int) {
std::cerr << "caught int\n";
catch (std::bad_exception e) {
std::cerr << "bad_exception \n";
return 0;


my_unexpected called
func called


Ivan Novick said…
In regards to exception specifications, I like the Morals from Herb Sutter's article:

Moral #1 Never write an exception specification
Moral #2: Except possibly an empty one, but if I were you I’d avoid even that.

Anonymous said…
This code doesn't work as expected on VS2005.
Sumant said…
That's right, but the reason is lack of proper support in Visual Studio for exception specification part of the C++ standard. Please see: set_unexpected (exception) in MSDN library.
xander345 said…
if you like c++ you can compile it online here:

32, 64 - windows & Linux - and more programming languages

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