Throw JavaScript errors with extra information

12 May 2020   0 comments   Node, JavaScript

Did you know, if you can create your own new Error instance and attach your own custom properties on that? This can come in very handy when you, from the caller, want to get more structured information from the error without relying on the error message.

// WRONG ⛔️

try {
  for (const i of [...Array(10000).keys()]) {
    if (Math.random() > 0.999) {
      throw new Error(`Failed at ${i}`);
    }
  }
} catch (err) {
  const iteration = parseInt(err.toString().match(/Failed at (\d+)/)[1]);
  console.warn(`Made it to ${iteration}`);
}

// RIGHT ✅

try {
  for (const i of [...Array(10000).keys()]) {
    if (Math.random() > 0.999) {
      const failure = new Error(`Failed at ${i}`);
      failure.iteration = i;
      throw failure;
    }
  }
} catch (err) {
  const iteration = err.iteration;
  console.warn(`Made it to ${iteration}`);
}

The above examples are obviously a bit contrived but you have to imagine that whatever code can throw an error might be "far away" from where you deal with errors thrown. For example, imagine you start off a build and you want to get extra information about what the context was. In Python, you use exception classes as a form of natural filtering but JavaScript doesn't have that. Using custom error properties can be a great tool to separate unexpected errors from expected errors.

Bonus - Checking for the custom property

Imagine this refactoring:

try {
  for (const i of [...Array(10000).keys()]) {
    if (Math.random() > 0.999) {
      const failure = new Error(`Failed at ${i}`);
      failure.iteration = i;
      throw failure;
    }
    if (Math.random() < 0.001) {
      throw new Error("something else is wrong");
    }
  }
} catch (err) {
  const iteration = err.iteration;
  console.warn(`Made it to ${iteration}`);
}

With that code it's very possible you'd get Made it to undefined. So here's how you'd make the distinction:

try {
  for (const i of [...Array(10000).keys()]) {
    if (Math.random() > 0.999) {
      const failure = new Error(`Failed at ${i}`);
      failure.iteration = i;
      throw failure;
    }
    if (Math.random() < 0.001) {
      throw new Error("something else is wrong");
    }
  }
} catch (err) {
  if (err.hasOwnProperty("iteration")) {
    const iteration = err.iteration;
    console.warn(`Made it to ${iteration}`);
  } else {
    throw err;
  }
}

```

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