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Logging vs. Reporting Exceptions in Visual Studio

In an earlier tip I disagreed with one of Microsoft's recommendations for handling exceptions. I figure I'm on a roll, so here's another objection to some Microsoft advice on handling errors.

In Microsoft's reference documentation for the Exception object's ToString method, Microsoft recommends using Exception object's ToString method to report errors. The Remarks section of the documentation says that the exception's ToString method "returns a representation of the current exception that is intended to be understood by humans."

That's true if, I guess, by "humans," you actually mean "developers."

Let me make my point. Here's what you'll find in the DivideByZeroException object's Message property:

Attempted to divide by zero.

Here's what's returned by the ToString method:

System.DivideByZeroException: Attempted to divide by zero. at CustomerManagement.CreditManagement.CreditManagement_Load(Object sender, EventArgs e) in C:\\Users\\peter\\Source\\Repos\\Customers\\CustomerManagement\\CreditManagement.cs:line 30

Don't get me wrong: I think that the output of the ToString method is a great thing to put into your application's log file. I also think that inflicting that on a defenseless user is just mean. I think what's in the Message property is what you should give to the user.

Having said all that, however, I'm not suggesting you ignore Microsoft's advice on the Exception object's ToString method. The Remarks also say "The default implementation of ToString obtains the name of the class that threw the current exception, the message, the result of calling ToString on the inner exception, and the result of calling Environment.StackTrace." Precisely because it does make a good log file entry, I think you should be making sure that's what the ToString method does when you create your own custom exception object.

Posted by Peter Vogel on 06/03/2019 at 8:32 AM

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