Exceptions are usually avoided in control programs in favour of c style error handling (return values) because the stack winding/unwinding is too costly an overhead for control/embedded programs. However there are some instances where it is useful.


Constructors cannot usually provide a means to return with detailed information when something goes wrong - however they can with exceptions. This is especially useful for raii (resource acquisition is initialisation) classes where a class is completely initialised and enabled in the constructor. Since speed is not usually of the essence in program configuration and setup (particularly in control programs where only the control loop needs to be fast) many classes can take advantage of exception handling in their constructors in this phase of the program.


Another is to provide a path back up the program heirarchy to ascertain where bugs really occurred. Often a macro-function will only give you the point of failure, which is usually in a library object somewhere - it doesn't let you retrieve where your program caused the failure higher up. Throwing, rethrowing and catching exceptions, in debug mode, can do this.

However, again, be careful of using exceptions in areas of your code which need to be fast. The stack winding will slow your program down.


  • Standard exceptions
  • Data throwing exceptions
  • Debug only exceptions
  • Assert style exceptions
  • Exception rethrowing

Compiling & Linking

Include the following at the top of any translation unit:

   1 #include <ecl/exceptions.hpp>
   3 // The exception classes
   4 using ecl::StandardException;
   5 using ecl::DataException;
   7 // Error flags (from ecl_errors)
   8 using ecl::ConfigurationError;
   9 using ecl::InvalidInputError;
  10 // ...

If outside ros, you will also need to link to ecl_exceptions.



  • src/examples/exceptions.cpp : coverage style test for exceptions.

  • src/examples/exception_tracer.cpp : getting a backtrace via exceptions, posix style.


These are in ecl_core_apps.

  • /src/benchmarks/exceptions.cpp : benchmarks the latencies for exception handling.


The use of exceptions here doesn't exactly conform to the c++ 'ideal' for exception handling in a library. For that you should derive from the std exception classes, particularly runtime_error and logic_error and have a single class for each type of error (we've bundled all the ecl standard errors into two classes here - Standard and Data). However I can't seem to find a really good reason at this point in time to circumvent the convenient practicality of ecl_exceptions. I think this is because the purpose of this library is to present a standard set of error types across platforms, no need to keep making new exception classes for every new class, package or platform implementation in the ecl.

The only reason that might motivate a change in policy is if the ecl is used in very heirarchical programs which require floating different exception types to different levels depending on their type (e.g. you might want to catch an is_busy error early and recover, whilst letting a configuration_error float to the top).

Wiki: ecl_exceptions (last edited 2012-01-20 02:25:42 by DanielStonier)