Apr, 2015

Sometimes Checked Exceptions

The more (Java) code I write, the more I dislike checked exceptions. In the last weeks, I wrote a lot methods which needed to catch an exception which can never occur. But checked exceptions were introduced for a reason, so I wondered how I would improve exceptions in my own ideal Java.

Examples of nasty checked exceptions

I wrote a builder for generating soap request with Javas SOAP API (javax.xml.soap). It seems that this API throws an SOAPException in each method. Of course I implemented the builder in a way that the users could not create invalid requests. Every time a SOAPException occurs it is definitely a bug in the builder. Of course I don’t throw the SOAPException in my API, I don’t want my user’s to handle them. But I need to invest some time to make my builder code readable although I had to catch a lot of SOAPExceptions.

In another example I searched a class annotated with a specific annotation and a specific annotation value. In the code I needed to use Class.forName(classForAnnotationValue). This throws an ClassNotFoundException. But I just found the class in the classpath! Afterwards I call .newInstance() also throwing two exceptions (InstantiationException and IllegalAccessException).

A good reason for checked exceptions

Of course there are good reasons why checked exceptions were introduced. Developers are forced to think about typical exceptional behaviour. It is possible that you try to create an instance of an interface or an abstract class, which is not possible. Or that you try to instantiate an object of a class only having a private constructor. Of course in a lot of cases, searching a class for a string will return no result and therefore it is very good to force the programmer to think about how his program should react if there is no class for the given string. And let’s be honest, who would read the JavaDoc and check which runtime exceptions are thrown and would decide which he should handle and which not? (Maybe we would do, if checked exceptions had never exist..) But if you know that the checked exception you are caching will never occur, it is just annoying to have the boiler plate try-catch-block.

So what to do instead

In my own ideal Java I would have a ‘sometimes checked exceptions’ concept. Sometimes checked exceptions are checked exceptions which you can ignore (similar to PMD rules). If you call a method throwing a checked exception, you would get a compiler warning (a warning, not a compiler error) and of course your IDE would mark the method call. There are two possibilities to handle this warning:

  1. Just use the known try-catch-block
  2. Ignore the exception explicitly (e.g. by an annotation, similar to @SuppressWarnings)

I’m not quite sure which is the most clever way to suppress the warning. Maybe an annotation is not the best way, but obviously a way that will work. If the exception is suppressed and occurs against expectation it is thrown as a runtime exception.


This concept is not finished yet. Maybe there is something I miss, but it feels good and it would reduce a lot of boiler plate code. The code would not only be shorter and cleaner, but also more easy to understand.

I am sure that I am not the first person having such an idea. If you know such a concept or somebody having the same idea, please let me know! I am also very curious what you think about it. Are there any situations where this won’t work?