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5.6.6 try/catch/finally

5.6.6 try/catch/finally

The try/catch/finally statement is JavaScript’s exception handling mechanism. The try clause of this statement simply defines the block of code whose exceptions are to be handled. The try block is followed by a catch clause, which is a block of statements that are invoked when an exception occurs anywhere within the try block. The catch clause is followed by a finally block containing cleanup code that is guaranteed to be executed, regardless of what happens in the try block. Both the catch and finally blocks are optional, but a tryblock must be accompanied by at least one of these blocks. The try, catch, and finally blocks all begin and end with curly braces. These braces are a required part of the syntax and cannot be omitted, even if a clause contains only a single statement.

The following code illustrates the syntax and purpose of the try/catch/finally statement:

try {

// Normally, this code runs from the top of the block to the bottom

// without problems. But it can sometimes throw an exception,

// either directly, with a throw statement, or indirectly, by calling

// a method that throws an exception.


catch (e) {

// The statements in this block are executed if, and only if, the try

// block throws an exception. These statements can use the local variable

// e to refer to the Error object or other value that was thrown.

// This block may handle the exception somehow, may ignore the

// exception by doing nothing, or may rethrow the exception with throw.


finally {

// This block contains statements that are always executed, regardless of

// what happens in the try block. They are executed whether the try

// block terminates:

// 1) normally, after reaching the bottom of the block

// 2) because of a break, continue, or return statement

// 3) with an exception that is handled by a catch clause above

// 4) with an uncaught exception that is still propagating


Note that the catch keyword is followed by an identifier in parentheses. This identifier is like a function parameter. When an exception is caught, the value associated with the exception (an Error object, for example) is assigned to this parameter. Unlike regular variables, the identifier associated with a catch clause has block scope—it is only defined within the catch block.

Here is a realistic example of the try/catch statement. It uses the factorial() method defined in the previous section and the client-side JavaScript methods prompt() and alert() for input and output:

try {

// Ask the user to enter a number

var n = Number(prompt("Please enter a positive integer", ""));

// Compute the factorial of the number, assuming the input is valid

var f = factorial(n);

// Display the result

alert(n + "! = " + f);


catch (ex) { // If the user's input was not valid, we end up here

alert(ex); // Tell the user what the error is


This example is a try/catch statement with no finally clause. Although finally is not used as often as catch, it can be useful. However, its behavior requires additional explanation. The finally clause is guaranteed to be executed if any portion of the try block is executed, regardless of how the code in the try block completes. It is generally used to clean up after the code in the try clause.

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In the normal case, the JavaScript interpreter reaches the end of the try block and then proceeds to the finallyblock, which performs any necessary cleanup. If the interpreter left the try block because of a return, continue, or break statement, the finally block is executed before the interpreter jumps to its new destination.

If an exception occurs in the try block and there is an associated catch block to handle the exception, the interpreter first executes the catchblock and then the finallyblock. If there is no local catch block to handle the exception, the interpreter first executes the finally block and then jumps to the nearest containing catch clause.

If a finallyblock itself causes a jump with a return, continue, break, or throwstatement, or by calling a method that throws an exception, the interpreter abandons whatever jump was pending and performs the new jump. For example, if a finallyclause throws an exception, that exception replaces any exception that was in the process of being thrown. If a finally clause issues a return statement, the method returns normally, even if an exception has been thrown and has not yet been handled.

try and finally can be used together without a catch clause. In this case, the finally block is simply cleanup code that is guaranteed to be executed, regardless of what happens in the try block. Recall that we can’t completely simulate a for loop with a while loop because the continue statement behaves differently for the two loops. If we add a try/finally statement, we can write a while loop that works like a for loop and that handles continue statements correctly:

// Simulate for( initialize ; test ; increment ) body;

initialize ;

while( test ) {

try { body ; }

finally { increment ; }


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