Boost C++ Libraries of the most highly regarded and expertly designed C++ library projects in the world. Herb Sutter and Andrei Alexandrescu, C++ Coding Standards

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Type std::error_code has been designed to be sufficiently small and trivial to be cheaply passed around, and at the same time be able to store sufficient information to represent any error situation from any library/sub-system in the world without a clash. Its representation is basically:

class error_code
  error_category* domain; // domain from which the error originates
  int             value;  // numeric value of error within the domain

Here, domain indicates the library from which the error originates. It is a pointer to a global object representing a given library/domain. Different libraries will be represented by different pointers to different globals. Each domain is expected to be represented by a global object derived from std::error_category. The uniqueness of the domain pointer value is guaranteed by the uniqueness of addresses of different global objects.

Now, value represents a numeric value of a particular error situation within the domain. Thus, different domains can use the same numeric value 1 to indicate different error situations, but two std::error_code objects will be different because the pointers representing domains will be different.

std::error_code comes with additional tools: a facility for defining custom domains with their set of error codes, and a facility for building predicates that allow classifying errors.

Once created and passed around (either inside a thrown exception or returned from functions by value) there is never a need to change the value of error_code object at any level. But at different levels one can use different predicates for classifying error situations appropriately to the program layer.

When a new library needs to represent its own set of error situations in an error_code it first has to declare the list of numeric value as an enumeration:

enum class ConvertErrc
  StringTooLong = 1, // 0 should not represent an error
  EmptyString   = 2,
  IllegalChar   = 3,

Then it has to put some boiler-plate code to plug the new enumeration into the std::error_code system. Then, it can use the enum as an error_code:

std::error_code ec = ConvertErrc::EmptyString;
assert(ec == ConvertErrc::EmptyString);

Member value is mapped directly from the numeric value in the enumeration, and member domain is mapped from the type of the enumeration. Thus, this is a form of type erasure, but one that does allow type std::error_code to be trivial and standard-layout.

Last revised: January 16, 2019 at 01:05:39 +0100

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