Exceptions, Errors and asserts in Dart

Suragch
Suragch
Feb 19 · 3 min read

What’s the difference?

Photo by Sarah Kilian on Unsplash

Background

  • An Error, on the other hand, is for developers who are using your code. You throw an Error to let them know that they are using your code wrong. As the developer using an API, you shouldn't catch errors. You should let them crash your app. Let the crash be a message to you that you need to go find out what you're doing wrong.
  • An assert is similar to an Error in that it is for reporting bad states that should never happen. The difference is that asserts are only checked in debug mode. They are completely ignored in production mode.

Read more on the difference between Exception and Error here.

Next, here are a few examples to see how each is used in the Flutter source code.

Example of throwing an Exception

@optionalTypeArgs
Future<T?> _invokeMethod<T>(String method, { required bool missingOk, dynamic arguments }) async {
assert(method != null);
final ByteData? result = await binaryMessenger.send(
name,
codec.encodeMethodCall(MethodCall(method, arguments)),
);
if (result == null) {
if (missingOk) {
return null;
}
throw MissingPluginException('No implementation found for method $method on channel $name');
}
return codec.decodeEnvelope(result) as T;
}

The MissingPluginException here is a planned bad state that might occur. If it happens, users of the platform channel API need to be ready to handle that.

Example of throwing an Error

TargetPlatform _currentHostPlatform(Platform platform) {
if (platform.isMacOS) {
return TargetPlatform.darwin_x64;
}
if (platform.isLinux) {
return TargetPlatform.linux_x64;
}
if (platform.isWindows) {
return TargetPlatform.windows_x64;
}
throw UnimplementedError('Host OS not supported.');
}

First every possibility is exhausted and then the error is thrown. This should be theoretically impossible. But if it is thrown, then it is either a sign to the API user that you’re using it wrong, or a sign to the API maintainer that they need to handle another case.

Example of using asserts

OverlayEntry({
@required this.builder,
bool opaque = false,
bool maintainState = false,
}) : assert(builder != null),
assert(opaque != null),
assert(maintainState != null),
_opaque = opaque,
_maintainState = maintainState;

The pattern in the Flutter source code is to use asserts liberally in the initializer list in constructors. They are far more common that Errors.

Summary

I originally published this article as a Stack Overflow answer here.

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