General overview about Error Handling in FileMaker

Error handling is a big deal; and this website could stand to have at least one, if not several, pages dealing with it. The following collected ideas relate to error behavior in scripting, but it may become appropriate to split recommendations into separate pages for Standards, Best Practices, and Accepted Techniques based on the discussion of these issues. Ideas may be added or removed in the process. Please make suggestions.

"Error handling" is an umbrella term for how an application programmatically responds to errors. It's also too vague for a comprehensive discussion of error handling behaviors. A script can react to an error in any of several ways, and may respond to any one error with more than one of these behaviors:

It is also useful to distinguish between an error and a fault in execution of a script. A fault is something that went wrong; an error is what a script detects when a fault happens. For example:

Some possible guidelines to consider when scripting error behavior:

Resolve an error, or report it, but not both. A script that encountered and resolved an error did manage to complete its expected task, so reporting the error is likely to lead to problems when a user or calling script takes action assuming the task was not completed. So either resolve, or abort and report. This corresponds to the strong exception guarantee.

Use an error dictionary custom function. Some functions already exist that retrieve human-readable descriptions of FileMaker-generated error codes. (For example, ErrorString.) If you use one of these functions, remember to augment it with any additional custom error codes you use in your solutions.

When reasonable, respect the error capture state that was active when a script was initially called, i.e., don't present errors to users if a parent script is capturing errors, and therefore assuming responsibility for reporting errors to users. A parent script has broader context, and is better positioned to provide a helpful response to an unresolved error. This idea might be extended by differentiating script roles along similar lines to the model-view-controller model.

# Beginning of script
Set Variable [$errorCaptureOn; Value:Get ( ErrorCaptureState )]
Set Error Capture [On]
If [$error and not $errorCaptureOn]
	# Report error to user
	Show Custom Dialog [Get ( ScriptName ); "Encountered error: " & $error]
End If
# End of script
If [not $errorCaptureOn]
	Set Error Capture [Off]
End If

When reporting an error to a user, include steps to take to address the problem. For example, a "Free Lunch" script may ask the user to pre-pay their FileMaker developer $1 million before delivery of free lunches can begin.