Thursday, 28 March 2013

Exception handling in Powershell scripts

Exception handling in Powershell

Powershell is capable of handling exceptions in your Powershell scripts. Instead of the familiar try-catch construct, you use the trap keyword. The trap keyword followed by a block clause for handling the exception can be anywhere inside a Powershell function, at the top, middle or bottom of the method. I would suggest keeping the trap keywords at the bottom for readability. After all, your function's code is what is most important and exception handling is secondary. Still, the scripts should contain good exception handling for expected errors. In addition, a universal exception handler can be achieved by trapping the [System.Exception] exception, i.e. any exception. It is though better to trap the expected exceptions and unexpected exceptions should be thrown. 
#clear screen first using Clear-Host             
function Divide([int]$a, [int]$b){            
 $answer = $a / $b;            
 Write-Host $answer             
 trap [System.DivideByZeroException] {            
    Write-Host Attempted to divide by zero!            
 trap [System.Exception] {            
    Write-Host Unexpected Exception. Breaking out of function.            
Divide 15 3            
Divide 75 15            
Divide 95 5            
Divide 111 0            
Divide 64 8            
Divide 4 2.3             

As seen in the Powerscript code above, the trap keyword is followed by the error handling code. Usually, doing a Write-Host or logging the error is what will be done here (Write-Host corresponds to Console.WriteLine) in .NET based programming languages.

It is possible to have multiple trap statements with individual Exception types. In this example, the [System.DivideByZeroException] is handled. The keyword continue basically means that execution is permitted to continue. In the other trap statement, the keyword break is used. This basically is the same as a throw statement in a corresponding try-catch clause, where program execution is halted in the function. Judge which exceptions should be allowed to continue, and which exceptions should be allowed to break.

This is just another example of how powerful Powerscript is when it comes to a shell script. Of course, shell scripting languages such as Perl sports most of the functionality. The ability of Powershell to make use of .NET (after all Powershell is built upon .NET), means many .NET developers will quickly find new uses of Powershell by making use of previous knowledge and experience in .NET.

To sum up, your Powershell scripts should have the necessary trap statements for error-handling. As a sidenote, I do not like the keyword trap, they should have called it catch or something more trustworthy ..


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