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Lightweight Asynchronous Error Handling

Lightweight Asynchronous Error Handling for Node.js (LAEH)

Notice: LAEH is now deprecated in favor of the even leaner LAEH2. Please have a look:


1. Unprotected callback code

function someContext(arg, arg, callback) {
    someAsyncFunction(arg, arg, function(err, data) {
        // err is not checked but should be (a common case) 
        throw new Error('fail'); // uncaught - will exit Node.js 

2. Manualy protected callback code, lots of clutter

function someContext(arg, arg, callback) {
    someAsyncFunction(arg, arg, function(err, data) {
        else {
            try {
                throw new Error('fail');
            catch(e) {
                callback(e); // caught - return control manually 

3. LAEH, an elegant solution

function someContext(arg, arg, callback) {
    someAsyncFunction(arg, arg, _x(function(err, data) {
        throw new Error('fail');
    callback, // in case of error return control to callback 
    true); // automatically check the err parameter 

4. Optional Goodies

LAEH stores the stacktrace of the thread that initiated the asynchronous operation which in turn called the callback. This stacktrace is then appended to the primary stacktrace of the error which happened in the callback, or the error which was passed to the callback by the asynchronous function.

LAEH then presents the stacktrace in a minified format, with optional hiding of frames of the laeh.js itself, of the node.js core library files, shortens the often repeating string /node_modules/ into /$/, and removes the current directory path prefix from the file names in the stacktrace.


npm install laeh
var laeh = require('laeh').leanStacks(true, '\t');
var _e = laeh._e;
var _x = laeh._x;
fs.readdir(__dirname, _x(function(err, files) { // LINE #5 
    // do your things here.. 
    _e('unexpected thing'); // throw your own errors, etc. LINE #7 
function(err) { // this is our top-level callback 
    console.log(err.stack); // don't forget to use .stack when printing errors 

This will print:

unexpected thing ./test.js(7) << ./test.js(5)

The async boundary is marked with <<.

If we add metadata:

    _e('unexpected thing', { msg: 'my metadata', xyz: 123 });

The output when configured with .leanStacks(true, '\t') will be:

unexpected thing {
    "msg": "my metadata",
    "xyz": 123
} ./test.js(7) << ./test.js(5)

And when configured with .leanStacks(true):

unexpected thing {"msg":"my metadata","xyz":123} ./test.js(7) << ./test.js(5)

For the comparison, this would be printed without using .leanStacks:

Error: unexpected thing
    at /Users/ypocat/Repository/ypocat/www/node_modules/laeh/lib/laeh.js:31:8
    at /Users/ypocat/Repository/ypocat/www/test.js:7:5
    at /Users/ypocat/Repository/ypocat/www/node_modules/laeh/lib/laeh.js:56:9

The leanStacks(hiding, prettyMeta) call is optional, the hiding will hide stack frames from Node's core .js files and from laeh.js itself. The prettyMeta is the third parameter for the JSON.stringify function, which is used to serialize your metadata objects (see below), and leaving it empty will serialize your metadata objects in-line.

The _e(err, meta) function is just a convenient error checking, wrapping and throwing. E.g. _e('something') will throw new Error('something') and _e(null) will not do anything. The meta parameter is an optional accompanying information for the error to be thrown, which is then displayed when you let LAEH to display your errors using the leanStacks() call.

In the _x(func, cb, chk), the func is you callback to be wrapped. If it follows the node convention of func(err, args), you can pass chk as true, which will automatically check for the err to be null, and call the eventual callback if it isn't null. The eventual callback is passed as the cb argument, or if omitted, it is tried to be derived from the last argument parseed to the function you are wrapping, e.g. if the signature is func(err, args, cb), the cb is taken from arguments.

Additional functions for Express.js

_xj() protects the whole handler for uncaught exceptions, and in case of one, uses the res parameter passed to your callback by the app.get() asynchronous handler to serialize the uncaught error as a JSON response.

_exj() protects the top asynchronous calls in the handler, provided that the asynchronous call calls your callback with err as the first argument (a Node convention). However you have to pass it the res object explicitly.

app.get('/url', _xj(function(req, res) {
    some_async_func(arg1, arg2, _exj(function(err, jres) {
    }, res));

Both these functions return status 500 on error by default. Please check leah.js for more info on their parameters.

Additional functions for Mongodb (node-mongodb-native)

When you use findAndModify with a query which finds no object, mongo reports this as object not found, which you may find misleading as with all other functions, the result is simply set to null. Additionaly, the message "object not found" is too generic, so this little function will simply isolate this special case and allows you attach your special message to it. Make sure not to use _xe but just _x to wrap your async handler, otherwise _xe will catch this error early and your _ea won't see it.

col.findAndModify(query, sort, update, { new: true }, _x(function(err, result) {
    _ea(err, 'Concurrent record allocation; sending the client over');
}, cb);