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ASP.NET: Handling errors

, 6 May 2009 CPOL
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Custom exception handling in asp.net
We all desire some custom exception handling techniques for our web application. You probably want some friendly message to show up in a page; and you'd just want one page for this. If you have come from a windows forms background, you might have come across the Exception class. If you initialize the exception class with a specific string (a user friendly message), you see the same message while you debug or while you handle and display the exception details. Unfortunately this manner of exception handling won't do any good for your web application. So let this be a point if you wanted to differentiate a web application from a windows application.

Custom Error Pages - What are they?

Here are some little things to keep in mind before you dive into 'redirecting' to custom error pages. This section does not deal with exception handling. With custom error pages I think the most to expect here is a static page. Thats it, a static page! Then why do we need it? I've visited http://forums.asp.net (it's the official forum for ASP.NET) web site on many ocassions. On that web site (or web application if you will) if requests encounter some error you get redirected to an error page. (Click here to see an example). There is a line that politely goes like, "Please be assured that we log and review all errors. Even if you do not report this error, we will endeavor to correct it." So ultimately I think they persist the details of the error somewhere or the web site developers are intimated the details of the error.

1. Set the customErrors mode to 'On' or 'RemoteOnly' in the web.config
Here you are trying to specify a redirection page in case error occurs. The difference between the two is that with 'On' you specify that you want some sort of redirection no matter from which machine you work. With 'RemoteOnly' the page will get redirected if the browser application was running from a remote machine rather than the local machine (where you host your web app).

<configuration>
  <system.web>
    <customErrors mode="On">
    </customErrors>
  </system.web>
</configuration>

2. Application level page redirection
You can write your custom page that shows a friendly error message here. And in case an error occurs and it goes improperly handled, this page will show up no matter what. Most usually this is simply a static page(.htm or .html). For this the following setting is necessary.

<customErrors mode="On" defaultRedirection="~/Error.htm"/>

One thing you have to take note here is, in case of an unhandled exception your browser is "redirected" to this page. The error page is served to you as if you had requested it. It the same thing as using Response.Redirect() in your code. It gets served on a different request pipeline; not in the same one the error causing page was processed in.

3. Page level redirection
This is almost similar to the above. The difference is that you can set the error page redirection at page level instead of doing so at the application level. What is set at page level will override the application level settings if any. But you still need to have your custom error mode to 'On', and your page directive as follows:

<%@ Page ErrorPage="http://www.cymru-web.net/GenericError.htm" %>


Exception Handling

Most people will actually prefer the error message itself to appear on the error page. Sometimes we may want to show a generic static page, and yet still want to receive a complete detail of the exception via email, or we would want it logged somewhere. This is quite possible. The trick is trying not to redirect to the error page, but to actually get it served through the same request pipeline.

And like before you can have this on either a page level or at an application level.

1. Page Level Exception Handling

If there is an unhandled exception in a page and you want to handle that error in the page itself you have to handle the Page_Error event that gets triggered.

Protected Sub Page_Error(ByVal sender as Object, ByVal e as EventArgs) Handles Page.Error

    'Insert logic to execute on error

    'Clear error
    Context.ClearError()

End Sub


It is important to call Context.ClearError() because it ensures that the unhandled exception does not propagate/escalate to the application level.

2. Application Level Exception Handling

If there is an exception that goes unhandled in the Global.asax file or .aspx file, you can handle those errors from the Global.asax itself. The Application_Error event gets triggered when ever an exception is not trapped any where within your web application.

    Sub Application_Error(ByVal sender As Object, ByVal e As EventArgs)
        ' Code that runs when an unhandled error occurs
    End Sub

Things you can do in an Error event sub

I'd generally say, "your error logging/handling routines go here". Its up to you. You can save the info to a database, have it emailed to you, save it to the windows event log, etc, etc. There are somethings that you'd have to do with care. Like for e.g if you are storing the error information to one text file you'd have to write the code in such a way that is thread-safe. Sometimes you'd have to queue the IO request because someother thread may be using the text file. (Here we make use of technologies like MS Message Queue). All this is so because your asp.net application runs in a multi-threaded environment where many requests are served concurrently. Essentially this means the same code is executing in one application domain, but it serves many users. This is in stark contrast to a windows forms application where a thread (or many threads) executes for one user.

Final Words

Error handling in my opinion is not straight forward. Mostly this is because we don't realise that ASP.NET was designed to execute in a multi-threaded environment. I've discussed 90% about handling errors, but I have not discussed how to display the exception details in your custom error page. More specifically how to expose the exception object (which caused the exception) in the custom error page. Well, all I hope is that I finish it earlier.




License

This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)

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About the Author

deostroll
Software Developer (Senior) iGATE Global Solutions
India India
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Comments and Discussions

 
GeneralMy vote of 1 PinmemberVirendra Dugar7-May-09 2:23 
General[My vote of 1] Errors hiding Pingroupadatapost6-May-09 16:53 

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