Manning OCA Java SE 7 Reading Note: Chapter 7

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This is a post that I moved from my old blog site. This is the reading note for OCA Java SE 7 Certification Guide from Manning. Please note that all definations and examples in this post are taken from the book.

Chapter 7: Exception Handling

This chapter mainly covers:

  • Understanding and identifying exceptions arising in code

  • Determining how exceptions alter the normal program flow

  • Understanding the need to handle exceptions separately in your code

  • Using try-catch-finally blocks to handle exceptions

  • Differentiating among checked exceptions, unchecked exceptions, and errors

  • Invoking methods that may throw exceptions

  • Recognizing common exception categories and classes

When JVM reposts exceptions, Stack traces are read from the bottom.

7.2 What happens when an exception is thrown?

As with all other Java objects, an exception is an object. All types of exceptions subclass java.lang.Throwable.

An operating system (OS) keeps track of the code that it needs to execute using a stack. A stack is a type of list in which the items that are added last to it are the first ones to be taken off it—Last In First Out. This stack uses a stack pointer to point to the instructions that the OS should execute.

When a stack pointer finds an exception should be throwed out in one method, it will check if this methos has a error handler. If not, go and find upper level.

For example, if method call a method1 then call a method2, And a IndexOutOfBounds error should be throwed out in method2, but method2 doesn't have a error handler, stack pointer will find method1 -> main.

If there are no further methods that handle ArrayIndexOutOfBoundsException, execution stops.

Creating try-catch-finally blocks

Try what?

First you try to execute your code. If it doesn’t execute as planned, you handle the exceptional conditions using a catch block.

Catch what?

You catch the exceptional event arising from the code enclosed within the try block and handle the event by defining appropriate exception handlers.

What does finally do?

Finally, you execute a set of code, in all conditions, regardless of whether the code in the try block throws any exceptions.

You can create an exception of your own—a custom exception—by extending the class Exception.

For a try block, you can define multiple catch blocks

But only a single finally block.

Multiple catch blocks are used to handle different types of exceptions. - A finally block is used to define cleanup code—code that closes and releases resources, such as file handlers and database or network connections.

Will a finally block execute even if the catch block defines a return statement?

Yes. The return statement does not return the control to the main method before execution of the finally block completes.

What happens if both a catch and a finally block define return statements?

If both catch and finally blocks define return statements, the calling method will receive a value from the finally block.

What happens if a finally block modifies the value returned from a catch block?

If a catch block returns a primitive data type, the finally block can’t modify the value being returned by it. Note: in this case, finally block does not return anything.


class MultipleReturn {
    int getInt() {
        int returnVal = 10;
            try {
                    String[] students = {"Harry", "Paul"};
        catch (Exception e) {
                System.out.println("About to return :" + returnVal);
                    return returnVal;
        finally {
                returnVal += 10;
            System.out.println("Return value is now :" + returnVal);
            return returnVal;
        public static void main(String args[]) {
            MultipleReturn var = new MultipleReturn();
            System.out.println("In Main:" + var.getInt());
    } }

//- Output will be:
//About to return :10
//Return value is now :20
//In Main:10

Even though the finally block adds 10 to variable returnVal, this modified value is not returned to the method main . Control in the catch block copies the value of returnVal to be returned before it executes the finally block, so the returned value is not modified when finally executes.

Important: the value inside finally block changed. So if you return inside finally block, the value passed to main will be changed

If a catch block returns a object, When the finally block executes, it can access the value of the object referred to by the variable and can modify it. The modified value is returned to the method main.

Remember that primitives are passed by value and objects are passed by reference.

Does the order of the exceptions caught in the catch blocks matter?

Order doesn’t matter for unrelated classes. But it does matter for related classes sharing an IS-A relationship.

If you try to catch an exception of the base class before an excep- tion of the derived class , the exception handler for the derived class can never be reached, so your code will fail to compile.

Code Example:

try {
    fis = new FileInputStream("file.txt");
catch (IOException ioe) {
catch (FileNotFoundException fnfe) {
    System.out.println("file not found");

In the code above, since FileNoteFoundException is a derived class from IOException, FileNoteFoundException should be catched before IOException, otherwise code will not compile.

Rules to Remember

  • A try block may be followed by multiple catch blocks

  • the catch blocks may be followed by a single finally block.

  • A try block may be followed by either a catch or a finally block or both. But a finally block alone wouldn’t suffice if code in the try block throws a checked exception. In this case, you need to catch the checked exception or declare it to be thrown by your method. Otherwise your code won’t compile.

  • The try, catch, and finally blocks can’t exist independently.

  • The finally block can’t appear before a catch block.

  • A finally block always executes, regardless of whether the code throws an exception.

Can I rethrow an exception or the error I catch

You can do whatever you want with an exception.

Rethrow example:

try {
    soccer = new FileInputStream("soccer.txt");
catch (FileNotFoundException fnfe) {
    throw fnfe; //re-throw error without handler. Will not compile

When you rethrow a checked exception, it’s treated like a regular thrown checked exception, meaning that all the rules of handling a checked exception apply to it. So after you re-throw, you still need a error handler or a throw argument to handle error, otherwise your code will not compile.

However, You can rethrow a runtime exception, but you’re not required to catch it, nor must you modify your method signature to include the throws clause

Can I declare my methods to throw a checked exception, instead of handling it?

If a method doesn’t wish to handle the checked exceptions thrown by a method it calls, it can throw these exceptions using the throws clause in its own method signature.

For example: public void myMethod() throws IOException{...}

I can create nested loops, so can I create nested try-catch blocks too?

Yes. you can define a try-catch-finally block within another try-catch-finally block.

7.3 Categories of Exceptions

There are three categories of Exceptions:

  • Checked exceptions

  • Runtime exceptions (unchecked exceptions)

  • Errors

you shouldn’t try to catch runtime exceptions, and there are few options you can use for the errors, because they’re thrown by the JVM.

Checked exceptions

A checked exception is an unacceptable condition foreseen by the author of a method but outside the immediate control of the code.

Achecked exception is a subclass of class java.lang.Exception, but it’s not a subclass of java.lang.RuntimeException.

If a method uses another method that may throw a checked exception, one of the two following things should be true:

  • The method should be enclosed within a try-catch block or

  • The method should specify this exception to be thrown in its method signature, i.e. throws XXXException

Runtime Exception/Unchecked Exception

A runtime exception is a representation of a programming error. These occur from inappropriate use of another piece of code.

A runtime exception is a subclass of java.lang.RuntimeException.

A runtime exception may not be a part of the method signature, even if a method may throw it. i.e. You may not need a throws.

However, you can create a error handler for runtime exception.


The errors are considered to be serious exceptional conditions and they can’t be directly controlled by your code.

An error is a serious exception thrown by the JVM as a result of an error in the environment state that processes your code.

An error is a subclass of class java.lang.Error.

An error need not be a part of a method signature.

An error can be caught by an exception handler, but it shouldn’t be.

7.4 Common Exception Classes and Categories

Common Runtime Exceptions

  • ArrayIndexOutOfBoundsException

  • IndexOutOfBoundsException

  • ClassCastException

  • IllegalArgumentException

  • IllegalStateException

  • NullPointerException

  • NumberFormatException

Common Errors

  • ExceptionInInitializerError

  • StackOverflowError

  • NoClassDefFoundError

  • OutOfMemoryError

ArrayIndexOutOfBoundsException and IndexOutOfBoundsException

ArrayIndexOutOfBoundsException and IndexOutOfBoundsException are runtime exceptions, which share an IS-A relationship. IndexOutOfBoundsException is subclassed by ArrayIndexOutOfBoundsException.

ArrayIndexOutOfBoundsException is thrown when a piece of code tries to access an array out of its bounds (either an array is accessed at a position less than 0 or at a position greater than or equal to its length).

IndexOutOfBoundsException is thrown when a piece of code tries to access a list, like an ArrayList, using an illegal index.

Reason for these two runtime exception is: a variable is used to specify this array or list position, and its value may not be known until runtime.


ClassCastException is thrown when an object fails an IS-A test with the class type to which it’s being cast.

Code Example:

ArrayList<ColorInk> inks = new ArrayList<ColorInk>();
inks.add(new ColorInk());
Ink ink = (BlackInk)inks.get(0);
//Can throw ClassCastException error if BlackInk has no relation with ColorInk

You can use the instanceof operator to verify whether an object can be cast to another class before casting it: inks.get(0) instanceof BlackInk


IllegalArgumentException is thrown to specify that a method has passed illegal or inappropriate arguments.


an IllegalStateException happens if the Java environment or Java application is not in an appropriate state for the requested operation.

You can throw IllegalStateException to signal to the calling method that the method being requested for execution can’t be called for the current state of an object.

For example, you can set if int a !=0, then throw IllegalStateException.


This exception is thrown by the JVM if you try to access a method or a variable with a null value

Cases can be the following:

  • Accessing members of a reference variable that is explicitly assigned a null value.

  • Accessing members of an uninitialized instance or static reference variable. These are implicitly assigned a null value.

  • Using an uninitialized local variable, which may seem to throw a NullPointerException.

  • Attempting to access nonexistent array positions. Note the difference between ArrayOutOfBoundException and NullPointerException

  • Using members of an array element that are assigned a null value.

Code Example:

static ArrayList<String> list = null; //No initialization
public static void main(String[] args) {
    list.add("1"); //NullPointerException

By default, the static and instance variables of a class are assigned a null value.

You can prevent a NullPointerException from being thrown by checking whether an object is null before trying to access its member.

Important: If you attempt to use an uninitialized local variable, your code will fail to compile.

For example, following code will not compile:

ArrayList<String> list;
if (list!=null)

Important: for array, NullPointerException only throws if you want to do something with a null array space or access a non-exisit positon (For example, a non-initialized static/instance array).


class ThrowAnotherNullPointerException {
    static String[] oldLaptops;
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        System.out.println(oldLaptops[1]); //NullPointerException

        String[] newLaptops = new String[2];
        //Note if there is no initialization, code will not compile

        System.out.println(newLaptops[1]); //Print null


NumberFormatException is a runtime exception. It’s thrown to indicate that the application has tried to convert a string (with an inappropriate format) to one of the numeric types.

For example: Starting in Java 7, you can use underscores_ in numeric literal values. But you can’t use them in String values passed to the method parseInt(). So if you do Integer.parseInt("123_45"), you will get NumberFormatException.

Note: Integer.parseInt("123ABCD", 16) is valid, since this is the way to parse hex number. If you remove 16, a NumberFormatException will throw since you cannot covert it to base 10.


The ExceptionInInitializerError error is typically thrown by the JVM when a static initializer in your code throws any type of RuntimeException.

This error always goes with runtime exception. It can’t occur as the result of an error or checked exception thrown by the static initialization block.

Runtime exceptions arising from any of the following will throw this error:

  • Execution of an anonymous static block

  • Initialization of a static variable

  • Execution of a static method (called from either of the previous two items)

For example, following code will throw this error, with NumberFormatInitializerError:

public class DemoExceptionInInitializerError {
            static {
                int num = Integer.parseInt("sd", 16);
                //anoymous static block with runtime exception

            public class DemoExceptionInInitializerError1 {
                static String name = null;
                static int nameLength = name.length();
           //Initialization of a static variable with NullPointerException


This error is thrown by the JVM when a Java program calls itself so many times that the memory stack allocated to execute the Java program “overflows.”

For example, a infinate loop can cause this error


NoClassDefFoundError can throw if:

  • If you failed to set your classpath and, as a result, the JVM was unable to load the class that you wanted to access or execute.

  • If you try to run your application before compiling it.

Note, Class.forName() methods, which is used to load class, throws ClassNotFoundException instead of this error.


the JVM may run out of memory on the heap, and the garbage collector may not be able to free more memory for the JVM. In this case, the JVM is unable to create any more objects on the heap. An OutOfMemoryError will be thrown.

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