C++ FAQ Celebrating Twenty-One Years of the C++ FAQ!!!
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Section 17:
[17.13] What should I catch?

In keeping with the C++ tradition of "there's more than one way to do that" (translation: "give programmers options and tradeoffs so they can decide what's best for them in their situation"), C++ allows you a variety of options for catching.

  • You can catch by value.
  • You can catch by reference.
  • You can catch by pointer.

In fact, you have all the flexibility that you have in declaring function parameters, and the rules for whether a particular exception matches (i.e., will be caught by) a particular catch clause are almost exactly the same as the rules for parameter compatibility when calling a function.

Given all this flexibility, how do you decide what to catch? Simple: unless there's a good reason not to, catch by reference. Avoid catching by value, since that causes a copy to be made and the copy can have different behavior from what was thrown. Only under very special circumstances should you catch by pointer.