309. Does sentry catch exceptions?

Section: 30.7 [iostream.format] Status: NAD Submitter: Martin Sebor Opened: 2001-03-19 Last modified: 2016-02-10

Priority: Not Prioritized

View all other issues in [iostream.format].

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Discussion:

The descriptions of the constructors of basic_istream<>::sentry (30.7.4.1.3 [istream::sentry]) and basic_ostream<>::sentry (30.7.5.1.3 [ostream::sentry]) do not explain what the functions do in case an exception is thrown while they execute. Some current implementations allow all exceptions to propagate, others catch them and set ios_base::badbit instead, still others catch some but let others propagate.

The text also mentions that the functions may call setstate(failbit) (without actually saying on what object, but presumably the stream argument is meant). That may have been fine for basic_istream<>::sentry prior to issue 195, since the function performs an input operation which may fail. However, issue 195 amends 30.7.4.1.3 [istream::sentry], p2 to clarify that the function should actually call setstate(failbit | eofbit), so the sentence in p3 is redundant or even somewhat contradictory.

The same sentence that appears in 30.7.5.1.3 [ostream::sentry], p3 doesn't seem to be very meaningful for basic_istream<>::sentry which performs no input. It is actually rather misleading since it would appear to guide library implementers to calling setstate(failbit) when os.tie()->flush(), the only called function, throws an exception (typically, it's badbit that's set in response to such an event).

Additional comments from Martin, who isn't comfortable with the current proposed resolution (see c++std-lib-11530)

The istream::sentry ctor says nothing about how the function deals with exemptions (27.6.1.1.2, p1 says that the class is responsible for doing "exception safe"(*) prefix and suffix operations but it doesn't explain what level of exception safety the class promises to provide). The mockup example of a "typical implementation of the sentry ctor" given in 27.6.1.1.2, p6, removed in ISO/IEC 14882:2003, doesn't show exception handling, either. Since the ctor is not classified as a formatted or unformatted input function, the text in 27.6.1.1, p1 through p4 does not apply. All this would seem to suggest that the sentry ctor should not catch or in any way handle exceptions thrown from any functions it may call. Thus, the typical implementation of an istream extractor may look something like [1].

The problem with [1] is that while it correctly sets ios::badbit if an exception is thrown from one of the functions called from the sentry ctor, if the sentry ctor reaches EOF while extracting whitespace from a stream that has eofbit or failbit set in exceptions(), it will cause an ios::failure to be thrown, which will in turn cause the extractor to set ios::badbit.

The only straightforward way to prevent this behavior is to move the definition of the sentry object in the extractor above the try block (as suggested by the example in 22.2.8, p9 and also indirectly supported by 27.6.1.3, p1). See [2]. But such an implementation will allow exceptions thrown from functions called from the ctor to freely propagate to the caller regardless of the setting of ios::badbit in the stream object's exceptions().

So since neither [1] nor [2] behaves as expected, the only possible solution is to have the sentry ctor catch exceptions thrown from called functions, set badbit, and propagate those exceptions if badbit is also set in exceptions(). (Another solution exists that deals with both kinds of sentries, but the code is non-obvious and cumbersome -- see [3].)

Please note that, as the issue points out, current libraries do not behave consistently, suggesting that implementors are not quite clear on the exception handling in istream::sentry, despite the fact that some LWG members might feel otherwise. (As documented by the parenthetical comment here: http://www.open-std.org/jtc1/sc22/wg21/docs/papers/2003/n1480.html#309)

Also please note that those LWG members who in Copenhagen felt that "a sentry's constructor should not catch exceptions, because sentries should only be used within (un)formatted input functions and that exception handling is the responsibility of those functions, not of the sentries," as noted here http://www.open-std.org/jtc1/sc22/wg21/docs/papers/2001/n1310.html#309 would in effect be either arguing for the behavior described in [1] or for extractors implemented along the lines of [3].

The original proposed resolution (Revision 25 of the issues list) clarifies the role of the sentry ctor WRT exception handling by making it clear that extractors (both library or user-defined) should be implemented along the lines of [2] (as opposed to [1]) and that no exception thrown from the callees should propagate out of either function unless badbit is also set in exceptions().

[1] Extractor that catches exceptions thrown from sentry:

struct S { long i; };

istream& operator>> (istream &strm, S &s)
{
    ios::iostate err = ios::goodbit;
    try {
        const istream::sentry guard (strm, false);
        if (guard) {
            use_facet<num_get<char> >(strm.getloc ())
                .get (istreambuf_iterator<char>(strm),
                      istreambuf_iterator<char>(),
                      strm, err, s.i);
        }
    }
    catch (...) {
        bool rethrow;
        try {
            strm.setstate (ios::badbit);
            rethrow = false;
        }
        catch (...) {
            rethrow = true;
        }
        if (rethrow)
            throw;
    }
    if (err)
        strm.setstate (err);
    return strm;
}

[2] Extractor that propagates exceptions thrown from sentry:

istream& operator>> (istream &strm, S &s)
{
    istream::sentry guard (strm, false);
    if (guard) {
        ios::iostate err = ios::goodbit;
        try {
            use_facet<num_get<char> >(strm.getloc ())
                .get (istreambuf_iterator<char>(strm),
                      istreambuf_iterator<char>(),
                      strm, err, s.i);
        }
        catch (...) {
            bool rethrow;
            try {
                strm.setstate (ios::badbit);
                rethrow = false;
            }
            catch (...) {
                rethrow = true;
            }
            if (rethrow)
                throw;
        }
        if (err)
            strm.setstate (err);
    }
    return strm;
}

[3] Extractor that catches exceptions thrown from sentry but doesn't set badbit if the exception was thrown as a result of a call to strm.clear().

istream& operator>> (istream &strm, S &s)
{
    const ios::iostate state = strm.rdstate ();
    const ios::iostate except = strm.exceptions ();
    ios::iostate err = std::ios::goodbit;
    bool thrown = true;
    try {
        const istream::sentry guard (strm, false);
        thrown = false;
        if (guard) {
            use_facet<num_get<char> >(strm.getloc ())
                .get (istreambuf_iterator<char>(strm),
                      istreambuf_iterator<char>(),
                      strm, err, s.i);
        }
    }
    catch (...) {
        if (thrown && state & except)
            throw;
        try {
            strm.setstate (ios::badbit);
            thrown = false;
        }
        catch (...) {
            thrown = true;
        }
        if (thrown)
            throw;
    }
    if (err)
        strm.setstate (err);

    return strm;
}

[Pre-Berlin] Reopened at the request of Paolo Carlini and Steve Clamage.

[Pre-Portland] A relevant newsgroup post:

The current proposed resolution of issue #309 is unacceptable. I write commerical software and coding around this makes my code ugly, non-intuitive, and requires comments referring people to this very issue. Following is the full explanation of my experience.

In the course of writing software for commercial use, I constructed std::ifstream's based on user-supplied pathnames on typical POSIX systems.

It was expected that some files that opened successfully might not read successfully -- such as a pathname which actually refered to a directory. Intuitively, I expected the streambuffer underflow() code to throw an exception in this situation, and recent implementations of libstdc++'s basic_filebuf do just that (as well as many of my own custom streambufs).

I also intuitively expected that the istream code would convert these exceptions to the "badbit' set on the stream object, because I had not requested exceptions. I refer to 27.6.1.1. P4.

However, this was not the case on at least two implementations -- if the first thing I did with an istream was call operator>>( T& ) for T among the basic arithmetic types and std::string. Looking further I found that the sentry's constructor was invoking the exception when it pre-scanned for whitespace, and the extractor function (operator>>()) was not catching exceptions in this situation.

So, I was in a situation where setting 'noskipws' would change the istream's behavior even though no characters (whitespace or not) could ever be successfully read.

Also, calling .peek() on the istream before calling the extractor() changed the behavior (.peek() had the effect of setting the badbit ahead of time).

I found this all to be so inconsistent and inconvenient for me and my code design, that I filed a bugzilla entry for libstdc++. I was then told that the bug cannot be fixed until issue #309 is resolved by the committee.

[ 2009-07 Frankfurt ]

Moved to NAD.

See the rationale in the issue. Paolo, who requested that the issue be reopened, agreed with the rationale.

Proposed resolution:

Rationale:

The LWG agrees there is minor variation between implementations, but believes that it doesn't matter. This is a rarely used corner case. There is no evidence that this has any commercial importance or that it causes actual portability problems for customers trying to write code that runs on multiple implementations.