GOTCHA: Catching Custom Errors in TypeScript

27 June, 2020

Oftentimes it is useful to implement custom errors, whether for performing different logic in a catch block or simply for more detailed logging. Recently, I ran into some trouble catching a custom error in TypeScript, and I encountered a nuance in the language that would make an informative entry in my GOTCHA series.

To replicate my experience, let's start with a custom error:

class BaseballError extends Error {
    constructor(m: string) {
      super("The fielder missed a routine play");
    }
}

And now let's try to catch it:

catch (e) {
   if (e instanceOf BaseballError {
       markOnScorecard();
   } 
}

There is a bug in the BaseballError class that would cause the if statement to evaluate false and the error to be passed over. Can you find it?

The problem is that by extending Error, BaseballError internally has this set to be an instance of Error, including the the prototype. Unless the prototype of this is explicitly set in the constructor , it will always remain equal to Error.prototype, causing instanceof BaseballError to evaluate false. This was unintuitive to me, as I had assumed that in TypeScript the prototype was always set to match the constructor's class upon instantiation.

A better version of the BaseballError class looks like this:

class BaseballError extends Error {
    constructor(m: string) {
      super("The fielder missed a routine play");
      Object.setPrototypeOf(this, BaseballError.prototype);
    }
}

Note that Object.setPrototypeOf needed to be called after the super constructor, because it needs to execute after the prototype of this is initially set.

For more behavior on why this occurs, check out Microsoft's documentation of this change when it was introduced with TypeScript 2.1.

~ MAD

#GOTCHA#TypeScript

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