Error Reporting is Hard

December 23rd, 2007 | Tags: ,

Error reporting can be one of the most difficult things bout programming software. You’re trying to tell the user that something went wonky, but not send them into an all out panic. This excellent example (of how not to do error reporting) comes from Microsoft Outlook:

Error Dialog: "The item could not be moved. It was either already moved or deleted, or access was denied."

The first issue with this error is that I shouldn’t have gotten it. It comes up at least once a week when I delete the message from the index window while I still have the message open in a separate window and then I try to delete the message from the message window.

  • When I delete a message from the index, any windows in which it is open could be automatically closed.
  • When I try to delete a message from it’s window, if it’s not where you thought it was, check to see if it moved to the trash. If it is, great, just close the window without complaint. Otherwise you can report to the user that you’re incompetent and can’t keep track of the messages.

And why not tell me which one of the possibilities the actually error is.

  • It was already moved
  • It was already deleted
  • Access was denied

Aren’t you keeping track? Please try to pay attention.

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