Part 3: (Slightly) More Elegant Error Handling in Business Central

Intro

This is a continuation of a series of posts started around a year ago – you can find the old posts here if you are interested.

Briefly, the goal is this. I’m posting a journal and there are several checks that I need to perform on each line before they are posted. Instead of stopping and showing the first error I want to validate all of the lines and show all of the errors to the user at once.

Previously

The previous posts have been about using the Error Message Management codeunit to achieve that. It works, but I found it clunky. You need to avoid throwing an actual error, but instead collect the problems into a temporary table to display at the end. Then an actual error message is thrown to prevent the journal from being posted.

Problems

What are the problems with that approach?

First, not throwing an error if often harder than throwing one. Instead of simple calls to TestField or Error you need to make corresponding calls to ErrorMessageMgt.LogTestField and ErrorMessageMgt.LogError. In itself that’s OK, but what my be more of a problem is wrapping the posting routine with if Codeunit.Run() then

if not Codeunit.Run(Codeunit::"Posting Routine") then
  ErrorMessageHandler.ShowErrors();

It depends on the context in which you are calling the posting routine. If you are calling it from a page action it’s probably fine. If you are calling it in the middle of some other business logic, not so much.

Second, testing the routine is a bit of a pain. If you want to write an automated test that asserts that when you post the journal line without a posting date then an error is thrown, you can’t. At least not in the way that you expect.

asserterror JournalLine.Post();
Assert.ExpectedError('Posting Date must not be blank');

Something like this won’t work – because an actual TestField error is never thrown. That error message is collected in the temporary table. The only actual message that is thrown is a blank one by the Error Message Handler codeunit. So then you have to either:

  1. complicate your tests by collecting the error messages and asserting that they have the value you expect
  2. complicate your production code with an option to directly throw the errors rather than log them e.g. make sure that you don’t have an active instance of Error Message Management. It isn’t difficult, it just feels messy

Collectible Errors

From BC19 we have the concept of collectible errors. This is quite a different – and better, I think – approach to the same problem. Instead of a framework in AL which we need to dance around avoiding calling Error it is a platform feature which allows us to call Error but tell the platform that the error is collectible and that code can continue to be executed.

The method that the errors are thrown in must indicate that it allows errors to be collected with a new attribute ErrorBehaviour.

[ErrorBehaviour(ErrorBehaviour::Collect)]
local procedure CheckLine(var JournalLine: Record "Journal Line")
begin
  Error(ErrorInfo.Create('Some error message', true));
end;

The Error method has a new overload which takes an ErrorInfo type instead of some text. The ErrorInfo type indicates whether it can be collected or not.

If both the ErrorInfo and the method in which it was thrown are set to allow collection then the error message will not be immediately shown to the user and the code will continue to execute.

Show me the code…

Changes to the Video Journal Batch record

You can view the full changes in this commit: https://github.com/jimmymcp/error-message-mgt/commit/5faa82e614c13017c687d2255305675df0049b29

This is the Post method which is called from the page. You can see the benefits immediately. We can get rid of all that nonsense activating the error message framework and calling if Codeunit.Run. Just call the posting routine and let it do its thing. Much easier to follow.

Next, in the codeunit that handles the batch posting we can get rid of the calls to Error Message Management. I’ve added a new CheckLines method and decorated it with the ErrorBehaviour attribute. This tells the system that any collectible errors which occur within the scope of this method can be collected and code execution can continue.

The level at which we set the ErrorBehaviour attribute is important. I want to continue to check all journal lines in the batch and then stop and show any errors which have been collected. That’s why the ErrorBehaviour is set here – at the journal batch level – rather than at journal line level.

When the system finishes executing the code in this method it will automatically check whether any errors have been collected and show an error message if they have.

Finally, these are the changes to the codeunit which actually checks the journal line. Again, we can ditch the references to the Error Message Management codeunit and replace them with straightforward calls to Error or TestField.

Rather than passing some text with the error message we can pass an ErrorInfo type, returned by ErrorInfo.Create. This is the signature. At a minimum pass the error text, but we also want to indicate that this error can be collected via the collectible parameter. I’m including the instance of Video Journal Line and field number where appropriate as well.

Great to see that TestField has an overload which accepts an ErrorInfo object. The system will fill in the usual error text for you, “<field number> must have a value in <record id>”.

The other parameters are interesting, maybe more about those another time.

procedure Create(Message: Text, [Collectible: Boolean], var [Record: Table], [FieldNo: Integer], [PageNo: Integer], [ControlName: Text], [Verbosity: Verbosity], [DataClassification: DataClassification], [CustomDimensions: Dictionary of [Text, Text]]): ErrorInfo

How does it look?

Put that all together and attempt to post a couple of journal lines which have some validation errors. How does it look?

You get an error dialog as usual. Only this time it says that “Multiple errors occurred during the operation” and gives you the text of the first error message. Click on Detailed information to see a list of all the errors that were collected.

This is what you get.

Kind of underwhelming right?

It was all going so well up to this point but I’ve got a few issues with this:

  1. Given that I’ve gone to the trouble of collecting multiple errors to show to the user all at once it seems counter-intuitive to make the user expand the error to see all the details
  2. Is it just me or is this not easy to read? Once an error message breaks two lines it isn’t obvious how many errors there are. You can’t expand the dialog horizontally either. Even with relatively few errors I’ve had to scroll down to be able to read them all
  3. TestField errors include the record id, which is fine, but for the custom errors I’ve gone to the trouble of giving the record and field number that contains the problem…but that isn’t shown anywhere. I’ve only got 2 lines in my journal in this case, but if I had tens or hundreds it would be really difficult to match the validation errors to the lines that caused them

Custom Handling of Errors

There is a way that we can handle the UI of the error messages ourselves, which is great – and I’ll show an example of that next time. Kudos to the platform team for building that capability in from the start, it’s just a shame that it’s necessary. Call me picky, but I don’t think the standard dialog is really useable.

BC19 CU0

By the way, this doesn’t work properly in BC19 CU0. You have to set the target in app.json to OnPrem – which shouldn’t be necessary. That’s been fixed now.

8 thoughts on “Part 3: (Slightly) More Elegant Error Handling in Business Central

  1. Thanks for your useful summary, James. I also agree that the presentation through Detailed information is difficult to read.
    And let’s not forget that the collectible errors approach does not offer a link for the user to jump into the corresponding page to fix the issue – or was your setup not complete for that matter?

    Like

    1. Thanks Natalie đź‘Ť

      I’ll post separately with an example of how to collect the errors and show them in a more user-friendly page. If you follow the link to the Microsoft docs you’ll see an example as well.

      Like

  2. Hello James,

    I’ve just have an error when upgradin to BC SaaS 19.1, with a development that uses ErrorInfo. This erro could be because of SaaS and not onPrem? Ist’s working perfectly in 19.0 as I’ve said

    Like

    1. I think this ought to work, I’ve been able to publish into a 19.1 sandbox container – I haven’t tried on an actual saas environment though.

      I see you’ve also posted the question on Yammer – that’s probably the best place for this discussion.

      Like

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