Re: Include error messages?

Subject: Re: Include error messages?
From: Sandy Harris <pashley -at- storm -dot- ca>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 31 Jul 2002 12:35:40 -0400

Stuart Rogers wrote:
> I quite agree. I keep telling my developers: write Solution messages,
> not Error messages. Don't tell the user there's a problem and send him
> off into another application (which Help is) or searching for manuals or
> CD's -- tell the user how to fix the problem right then and there.

Yes, but there are a bunch of caveats.

One is that the message must contain the information needed to solve
(or at least start working on) the problem.

The classic error is to tell the user "file not found" without saying
what file is involved, or differentiating various cases:
file does not exist
it exists, but you lack access permission
another application has locked it
the server it is on is down
application was run from the wrong directory
Your app may not be able to distinguish all those, but it should
do its best.

Unless your application can be utterly certain, it should describe
symptoms and leave diagnosis to the humans. Suppose your app cannot
open a file so it gives the error message:
file XYZZY does not exist
If the actual problem is that access permissions are wrong or that
another application has locked the file, this message is an utter
red herring. It does more harm than good and may confuse the user
no end. The message should just be:
cannot open file XYZZY
If you like, you can suggest things to check, but make it clear that
these are only possibilities.

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RE: Include error messages?: From: Stuart Rogers

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