Ruby Exception Handling

Ruby Exception Handling: ConverterNotFoundError

As our exploration through the Ruby Exception Handling series continues, today we’ll be examining the ConverterNotFoundError. ConverterNotFoundErrors appear in Ruby when attempting to use any of the variety of transcoding methods provided by Ruby, but in doing so, passing an invalid converter that Ruby isn’t aware of.

In the meat of this article we’ll explore the details of the ConverterNotFoundError class, see where it sits in Ruby’s Exceptionclass hierarchy, and also learn how you might deal with any ConverterNotFoundErrors that you may encounter in your own coding. Let’s get this party started!

The Technical Rundown

  • All Ruby exceptions are descendants of the Exception class, or a subclass therein.
  • StandardError is a direct descendant of the Exception class, and is also a superclass with many descendants of its own.
  • EncodingError is a direct descendant of the StandardError class, and is also a superclass with a handful of descendants of its own.
  • ConverterNotFoundError is a direct descendant of the EncodingError class.

When Should You Use It?

To fully understand why a ConverterNotFoundError might be raised, we need to explore a bit more about Ruby’s handling of encoding practices. Put simply, Ruby provides the Encoding namespace, which is parent to all encoding types or converters, as well as the home of all the Encoding errors, including ConverterNotFoundError.

This means, we can view all the constants which are part of the Encoding namespace by making a simple call to the .constants method:

The output is a list of all constants that are children within the Encoding namespace, including all error classes and all converters:

This presents an easy way to see every converter that Ruby knows about and can utilize. These can then be called as part of all the transcoding/encoding methods provided within Ruby, such as the .encode() method used on a string. We can pass either the direct constant (Encoding::UTF_8), or use one of the named aliases (such as ‘UTF-8’). Both of these lines are executed identically:

Now that we understand how to find what possible converters Ruby is aware of, as well as how to properly pass them to encoding methods, we can produce an ConverterNotFoundError by trying to pass an invalid converter to the encoding method. For example, here we’re trying to .encode() using the ‘UTF-89’ converter, which doesn’t exist (arguably a simple typo to make):

As expected, Ruby cannot locate a converter with an alias of ‘UTF-89’, so it produces a ConverterNotFoundError which we rescue:

To prevent ConverterNotFoundErrors from occurring, the best practice is to always reference specific converters by the actual constant, not by a string alias. This is because Ruby will attempt to access a constant which doesn’t exist as part of the Encoding namespace, and throw a NameError in response:

Here we’re calling the .encode() method, but passing a direct reference to a constant of Encoding::UTF_89, which again is a probable typo but doesn’t exist in the constant set. As expected, this throws a NameError due to the uninitialized constant we specified:

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