.net – Why does NotImplementedException exist

.netexceptionexception-handlingnotimplementedexceptionnotsupportedexception

This really, really urks me, so I hope that someone can give me a reasonable justification for why things are as they are.

NotImplementedException. You are pulling my leg, right?

No, I'm not going to take the cheap stab at this by saying, "hang on, the method is implemented – it throws a NotImplementedException." Yes, that's right, you have to implement the method to throw a NotImplementedException (unlike a pure virtual function call in C++ – now that makes sense!). While that's pretty damn funny, there is a more serious problem in my mind.

I just wonder, in the presence of the NotImplementedException, how can anyone do anything with .Net? Are you expected to wrap every abstract method call with a try catch block to guard against methods that might not be implemented? If you catch such an exception, what the heck are you supposed to do with it??

I see no way to test if a method is actually implemented without calling it. Since calling it may have side effects, I can't do all my checks up-front and then run my algorithm. I have to run my algorithm, catch NotImplementedExceptions and the some how roll back my application to some sane state.

It's crazy. Mad. Insane. So the question is: Why does the NotImplementedException exist?

As a preemptive strike, I do not want anyone to respond with, "because designers need to put this in the auto-generated code." This is horrid. I would rather the auto-generated code not compile until you supply an implementation. For example, the auto generated implementation could be "throw NotImplementedException;" where the NotImplementedException is not defined!

Has anyone ever caught and handled a NotImplementedException? Have you ever left a NotImplementedException in your code? If so, did this represent a time bomb (ie, you accidentally left it there), or a design flaw (the method should not be implemented and will never be called)?

I'm very suspicious of the NotSupportedException also… Not supported? What the? If it's not supported, why is it part of your interface? Can anyone at Microsoft spell improper inheritance? But I might start another question for that if I don't get too abuse for this one.

Additional info:

This is an interesting read on the subject.

There seems to be a strong agreement with Brad Abrams that "NotImplementedException is for functionality that is just not yet implemented, but really should (and will be). Something like what you might start with when you are building a class, get all the methods there throwing NotImplementedException, then flush them out with real codeā€¦"

Comments from Jared Parsons are very weak and should probably be ignored: NotImplementedException: Throw this exception when a type does not implement a method for any other reason.

The MSDN is even weaker on the subject, merely stating that, "The exception that is thrown when a requested method or operation is not implemented."

Best Solution

There is one situation I find it useful: TDD.

I write my tests, then I create stubs so the tests compile. Those stubs do nothing but throw new NotImplementedException();. This way the tests will fail by default, no matter what. If I used some dummy return value, it might generate false positives. Now that all tests compile and fail because there is no implementation, I tackle those stubs.

Since I never use a NotImplementedException in any other situation, no NotImplementedException will ever pass onto release code, since it will always make some test fail.

You don't need to catch it all over the place. Good APIs document the exceptions thrown. Those are the ones you should look for.

EDIT: I wrote an FxCop rule to find them.

This is the code:

using System;
using Microsoft.FxCop.Sdk;

/// <summary>
/// An FxCop rule to ensure no <see cref="NotImplementedException"/> is
/// left behind on production code.
/// </summary>
internal class DoNotRaiseNotImplementedException : BaseIntrospectionRule
{
    private TypeNode _notImplementedException;
    private Member _currentMember;

    public DoNotRaiseNotImplementedException()
        : base("DoNotRaiseNotImplementedException",
               // The following string must be the assembly name (here
               // Bevonn.CodeAnalysis) followed by a dot and then the
               // metadata file name without the xml extension (here
               // DesignRules). See the note at the end for more details.
               "Bevonn.CodeAnalysis.DesignRules",
               typeof (DoNotRaiseNotImplementedException).Assembly) { }

    public override void BeforeAnalysis()
    {
        base.BeforeAnalysis();
        _notImplementedException = FrameworkAssemblies.Mscorlib.GetType(
            Identifier.For("System"),
            Identifier.For("NotImplementedException"));
    }

    public override ProblemCollection Check(Member member)
    {
        var method = member as Method;
        if (method != null)
        {
            _currentMember = member;
            VisitStatements(method.Body.Statements);
        }
        return Problems;
    }

    public override void VisitThrow(ThrowNode throwInstruction)
    {
        if (throwInstruction.Expression != null &&
            throwInstruction.Expression.Type.IsAssignableTo(_notImplementedException))
        {
            var problem = new Problem(
                GetResolution(),
                throwInstruction.SourceContext,
                _currentMember.Name.Name);
            Problems.Add(problem);
        }
    }
}

And this is the rule metadata:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" ?>
<Rules FriendlyName="Bevonn Design Rules">
  <Rule TypeName="DoNotRaiseNotImplementedException" Category="Bevonn.Design" CheckId="BCA0001">
    <Name>Do not raise NotImplementedException</Name>
    <Description>NotImplementedException should not be used in production code.</Description>
    <Url>http://stackoverflow.com/questions/410719/notimplementedexception-are-they-kidding-me</Url>
    <Resolution>Implement the method or property accessor.</Resolution>
    <MessageLevel Certainty="100">CriticalError</MessageLevel>
    <Email></Email>
    <FixCategories>NonBreaking</FixCategories>
    <Owner></Owner>
  </Rule>
</Rules>

To build this you need to:

  • reference Microsoft.FxCop.Sdk.dll and Microsoft.Cci.dll

  • Put the metadata in a file called DesignRules.xml and add it as an embedded resource to your assembly

  • Name your assembly Bevonn.CodeAnalysis. If you want to use different names for either the metadata or the assembly files, make sure you change the second parameter to the base constructor accordingly.

Then simply add the resulting assembly to your FxCop rules and take those damned exceptions out of your precious code. There are some corner cases where it won't report a NotImplementedException when one is thrown but I really think you are hopeless if you're actually writing such cthulhian code. For normal uses, i.e. throw new NotImplementedException();, it works, and that is all that matters.