Exceptions are everywhere in Python. Virtually every module in the standard Python library uses them, and Python itself will raise them in a lot of different circumstances. You’ll see them repeatedly throughout this book.

What is an exception? Usually it’s an error, an indication that something went wrong. (Not all exceptions are errors, but never mind that for now.) Some programming languages encourage the use of error return codes, which you check. Python encourages the use of exceptions, which you handle.

When an error occurs in the Python Shell, it prints out some details about the exception and how it happened, and that’s that. This is called an unhandled exception. When the exception was raised, there was no code to explicitly notice it and deal with it, so it bubbled its way back up to the top level of the Python Shell, which spits out some debugging information and calls it a day. In the shell, that’s no big deal, but if that happened while your actual Python program was running, the entire program would come to a screeching halt if nothing handles the exception. Maybe that’s what you want, maybe it isn’t.

Unlike Java, Python functions don’t declare which exceptions they might raise. It’s up to you to determine what possible exceptions you need to catch.

An exception doesn’t need to result in a complete program crash, though. Exceptions can be handled. Sometimes an exception is really because you have a bug in your code (like accessing a variable that doesn’t exist), but sometimes an exception is something you can anticipate. If you’re opening a file, it might not exist. If you’re importing a module, it might not be installed. If you’re connecting to a database, it might be unavailable, or you might not have the correct security credentials to access it. If you know a line of code may raise an exception, you should handle the exception using a try...except block.

Python uses try…except blocks to handle exceptions, and the raise statement to generate them. Java and c++ use try…catch blocks to handle exceptions, and the throw statement to generate them.

The approximate_size() function raises exceptions in two different cases: if the given size is larger than the function is designed to handle, or if it’s less than zero.

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