Developing Windows Error Messages
Error Messages that Communicate
By Ben Ezzell
Publisher: O'Reilly Media
Final Release Date: April 1998
Pages: 254

Although the computer industry has made enormous advances in the last 25 years, the development of error messages has somehow been left behind. Error messages themselves have only progressed from reporting errors as numerical codes to popping up rather simple text messages. The vast majority of the error messages that are currently in use seem to be aimed more at the programmer than the user. It is, however, the user who utilizes the software applications that contain the error messages, and the programmer needs to consider this when writing error messages.

This book focuses on three elements that should be incorporated into any proper error message: notification, explanation, and solution. Many of the error messages that are in use today lack one or more of these important traits. Throughout the book the author uses examples that illustrate incomplete error messages contributed by various sources and then describes how to make them more effective. The book also contains methods on preventing and trapping errors before they occur and provides details on creating flexible input and response routines to keep unnecessary errors from happening.

In addition to providing detailed information about how to improve the utilization of error messages, Windows Error Messages also covers important topics such as:

  • Popup menus
  • Rich text format messages
  • HTML messages
  • Simple and sophisticated event logs
  • Reporting data to technical support
  • Online documentation

The accompanying CD-ROM contains a dynamic link library, ErrorMessage.DLL, that is accessible by VB, C, C++, and MFC programs. This DLL contains routines that, when called by the programmer, will present all error messages in a standard format and provide responses for different levels of errors. This will reduce the time programmers will need to spend calling and creating dialogs for error messages, allowing them to concentrate on the code at hand. The ErrorMessage.DLL has been created by the author using Visual C++ along with the MFC AppWizard, and the source code for the program has been granted to the public domain.

With the help of Windows Error Messages, C, C++, and Visual Basic programmers will be able to write consistent error messages that notify the user of an error, provide an explanation of the error, and most important, supply a solution to the error.

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