4.9 Error Status Values and the Error Message Stack

Nearly all the CFITSIO routines return an error status value in 2 ways: as the value of the last parameter in the function call, and as the returned value of the function itself. This provides some flexibility in the way programmers can test if an error occurred, as illustrated in the following 2 code fragments:

    if ( fits_write_record(fptr, card, &status) )
         printf(" Error occurred while writing keyword.");


    fits_write_record(fptr, card, &status);
    if ( status )
         printf(" Error occurred while writing keyword.");
A listing of all the CFITSIO status code values is given at the end of this document. Programmers are encouraged to use the symbolic mnemonics (defined in fitsio.h) rather than the actual integer status values to improve the readability of their code.

The CFITSIO library uses an `inherited status' convention for the status parameter which means that if a routine is called with a positive input value of the status parameter as input, then the routine will exit immediately without changing the value of the status parameter. Thus, if one passes the status value returned from each CFITSIO routine as input to the next CFITSIO routine, then whenever an error is detected all further CFITSIO processing will cease. This convention can simplify the error checking in application programs because it is not necessary to check the value of the status parameter after every single CFITSIO routine call. If a program contains a sequence of several CFITSIO calls, one can just check the status value after the last call. Since the returned status values are generally distinctive, it should be possible to determine which routine originally returned the error status.

CFITSIO also maintains an internal stack of error messages (80-character maximum length) which in many cases provide a more detailed explanation of the cause of the error than is provided by the error status number alone. It is recommended that the error message stack be printed out whenever a program detects a CFITSIO error. The function fits_report_error will print out the entire error message stack, or alternatively one may call fits_read_errmsg to get the error messages one at a time.