Error handling

During its execution, if an ActorProcess or any method of an Actor’s behavior object signals an uncaught exception, the actor is terminated permanently.

By default, the system debugger is not invoked when such a crash occurs. Instead, the stack trace of the exception is logged to the standard error and to the Transcript. All of this can be configured.

When an actor terminates, its links and monitors are triggered. This happens for both normal and abnormal termination.

Exit reason

Every ActorProcess has an exitReason instance variable (accessible via the #exitReason message) that is set when the actor is terminated. It is set when the actor terminates normally, as well as when it terminates because of an uncaught exception.

The exit reason can take on many different values:

  • nil indicates “normal” termination.
  • An Exception indicates an uncaught exception.
  • An instance of ActorTerminated indicates termination caused by a linked peer’s termination.
  • Any other value can be supplied when explicitly terminating an actor.

An actor can be terminated in three different ways:

  • Process >> #terminate sets exitReason to be nil.
  • ActorProcess >> #terminateWith: sets exitReason to the argument of the message.
  • ActorProcess >> #kill simulates an uncaught generic Error exception in the actor.


Instances of ActorTerminated represent a chain of actor terminations propagating through links. An actor that signals an uncaught exception will be terminated with the exception as its exit reason; actors linked to that will be terminated with an ActorTerminated as the exit reason, with its actor field the original signalling actor and its exitReason field the original signalled exception; and actors linked to those will be terminated with an exit reason that adds another ActorTerminated to the chain; and so on.

As exit reasons propagate across links, the use of ActorTerminated rather than just the exception value alone allows the program or programmer to identify the actor that originally crashed.