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What is the proper way to do real error handling in Lua?

Currently I see the error(msg) call and checking return values from functions.

error() is too limited because you can not programmatically tell what happened.  All you can return is a string.  This is fine for interactive stuff but not so good when you need your program to take special actions when certain errors occur

The only other choice I know of is to return error codes from every function.  This is extremely annoying and almost destroys the point of using a scripting language in the first place.  Then you start having to worry about both returned error codes and catching errors returned via error() and makes the code ugly.

I'm thinking what would be nice is if error() (and the C versions like lua_error) could return more than just a text message.   Or some sort of exception mechanism. Or...  Is anything like that possible?

// Chris